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Paramedic Memoirs Show Public Gritty Details of the Job

Issue 8 and Volume 40.

There’s a saying: “From the outside looking in you can never understand it. From the inside looking out you can never explain it.” Paramedics can probably relate. How exactly do you relay the emotions, stress and hard work of everything this job brings to a lay person, most of whom have never seen the inside of an ambulance?

Recently, two seasoned paramedics have attempted to show the public just what goes into being a first responder. In Lights & Sirens: The Education of a Paramedic, Kevin Grange chronicles a part of EMS most people don’t think about: paramedic school.

At the age of 36, Grange left his job as a realtor to enroll in UCLA’s highly respected Daniel Freedman Paramedic Program. His book describes the stressful and trying months of classroom instruction, skill tests, hospital rotations and field internships. It’s a riveting account of the intense training and situations a student must go through before they can become certified.

In Blood, Sweat, Tears and Prayers: Firefighting and EMS from Some of the Toughest Streets in America, firefighter/paramedic of 37 years Gary Ludwig recounts the gritty calls he’s responded to during his career in St. Louis and Memphis, Tenn. His tell-alls are heart-breaking and gut-wrenching, exposing details of real-life tragedies most people only experience through medical TV shows.

Murder, arson, accidental deaths, suicides, floods—Ludwig has responded to it all. His gripping narrative gives a glimpse into the parts of EMS that stick with a responder years after the call is over. His emotional recounts of suffering are moving and poignant.

Both books are written with such vivid details and emotions, it’s as if the reader is there on scene. The pace moves quickly, propelling the storyline forward with intense momentum. But while these memoirs journal the difficult and harrowing parts of being a paramedic, they also capture the best parts of the job: the comradery between coworkers, respect within the community, and celebrations of lives saved.

Together, Lights & Sirens and Blood, Sweat, Tears and Prayers explain life as a paramedic from start to finish. They’re great books for people outside of EMS to understand exactly what physical and mental strife occurs on the job, but can also be enjoyed by those who already know firsthand.

—Allie Daugherty

Both books are available at and