Emergency services used to get a bad rap before September 11, 2001. After that day, there wasn’t a firefighter or police officer who wasn’t looked at as a hero. Rescue drivers (or emergency medical technicians (EMTs)) always seemed to be the forgotten middle children — not as flashy as the firefighters and not as visible as the police officers. Rescuing Providence, by Lt. Michael Morse (of the Providence Fire Department), is a great look at the tiring dedication of an EMT.
At the time of this book’s 2007 publication, Morse was a 16-year vet with the Providence Fire Department, working Rescue 1, located on Allens Ave. After years on the fire truck, he made the transition to the rescue, feeling that everyone should try both. The rescue is seemingly busier than the fire truck, with more opportunity for overtime. This was a factor in Morse making his decision, as the extra money helps him support his wife and two stepdaughters. The dedication he shows is touching.
Rescuing Providence covers a shift that lasts 34 straight hours over a two-day span just before Easter. Two of the shifts were scheduled, and he picks up some third-shift overtime on Rescue 3 on Branch Ave. During the course of his seeming never-ending shift, he deals with 25 distress calls. Some of the calls are serious (double shooting, congestive heart failure), while others seem like more of a waste of public dollars (three intoxications, trouble walking). It seemed like a good number of the calls were due to patients realizing that they could get a free ride to the hospital by just calling 911. But, a point that Morse makes so clear, the people calling for an ambulance are calling because they feel that their needs are emergencies, even if the outside world doesn’t agree.
Morse has 25 great stories to tell after his 34-hour shift. He throws in some backstory anecdotes for good measure, which help paint more of a picture of who he is and what shapes him. A great backstory includes Morse speaking of how he met his wife and the mom and pop cleaning company they owned. He then goes into how he got accepted into the academy just before his wife was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. He doesn’t write it as a sad story, but more of an inspiration as to how they readjusted their lives. Morse describes each rescue call with such great detail that I felt like I was on the truck as his partner. He paid attention to detail, but didn’t confuse the reader with medical talk, explaining everything as needed.
My knock on this book revolves around Morse adding his own two cents. He would editorialize some things in a way that made him sound like an after-school special. It came off as hokey, making me squirm just a bit. He’s preachy, which is completely unnecessary since enough interesting material comes from his everyday life as a rescue EMT. His commentary sometimes took away from the stories at hand.
Rescuing Providence serves as a great reminder of just how much work an EMT does during a typical shift. Morse and his partners, Mike and then Renato (and then Mike again), are constantly on the go with barely enough time to shove food down their throats. Their work ethic is outstanding and they seem to actually get adrenaline rushes from each call that blasts over the intercom. Morse and his coworkers (this includes all of the firefighters) know that they are making a difference in the lives of others and understand the importance of the work they do. I, for one, can’t thank them enough.