ROANOKE, Va. – From the second the sirens switch on, paramedics like Jim Cady Jr. are ready to jump into action.
He started volunteering at 18 years old and worked his way up to Battalion Chief of EMS Health and Safety with Roanoke Fire-EMS.
“My time up to that point, it was a long time between calls. That’s certainly not a problem here,” said Cady. “We have a high volume and a high acuity.”
Over the past year, the COVID-19 pandemic presented problems he’d never faced before.
“The last year’s been kind of crazy,” said Cady.
Paramedics who help people through their worst days were living through some of their own. They had to ask more questions of patients to gauge their risk of COVID-19. Crews also had to take more precautions and wear more protective gear, which was running out by the day.
“At one point, we were about 2.5 weeks from running out of masks and gloves and I was waking up at night,” said Cady, fighting back tears. “They talk about the problems that keep you up at night. I would wake up at night concerned about how we were going to operate if that happened.”
All the while, EMS Supervisor Captain Scott Weaver said that crews feared for the safety of themselves and their families.
“We’ve got a lot of extra stress at work, but then when we go home, we’ve got a lot of extra stress at home because you’re worried about school and kids and childcare,” said Weaver. “Just all of that coming together makes everything a lot [more] stressful. But you don’t want to pass that onto anybody when you’re at work and when you’re on a call. You know, you’ve got to put all that stuff aside and do what you need to do.”
Despite the added demands, they pushed through.
This week marks National EMS Week. Weaver and Cady hope the community takes the time to recognize these heroes working behind the scenes to save lives.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to do meaningful work,” said Cady.