Staying Alive

Staying Alive

My grandaughter is a personal trainer with a CrossFit background turned firefighter. While we aren’t quite sure why she was drawn to firefighting we do know that her strength and fitness (unusually strong for a female) and willingness to commit long term made her a very attractive candidate for the job.

She had just finished the second week of a six week EMT training course. I listened a few days ago as my daughter helped her prepare for a test that she would be taking. Helping consists of asking her questions and confirming the accuracy of her answers. So far so good.

The role of the EMT

I doubt that many of us are aware of the intensity of the training, how much knowledge an EMT has to have about the physical structure of the human body, operating systems, etc. This isn’t a memorization game like multiplication or when Columbus sailed the ocean blue. You must be able to apply what you know to an emergency situation.

Think about the last TV medical show you watched. An ambulance brings a person in on a stretcher. The EMT technician declares in succinct terms and a loud voice the condition (both specific to the emergency and any health history they know) of the patient.

Based on that description the doctors/nurses quickly decide what steps need to taken first and how quickly. In MASH terms (the old TV show) the EMTs have done triage.

Students practice this in the training, applying what they have learned to treating the patient on site/in the ambulance and communicating with the hospital on arrival.

As may be obvious but worth saying now, “treating” for the EMT is keeping the patient alive and stable (don’t create a new problem) until the hospital takes over. For example, whiplash in an auto accident suggests neck damage is likely and calls for neck brace stabilization. Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) has to be dealt with immediately.

In other words, arriving at the hospital saying “I think he hit his head,” “ he is bleeding from somewhere.” or “his breathing is a little ragged.” isn’t going to be very helpful to the hospital or the patient.

Emergency or not an emergency?

The extraordinary value of the medical community is best illustrated in damage control, whether the damage is a result of an emergency or chronic condition. When something is “broken” we need to call on the medical community. In an emergency the existence of a really bad diet, high stress or lousy sleep is probably not critical to keeping somebody alive right now.

Thank God, they are really good at keeping people alive.

However, when we accidentally or knowingly cause chronic damage to ourselves that isn’t an emergency the general medical community may not always be helpful. If the doctor is getting paid for a 15 minute visit then every condition tends to look like something best treated with a medication. They know a lot about medications.

For example, if you arrive at the hospital with a broken leg the leg can be set. Given time the leg will heal and you are fixed. On the other hand if you arrive at the doctor’s office with a headache or joint pain, a painkiller may be prescribed in 15 minutes. You aren’t fixed but the symptom may be reduced, at least for now.

I certainly am not qualified to handle an emergency like an EMT, a nurse, or a doctor. But I have learned a lot about the causes of chronic conditions and how they often can be prevented. In the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic, I do know a lot about how those conditions interfere with the most important thing – your immune system‘s ability to recognize and respond to a virus.

Reaching the long term survival potential of your genes depends on avoiding chronic diseases and maintaining the health of your immune system.

———————————————————————————— Pat Smith is the author of “It’s All about the Food,” a book that guides nutritious food choices as the way to avoid illness and maintain a healthy weight. Proceeds from her book benefit the Montgomery County Food Pantry. Her website is She can be contacted at, 870-490-1836. Her Facebook page is