BELLEVILLE, Mo. -- An emergency medical technician who was shot the night of May 19 as he was driving a victim of an earlier shooting to a hospital says he's eager to return to work.
Patrick Bierman, 23, was hit by two bullets as he drove a MedStar ambulance on Interstate 64 near 25th Street in East St. Louis. The shots were fired from a car that had pulled alongside.
Bierman worked for an ambulance company in northern Illinois for about three years and had joined MedStar a few months ago. He said the shooting was an isolated incident and would not cause him to reconsider work as an EMT, which he enjoys.
"Nothing like this has happened before around here," Bierman said. "I would never have thought of something like this in a million years."
Released after a week in St. Louis University Hospital, Bierman is recuperating at his home in Belleville, where he lives with girlfriend Amy Hetherington. He said he expected to return to work in six to eight weeks and added that he was deeply grateful for the support of his colleagues at MedStar and the many cards, calls and flowers he had received.
Bierman said he did not immediately notice the car that pulled alongside the ambulance. He said he first knew something was wrong when the driver's-side window shattered next to him. His reaction was to duck.
"As I ducked, I got hit," Bierman said. He was wounded in his left arm and chest by two of the estimated seven shots fired into the ambulance.
Somehow, Bierman managed to get the ambulance safely stopped, and his partner, EMT Lydia Cravens, 20, got behind the wheel and continued the run to Kenneth Hall Regional Hospital in East St. Louis.
Bierman said he probably owed his life to Cravens' professionalism and the care he received in the emergency room at Kenneth Hall and at St. Louis University Hospital.
The bullet that struck his chest broke one of his ribs and the rib punctured a lung, which began to fill with blood.
"I was close to actually dying had (Cravens) not maintained her focus," Bierman said. Doctors removed a bullet from his arm, but the other bullet, which fragmented into several pieces, remains in his chest. Bierman said doctors had decided to leave it there for the time being.
Police continue to seek the men who shot two men in Washington Park and apparently also fired the shots at the ambulance taking one of them to a hospital.
"I'm sure they were there to finish off the job on the patient we were transporting," Bierman said. But they could easily have caused four deaths, he said. The girlfriend of the shooting victim was also riding in the ambulance.
Bierman was working on May 19 only because he had switched duty with another worker to attend commencement at Northern Illinois University two days earlier. Bierman received a bachelor's degree in sports medicine, specializing in athletic training. He finished classes in December and moved to the Metro East for an internship at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.
Bierman said he probably got into emergency medical services because of his mother, who was emergency services coordinator for many years at Memorial Hospital in Carbondale. His parents, Paula and Jerry Bierman, live in Steeleville, where he grew up. His mother is now an ER nurse at Memorial Hospital in Belleville.
"My ultimate goal is to go back to school and become a doctor," Bierman said. He said he hoped to specialize in sports medicine or emergency medicine.
Bierman and Cravens were among 16 people statewide honored by the Illinois Department of Public Health Wednesday with the department's Emergency Medical Services Award.