Stepping Up for Swarthmore’s Emergency Services

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Swarthmore Fire and Protection Association needs more volunteers like ambulance driver, soon to be EMT, Bob Hayden.

It wasn’t done in self-interest, but Bob Hayden may just have made a very sound investment in his future, as well as Swarthmore’s.

A piece in the April 29 New York Times Sunday Review suggested that humans can effectively increase both mental and physical health by pursuing mastery of something new in middle age. “Find something — something new, something difficult — to immerse yourself in and improve at,” wrote Gerald Marzorati. At age 57, that’s just what Hayden has done.

After more than three decades as a volunteer with the Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association, Hayden raised his game. “I wanted to become an EMT [emergency medical technician], both to further my usefulness to the fire company, and to become what people already thought I was.”

Bob actually was a highly experienced volunteer ambulance driver who has worked a 12-hour shift every other week for six years, the latest responsibility he has had in 34 years of continuous service to the Swarthmore Fire and Protective Association. A native, Bob joined the company after graduation from Swarthmore College in 1981. When his latest first responder certification expired, he decided to take his training to the next level.

The challenge he took on involved 170 hours of classroom training during months of study, practice and testing. Bob somehow balanced Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions and full day training on Saturdays with his regular job as a financial advisor with Wells Fargo Advisors. He has completed part of his Pennsylvania testing, and now faces an online cognitive test including 150 questions, and a national practical test which demands correct responses to seven scenarios, prioritization of actions and specification of techniques, all within a few minutes.

At the end of the process, if all goes well, Hayden will be certified as an EMT. EMTs are the first responders to medical calls and are responsible for recognizing and treating all types of medical emergencies. It is demanding work often carried out by skilled (though unpaid) volunteers.

The most difficult part of the job, Hayden says, is “In a short time, to assess the condition of the patient as to life-threatening issues, and deciding what to do.”

The reward, evidently, is in the maintenance of a safe and interdependent community. Hayden says, “I’m one itsy-bitsy cog in the works here.” And there’s no doubt that Hayden’s new capabilities add to the collective health of his hometown of Swarthmore and surrounding communities. “Nothing would make me happier than to see more volunteers come into the fire company. There is no lack of dedication among our volunteers; we just need more of them.”

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