My Ambulance Education by Joseph F. Clark
Traffic was stalled for miles, and so was your patience. There was nothing you could do except pound the steering wheel and watch your blood pressure rise. But as soon as you got close to the red-and-blues, you felt a little bad for being angry. There was an accident, of course. Cars were crunched, the median was ripped and it didn’t look good. You know, because — you couldn’t help it — you slowed down to take a peek.
Ambulance drivers hate that, says author Joseph F. Clark. In his new book, “My Ambulance Education,” he writes about rubberneckers, MVAs, DOAs, and time spent in the back of a speeding vehicle.
When he was 18 years old and heading for college, Clark, who had been considering a career as an emergency medical technician, figured being an EMT could at least pay for his education. He quickly learned that his education would be found in the “ultimate double life:” student mistakes often get do-overs. Not so, in an ambulance.
Seven years later, Clark, burned-out and tired, chose his new college major over the ambulance. He reasoned that an EMT career would help a few, but his degree could help many. Today, Clark studies the causes and treatments of stroke at the University of Cincinnati. But back then, he had stories…
“John Doe” is often the moniker given to a patient for whom no identity is known. But sometimes, gallows humor and mental coping mean that Mr. Doe gets a variety of names. In his first chapter, Clark describes how EMTs sometimes cope in the aftermath of horrific rescues.
Though the heightened ability to focus is desirable when working with an ambulance service, Clark says that EMTs have to learn to avoid tunnel vision. Not only can it impede the care of someone who needs it badly, but it can have embarrassing consequences. There are people listening to the radio when EMTs call in. To preserve privacy, the EMS – and, quite often, the fire department – uses the alphabet when transmitting to the emergency room.
“My Ambulance Education” is a lot like that accident on the highway: you want to look, but you don’t want to see. That’s because this is a darn good memoir, but the graphically gruesome, stomach-wrenching tales might spell trouble for sensitive readers.
Clark doesn’t candy-coat anything and his stories are often blunt, yet respectful. He’s particularly gracious to colleagues in the fire and police departments and the emergency departments to which he transports patients. He’s happy to warn readers to buckle up, wear a helmet and pay attention. In the end, Clark is honest about why he got out of the biz, but he clearly doesn’t regret his time spent in the back of a rig.
Despite the blood-and-guts (can I warn you enough?), I liked this book a whole lot and I think you will, too. So, pick up a copy of “My Ambulance Education” and give it a look.
Beyond the Miracle Worker by Kim E. Nielsen
Remember the last day of school before summer vacation? Oh, sure, your brain had checked out weeks before. There would be no learning, no writing and very little sitting still. The long school year was over and a seemingly unlimited summer stretched ahead. Now, imagine how your teacher felt.
By most accounts, being a teacher is the most frustrating, thrilling, teeth-gnashing, wonderful job anyone could have. So in celebration of a summer out of school, here’s a book, “Beyond the Miracle Worker,” by Kim E. Nielsen, about the woman who may be the world’s most famous teacher, Helen Keller’s instructor, Anna Sullivan.
Born into poverty to Irish immigrants in 1866, Sullivan was 10 years old when she landed in the Massachusetts State Almshouse, a horrible place she spent her life trying to forget. Although Sullivan (later, Annie) hadn’t yet attended school, it was impressed upon her that education was the way to a good future. So, when a state official visited the almshouse, the 14-year-old, never one for shyness, reportedly found him and demanded an education.
Because she suffered from an infliction that left her nearly blind, Annie was sent to the famed Perkins Institution. Six years later, the formerly illiterate girl graduated as valedictorian, but with no job prospects. When someone recommended that she become a teacher, she dismissed the idea immediately.
Near the end of the summer after graduation, the owner of Perkins forwarded a letter to Sullivan from a Mr. Keller in Alabama. Keller was looking for a governess for his, “little deaf-mute and blind daughter.” Reluctantly, but with no better ideas for the future, Annie took the job.
Much has been written about the “little savage” Helen Keller was when Sullivan arrived in Alabama, and Keller herself (as well as many biographers) took up the story after the famous “W-A-T-E-R” lesson. Lesser-known is the story of the rest of Sullivan’s life.
For a time when Keller was still young, Sullivan had a tumultuous love-hate relationship with her former Perkins headmaster, which resulted, in part, in a grave scandal, involving possible fraud. As Keller grew up, Sullivan fretted over her own future, assuming that she would never fall in love or have a family (she did eventually marry). And although she fought fiercely for rights on behalf of Keller, Sullivan wasn’t always just Keller’s teacher.
Exhaustively researched and not always complimentary, “Beyond the Miracle Worker” goes way beyond all the stuff you read in school about the complicated, headstrong woman who gave Keller words.
Using documents and diaries, Nielsen offers the sometimes heartbreaking, often frustrating life and work of Anne Sullivan Macy. While the narrative can occasionally become tedious, Nielsen gives readers a definite sense of the times and social mores under which Sullivan lived, as well as some juicy tidbits about a woman that history often glosses by.
If a biography is on your reading to-do list this summer, “Beyond the Miracle Worker” is a worthy one for you. Grab this book and learn a thing or two.
The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.