E is for EMT: Students train to save lives

Kanin Perry, 23, of Franklin, poses for a portrait outside of the Franklin-Simpson EMS station. “We’re out to do as much as we can.”

Mary Anne Andrews

While many WKU students spend each day memorizing facts for their future careers, others train to save lives the next day. Adrenaline pumping, sirens blaring, emergency medical technicians are often first on the scene.

Franklin freshman Kanin Perry has been an EMT for two years for the Franklin-Simpson Ambulance Service. Perry, 23, is taking a medic class at WKU for his paramedic certification.

“It takes a certain kind of person to do this,” he said. “But, when you’re able to bring someone back from the dead — I mean when they are dead and it’s not looking good, and you bring them back — you can see a reaction of gratitude in the family’s eyes. That kind of stuff reminds you why you work 24-hour shifts. That’s why you get up at 3 a.m. and race across the county.”

When they’re not on a call, Perry said the ambulance crews share a great camaraderie. They eat dinner together, play jokes on each other and watch movies together — most recently, “Lockout.” He said these bonds increase their teamwork on the road.

Of all his calls so far, Perry said he has yet to lose a child.

“I never want to have to look a mother in the eyes and have to tell her we couldn’t save her kid,” he said, knocking on wood. “But I know I’ll have to.”

Perry said it’s the kind of work you can’t take home.

“Some parts will follow you home whether you want them to or not,” he said. “It does do good to talk about it, but stressing and worrying — you can’t. Treat it with the respect it needs, but when you clock out, leave it there.”

On his first EMT shift, Perry had to treat someone he knew for a stroke.

“I was nervous as heck, green as I could be,” he said. “I had to treat him for a stroke and then gear up for the next one.”

But by the end of the day, he was absolutely sure he wanted to be an EMT.

“I know everyone’s going to meet God eventually, but we try to prolong that as long as we can,” he said.

WKU offers EMT basic training, a one-semester course with about 30 students each semester. About 1/3 of those continue to become certified paramedics, Lee Brown, director of the Kentucky Emergency Medical Services Academy at Allied Health, said. There is also an associate’s degree offered along with the certification.

Brown has been a paramedic for 25 years and a teacher for 18. She said the EMT field is not for everyone.

“God had to make you this way,” she said. “There’s no money in it. It’s mostly the type of  people that want to make a difference.”

Scottsville junior Jacob Starks said he knew he wanted to go into the medical field when he earned his First Aid badge in Boy Scouts.

Starks, 20, is a paramedicine major earning his associate’s degree. He is a certified EMT and is currently interviewing for a local ambulance service.

He said he’s prepared to have a strenuous schedule, deal with people dying and have a lot of stress.

“At the end of the day, knowing that you had a chance to save a life and make a difference — that’s what makes it all worth it,” he said.

Brown said this is the mentality the program wants to instill.

“You win some, you lose some and some get rained out,” she tells new students each semester. “You can do everything you can do and they still die. You’re going to have to understand that you are human . . . Not every car is crumpled the exact same way. You have to adapt and overcome.”