Most people see EMTs and paramedics through the eyes of a Hollywood actor in the form of a movie or TV show. The average citizen knows little of what EMTs and paramedics truly do. And for the few who do, they usually wish they had not learned. The fact is, if you’re in an ambulance and have met an EMT, most likely it was not one of your best days. For some who do this job, they find a way to touch hearts and realize that caring for a patient isn’t just splinting a broken bone or starting an IV.
Beth Yancey has been an EMT for American Medical Response (AMR) in the Mesa, AZ area for more than 14 years. It would be impossible for her to remember all the people she has helped over the years, but for all those people, it is far more likely that those individuals will remember Beth. It’s not just her memorable smile, or her infectious personality. It’s more than her battle-tested experience or her attention to detail. For Beth, it’s most likely because she treats every patient as if it were her only patient. And Beth’s caring doesn’t stop when her shift ends.
Earlier this summer, while posted to a local hospital, Beth was drawn to a small child outside near the ambulance bay. The child, appearing sick, automatically caught her attention. Zaelynn had been diagnosed with Leukemia just two days before her fifth birthday. She was now a patient at the hospital and undergoing cancer treatments. This may have been one of the darkest of days for Zaelynn but when she met Beth, there was an instant connection. Beth eagerly showed her the ambulance, the lights and how to work the sirens. But more importantly, she gave this young child a smile and her undivided attention.
In the following days, Beth continued to see her new friend and each time would show her the ambulance and a friendly smile, hold her hand and give her a friendly hug. It wasn’t long before Zaelynn was asking for “her friend Beth” during her treatments. And without a second thought, Beth would be there. Beth would visit her friend while at the hospital and come to see her on her days off. Zaelynn’s mother, Brandi, would happily report that each time Beth would visit, Zaelynn would perk up and always seemed to do better.
As emergency health care providers, interactions with patients can be brief and the healing power of human compassion is often overlooked. Beth has transcended this barrier and has proven to be an example that sometimes it is not just the patient in the back of our ambulance that requires our attention. Sometimes, it’s the small patient standing on the curb of a hospital hoping for another day and excited to make a new friend.