Dear Ms. Jordan,

My mother, an elementary-school librarian, gave me a copy of your book for Christmas. As an EMT working on Pittsburgh’s East Side, I was delighted to find an EMT-related text whose clear, straightforward prose style is accessible not only to children aged 8 to 10 but also to most emergency medical personnel. However, I’m afraid you may be giving your readers an inaccurate view of what EMTs really do. I’ve suggested a few minor changes that I hope you’ll consider for future editions.

Page 2: In the “Words to Know” section: “First aid squad—The people who are ready to help in an emergency.”

I understand there may be regional variations in terminology, but in Pennsylvania we refer to these groups as QRS, or Quick Response Services.

Page 5: “A man calls 911. His wife has fallen, and her leg may be broken!”

A more realistic situation would be:

“Delores Bradshaw of 461 Franklin Ave. calls 911. It is 2:30 a.m. She has fallen out of bed! Again. She has probably soiled herself. Delores is 57 years old and has Parkinson’s disease. She should have a home health-care aide, but Medicare will not pay for one. Her private insurance carrier has dropped her. She refuses to move to a nursing facility. The ambulance crews argue over who should be sent to lift Delores back into bed. While the EMTs help Delores, a call comes in for a man in respiratory arrest. There are no ambulances left in the city of Wilkinsburg. A crew is called in from Forest Hills, but they are unfamiliar with the area and get lost. The man who is not breathing suffers brain damage as a result of the delay. After three weeks in the ICU, the man dies from a blood infection.”

Page 6: “When a person is hurt, EMTs come quickly.”

Try something more like:

“When a person is hurt, EMTs come quickly. Unless the EMTs are eating breakfast at Tracy’s. Then the EMTs pay for breakfast first. Tracy’s needs all the help it can get. Tracy’s is in a bad part of town. Sometimes the EMTs find their ambulance has been vandalized in the parking lot.”

Page 11: “Some EMTs wear uniforms.”

You might wish to add:

“Some uniforms are provided by a laundry service called Cintas. Cintas apparently designed their uniform pants for crotchless robots made of cast iron. Cintas does not always remember to repair rips in their pants. The EMTs must attach notes to remind them. It helps if the notes are in Spanish.”

Page 17: “One of the EMTs drives the ambulance. She turns on the siren and honks the horn. She makes the lights flash. This tells other drivers, ‘Move out of the way! The ambulance is coming.’”

This section is off to a terrific start, but falters at the end. I’d suggest:

“One of the EMTs drives the ambulance. She turns on the siren and honks the horn. She makes the lights flash. This tells the other drivers, ‘Drive erratically! Stop suddenly in the middle of the road! Cut me off! Please tailgate! Block the intersection! Do not, for the love of God, move over to let the ambulance through.’”

Page 21: “Most EMTs work one day or one night a week. Most of them are volunteers. That means they do this job for free. They are EMTs because they want to help people. They want to save lives. EMTs are community heroes.”

Consider something more along the lines of:

“Most EMTs work two or three jobs. They’re paid around $9 an hour. They are EMTs because they are hoping to be hired someday by the city of Pittsburgh, which has union jobs. At some ambulance companies, ‘union’ is a magic word—whoever mentions it gets fired! EMTs everywhere work a lot of overtime. Overtime means EMTs can afford to buy groceries. Overtime is hard on relationships and marriages. Some EMTs (Wayne, for example) have become the subject of popular discussion: Did Wayne’s marriage fail because he works 80-hour weeks, or does he work 80-hour weeks because his wife found out about the child he fathered out of wedlock? Wayne is a community hero.”

Anyhow, there’s a lot of great stuff in your book. I wept when I read it. I’ve been crying a lot lately.

All best wishes,

Tom Miller, EMT-B
Wilkinsburg, PA