About Mid-County Rescue
"Nothing draws a community together quite the way the volunteer rescue squads do. It's a shame to see them go."
So said a neighbor in the tiny village of Heathsville, VA, where Ted and I lived for nearly 20 years. The words were motivated by an unfortunate reality of modern life: volunteer emergency medical service is falling apart. As rural communities become more urbane, fewer residents have the time and energy to devote to it. As rural citizens abandon their independent agricultural lives for full-time or part-time work for others, their employers are ever-less willing to turn them loose during the workday for emergency response.
Simultaneously, as more people leave the cities to take advantage of exurban living, afforded by telework and retirement, the squads face increasing challenges to meet the demand for service. One-by-one, the volunteers are forced to turn over part or all of their operations to paid providers. A few squads hold on proudly, fiercely, to their all-volunteer status, but they are an exception these days. In the four counties that comprise Virginia's Northern Neck, the volunteer rescue squads hung on until June 2015, when Northumberland County, VA began hiring its first paid emergency medical services personnel.
My ten-year association with the people of the three Northumberland County rescue squads provided the most rewarding experiences of my life. I learned about approval, assertiveness, and affection. I discovered how to manage and motivate myself and others. I came to understand the challenges of leadership and meet them as best I could. I experienced the importance of resiliance and the benefits of compassion. I studied detachment. I found out about friends and enemies, about conflicting demands for resources and the associated squabbles. I pondered forgiveness and justice. I felt fear, dread, grief, laughter, confidence, and joy. I came to believe in a higher power and to appreciate its randomness and the choices it presents. I developed a hearty understanding of my strengths. I struggled, as I always had, with my weaknesses, which EMS constantly tested.
I had fun in EMS. There are people among us, crisis managers mostly, who really do enjoy being ripped out of a warm bed at 2:30 a.m. to gallop around a stormy countryside in an ambulance and to participate in extreme events of human experience.
Most of all, I felt gratitude, overwhelming and lasting gratitude, for the warmth of my EMS friends. Nobody else in my life (except my sister Becky) ever gave me so willingly, consistently, and with such happiness their encouragement, acceptance, appreciation, and love. I am a better person for having known and worked with them. The world is a better place because they are in it.