Robert's EMS Career StoryJun 6, 2019
Robert White, EMS Community Relations Coordinator, Piedmont Medical Center
God forbid you are in an emergency situation where you need some kind of advanced procedures, those guys and gals will be able to do that every single time.
For 25 years, Robert White has worked at Piedmont Medical Center, many times on the front lines of tragedy and disaster with emergency medical services. He never thought he would get into the health care field, but after moving to the area from Florida when he was younger, his home was across the street from the fire department and it changed the course of his life.
“I am a very curious human being by nature,” he says. “They would let the outdoor siren off any time there was a fire, so I became very curious and started following fire trucks. I became a volunteer firefighter. And then we started responding to car wrecks. I still remember the night like it was yesterday. They landed two helicopters from a major crash and we took two people out and I knew that was what I wanted to do. I wanted to help somebody.”
The local EMS agency is owned and operated by Piedmont Medical Center, not county entities, and Robert thinks that gives them a big advantage when it comes to caring for patients.
“It makes sure we get the best training available,” he says. “We stay on top of things. From a paramedic’s perspective, we have to care for the smallest unborn child to the oldest grandparent and we have to be on our game 100 percent of the time. With our ambulances, we have the highest level of certification that you can have, and when you see one of our ambulances rolling down the highway, each one of our ambulances 100 percent of the time has the highest level of equipment.”
Not only that, they have additional training including Rapid Sequence Intubation, which is not something that is required by the state, but something at least one of PMC’s paramedics on every one of their ambulances has to have at any given time.
“God forbid you are in an emergency situation where you need some kind of advanced procedures, those guys and gals will be able to do that every single time,” he says.
Being in EMS as long as Robert has, there have been several stories that have touched him, from the kids he works with to some of the older patients.
“As a young paramedic, I still remember the first time I performed CPR and shocked someone, and that family looked me up to thank me for saving their dad’s life,” he says. “I can tell you where that address is today, that’s how powerful it was to me. It’s because someone took the time out to say thank you.”
He has also dealt with some of the biggest tragedies York County has seen, like a tragic bus accident in 1988 that killed and injured 60 children, or large multi-fatality structure fires.
A memorial gardens at EMS headquarters is devoted to keeping the memory alive of any children who have died.
“We are ambassadors for the hospital, and the men and women in our profession are truly ambassadors because you’ve got to love the job to make a career out of it,” he says. “Our men and women are outstanding. They are away from their families for long periods of time, working these long hours at times and being able to give back. Because let’s face it, a lot of times we are going into strangers homes and we don’t know what we are going to come across once we are inside the residence.”
Robert says preventable injuries are the No. 1 killer of children, and he has seen firsthand deaths and tragedies where kids could have been saved or injuries prevented if children wore helmets on bicycles, were in properly-installed car seats, or practiced gun and water safety.
So 15 years ago, he started a chapter of Safe Kids York County, a non-profit organization that works collectively with fire departments, other EMS agencies, the private sector, doctors’ offices and Piedmont Medical Center for the sake of children’s safety.
One thing they do each year is award an EMS Hero award to someone in the community who stepped up to the plate and saved a life.
"Our most recent hero award was a young man who learned how to do CPR because his sister was having twins and it was a very troubled pregnancy,” he says. But it was a new neighbor’s 4-month-old he ended up saving when her mother found her pulseless and in cardiac arrest in her Pack ‘n’ Play.
“She called 911 but did not know what to do. She took the child outside while on the phone, screaming and knocking on doors, looking for anyone to help save her child’s life. One of the first doors she banged on was this young man. He peeked out the door, saw the lifeless child and started performing CPR. And today I am happy to tell you she is seven months old, doing phenomenal, with no adverse effects to date.”
And to think it all started when Robert moved across the street from a fire station.