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14 Manhattan Paramedics Assigned to Pope Detail

LOS ANGELES -- You can never be too careful about one's health, especially if the health in your hands is the pope's.

When Pope Benedict XVI visits New York this month, that job will fall to 14 paramedics from St. Vincent's Hospital in Manhattan. They have been chosen to work in 12-hour shifts during the pope's three-day stay.

The medics, three of whom worked the detail during Pope John Paul II's visit in 1995, were chosen based on experience, said Phil Eguiguiurens, director of the St. Vincent's ambulance department.

Benedict's personal physician and the White House doctor will also accompany the 80-year-old pope.

St. Vincent's was chosen because it has experience from the last papal visit.

Ken Karger was part of that paramedic team. He said the visit was choreographed to the second except for the moment just after John Paul finished his sermon at St. Patrick's Cathedral and walked outside.

The pope stopped and tugged at the stethoscope draped around Karger's neck.

"He said, 'Thank you,' " Karger said. "That was the most memorable moment."

In the next week, the team will go through a one-day motorcade course held by the New York Police Department, the New York Fire Department and the Secret Service, Eguiguiurens said.

A few days before the pope arrives, the team will be given a briefing about his physical condition.

"You can't take anything for granted," Eguiguiurens said. "Hopefully nothing happens."

On Friday, Brooklyn Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio and Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the coordinator of the pope's visit, blessed the ambulance that will travel in the papal motorcade.

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