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EMS Worker Is Essential, But Feels Forgotten

NEW ORLEANS, La. -- When there's an emergency, whom do you call? When the Police Department encounters an injured person, whom do they call?

When the Fire Department has an emergency, whom do they call to back them up?

Somehow, Emergency Medical Services have been forgotten. We are a side note in the minds of our elected leaders. We deserve the same supplemental pay benefits that are available to firefighters, municipal police officers and even justices of the peace.

Former state Sen. Clo Fontenot, R-Livingston, said , "The state owes local police and firefighters because it relies upon them in emergencies." No doubt. EMS works right beside them in almost every emergency.

I work as a paramedic for the city of New Orleans, Department of EMS. We are a municipal, civil service workforce.

I dedicate myself to public service. I have an associate degree and a bachelor's in EMS and allied health. EMTs are nationally certified and undergo extensive training and continuing education.

I have to be prepared to handle any type of emergency that man or nature can produce. I have to understand human physiology and the way drugs interact with the human body. I have to communicate with people from all walks of life.

I work under a doctor's orders, but since the doctor is not there I have to make split-second, life or death decisions. I have to be prepared to resuscitate, intubate and use other advanced skills.

I don't have the option of calling a respiratory tech or getting a stat X-ray; I don't have anyone else to help me in dire situations.

I risk my life driving over the speed limit to save you or your family member's life, or anyone else who may need my help. The death rate in the line of duty for EMTs is comparable to police officers or firefighters.

And despite all this, I'm not eligible at this moment for the same supplemental pay benefits that are afforded to my peers.

We are stationed out of two FEMA trailers at the corner of Convention Center Boulevard and Calliope Street. While the rest of the city is helping to rebuild fire and police stations, I'll be there awaiting your call.

I hope you contact your elected official and let them know that you haven't forgotten about me and that I deserve supplemental pay.

And if you ever need me, call me; you know the number.

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