By Jim Murray
If there was a clock on the wall, John Ashmore would be watching it. He's too tired and hungry to concentrate right now, but he needs to take notes for next week's test. His stomach is screaming for the food court when the sound of a pager drowns everything else out.
This message tears him away from his desk and into an ambulance to respond to a diabetic emergency. With this news, he jumps into a completely different state of mind and is ready for anything.
The incident is on the third floor of Robinson Hall. It is time to decide what equipment to lug up the stairs, how to deliver the patient out of the room and if he needs to call for police if the patient is violent.
Eight minutes later, he is back to just being a Rowan criminal justice major. This is the typical life of a Rowan Emergency Medical Services squad member. Without any notice, his problems regularly take a back seat to the well-being of a stranger in need.
As a member of EMS, Ashmore is one of 20 in the volunteer organization that provides emergency medical services to the Rowan community. These people humbly go about rescuing and delivering others to safety every day while having all the responsibilities of a full-time student or University employee.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the EMS squad at Rowan and they are just as dedicated today as they have ever been.
The team operates 24 hours a day and seven days a week while classes are in session. A pager could wake a squad member at 3 a.m. for a call and they would be ready to move across campus. All members are non-paid volunteers who do this work for the satisfaction of giving back. The organization's adviser, Rich Wadleigh, CHCM, FF/EMT, has been offering his leadership for the past 15 years.
"We have serious, dedicated students who deal with serious calls," asserts Wadleigh. In fact, most Rowan EMS team members also serve with their own hometown squads. Membership is open to all Rowan students and employees, but employees do not have voting powers and the ability to hold executive offices.
When determining if someone is suitable to join the EMS squad Wadleigh said, "it matters how they feel about helping people in the heart and in the head and if desire is there, we teach you how to use the hands."
A great advantage that the adviser sees with the organization is that it is students helping students. Many times patients will be more willing to open up to one of their peers than to a parent or authority figure.
Wadleigh believes that when an EMS student gives advice to an injured victim, they are more inclined to take it to heart than if an older person were to tell them.
If students break their noses and lose their modeling contracts on campus, they can at least take solace in knowing that they will be treated by a well-trained EMS staff. All EMS members are EMT certified, CPR certified and have defibrillation training.
"Students earn their EMTs. They are not just given out," says Wadleigh.
The EMT test is a national exam, which includes 10 hours of work in an emergency room. This is a line of work that requires continual learning and education. Every three years EMTs must take courses to keep them sharp.
The Rowan EMS squad has handled all kinds of situations in its 25 years.
The types of calls run the gamut from picking up bumbling drunkards who need a ride back to Evergreen, to cases of cardiac arrest.
Wadleigh claims that "the biggest misconception about EMS is that the squad is a babysitter" who only gives rides to intoxicated fools.
The staff responds to allergic reactions, maternity emergencies, bleeding, poisoning, respiratory problems and all types of injuries.
Last month, the team was busy with 56 calls. Rowan EMS members also stand by at all Profs home football games and crowded University events.
It wasn't until I met with Wadleigh that I realized how many calls come in for anxiety and fainting due to college stress. Please, if anyone out there is that stressed out with school, put this down and go get yourself an ice cream cone.
Sometimes with the whole saving lives business, EMS staffers can get distracted from their studies. The squad is lucky to have an adviser that understands they are students first and EMS personnel second.
Wadleigh said that "EMS does not want to block the academic progress of our students."
We can be grateful that before those students use their Rowan education to move on to higher places, they are here now, helping us in more ways than we realize.