Ambulance Girl

Ambulance Girl

How I Saved Myself by Becoming An EMT

Book - 2003
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The basis for the movie starring Kathy Bates, Ambulance Girl is an inspiring story by a woman who found, somewhat late in life, that "in helping others I learned to help myself."

Jane Stern was a walking encyclopedia of panic attacks, depression, and hypochondria. Her marriage of more than thirty years was suffering, and she was virtually immobilized by fear and anxiety. As the daughter of parents who both died before she was thirty, Stern was terrified of illness and death, and despite the fact that her acclaimed career as a food and travel writer required her to spend a great deal of time on airplanes, she suffered from a persistent fear of flying and severe claustrophobia. Yet, this fifty-two-year-old writer decided to become an emergency medical technician.

Stern tells her story with great humor and poignancy, creating a wonderful portrait of a middle-aged, Woody Allen-ish woman who was "deeply and neurotically terrified of sick and dead people," but who went out into the world to save other people's lives as a way of saving her own. Her story begins with the boot camp of EMT training: 140 hours at the hands of a dour ex-marine who took delight in presenting a veritable parade of amputations, hideous deformities, and gross disasters. Jane--overweight and badly out of shape--had to surmount physical challenges like carrying a 250-pound man seated in a chair down a dark flight of stairs. After class she did rounds in the emergency room of a local hospital.

Each call Stern describes is a vignette of human nature, often with a life in the balance. From an AIDS hospice to town drunks, yuppie wife beaters to psychopaths, Jane comes to see the true nature and underlying mysteries of a town she had called home for twenty years. Throughout the book we follow her as she gets her sea legs, bonds with the firefighters who become her colleagues, and eventually, comes to be known as Ambulance Girl.
Publisher: New York : Crown Pub., c2003.
Edition: 1st ed.
ISBN: 9781400048694
Branch Call Number: 616.025 Stern 2003
Characteristics: vii, 228 p. ;,22 cm.


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I marked this as just okay, because that was how I found it. I did not care for the character very much, Jane Stern. It is a memoir, but I could not relate to her insecurities very well. Perhaps because I worked in the field and have an inside perspective. Not to say there were not times I felt insecure. It was a fast read and she did have a dry sense of humor that was somewhat entertaining.

Jan 09, 2016

I find her "adventure" beginning an EMT at 53yrs old somewhat "over the hill" - glad she isn't at my fire station

Nov 17, 2015

Stern is highly honest about her anxiety, phobias and depressions. When the bottom falls out of her life--or when she's able to admit that it has--she decides to follow a dream she had as a child. She wasn't at all sure she could be an EMT, and tells us all her failures along the way in graphic detail. When she graduates and is into the job, nobody does it with more zest, even if she still falters at times. When she hits the wall, her new career, and her stable marriage nearly fall apart. Her response to a tragedy larger than herself help her pull out of the funk, and at the end she has found in the EMTs and firemen she works with the family and security she's sought all her life. Taught me a lot about these two professions.

Nov 08, 2015

great uplifting and heartwarming book. just like the writer says - shows how helping others helps yourself. Jane Stern is an incredible writer.

Oct 18, 2015

If your an older person that is considering going into another field of work espceially one that is very physically demanding like being an EMT but wonder if maybe you are too old then read this book it will give you the encouragment to GO FOR IT!
The description and the two reviews above do such an exhaustive job of describing this book there is really nothing I can add.
Though one thing Jane mentions on page 122 reminds me of a personal incident; Jane writes that if you want the EMTs in the ambulance to like you don't barf because it will make them sick also. The last time I was in an ambulance that's just what I did and it did indeed make the EMTs sick too.
I was so sick. I must have filled three barf bags. Then all three of the EMTs had to barf too.
As far as I could tell it didn't cause them to dislike me they seemed in fact to be a bit ashamed of their own weakness.
It occurs to me that if you are thinking about becoming an EMT don't just read this book read some other books on the subject as well before you decide rather or not to enroll in a class.
One such book available from Seattle Public Library appears to be: Lights & Sirens, The Education of a Paramedic by Kevin Grange.

Dec 13, 2006

Jane Stern, a middle-aged woman with all kinds of issues ranging from phobias and depression to anxiety and being overweight, tells the tale of how she did the unexpected (even to herself) and became a volunteer EMT for the small town of Georgetown, Connecticut. A writer by profession, Jane infuses her experiences responding to calls, riding in ambulances with victims and on-scene traumas with just the right amount of poignancy and humor. Readers may very well be inspired to become EMTs themselves.


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