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Ambulance work can take emotional toll

Staff writer

Sometimes being an emergency medical technician is emotionally taxing, especially in a small community. And according to Tampa ambulance crew chief Jesse Brunner, this kind of work often requires a willingness to sacrifice time and much more.

“We know a high percent of the people we deal with, and that’s really hard,” he said.

One call in particular stood out in Brunner’s mind. He responded to a lawnmower accident where a small child was badly injured.

“I left there, and I cried like a baby,” he said.

It can take time to get over seeing something traumatic. After a different accident, he still was thinking about it two weeks later during his drive home when he realized he missed a turn.

Because of the nature of ambulance service, not all calls end well, and EMTs have to be able to work through the trauma. Whether it is a heart attack or a car crash, every EMT will respond to a call where a patient can’t be saved.

“You want to feel like you can help everyone, but you can’t,” Brunner said.

Serving on an ambulance also requires people to sacrifice their time. EMTs need to be ready to respond at a moment’s notice when a call comes in, even if they are spending quality time with their family.

At a Brunner family reunion, as many as four people might be on the way out the door when a call goes out. Son Nathan Brunner and daughters Aminda Brunner and Melissa Florey volunteer on the Tampa crew whenever they are home.

“Whenever I’m out there, when somebody else hurts, I hurt,” Florey said.

Jesse Brunner works full time for Life Team in Great Bend; Nathan Brunner, Tampa, is a full-time employee of Dickinson County Emergency Medical Services; Aminda Brunner, Hays, is a registered nurse; and Melissa Florey, Lawrenceburg, Mo., is an EMT-Basic.

Keeping ambulance service in Tampa is a struggle, Jesse Brunner said. There is a core of volunteers, but finding new EMTs is difficult.

“Everybody says the same thing: ‘I don’t have time,’” he said.

In order to maintain service, the crew has to have two people on call at all times. If the station closes down, Brunner thinks it will be permanent, like the loss of a grocery store, school, or post office.

“Once they’re gone, you’ll never get them back,” he said.

He thinks Marion County Commission needs to consider making ambulance service a full-time, paid position.

Despite all the challenges, Brunner is glad he became an EMT.

“If I had it to do over and I were a young man again, I’d become a paramedic,” he said.

Last modified Aug. 19, 2009

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