fRom the editoR
putting issues into perspective
>> by A.J. HeigHtMAn, MpA, eMt-p
PatCHES, PRidE & PatiEntS
Consistent cooperation should be the goal
Have you noticed how well person- nel from different agencies—and those wearing different uniforms
and shoulder patches—get along and work
together during a cardiac arrest or mass casualty incident?
Know why that is? It’s because they’re all
focused on a common goal: the mitigation
of a complex incident or resuscitation of a
person whose life will slip away if they don’t
focus on the most appropriate
care, set aside personal biases
about who’s in charge and fol-
low the command system
regardless of who’s “in charge.”
I’ve found this to be the case during most
“big” calls. But when you get public, private,
third service and hospital-based EMS system
administrators together for a planning meet-
ing or at a city council hearing on the best
way to offer EMS in a region, their protec-
tive attitudes, operational and staffing biases,
and agency loyalties, will often surface like
the teeth on a shark that smells blood in the
It shouldn’t be that way. We should check
our egos and biases at the door whenever
we leave home to head to work. We should
simply focus on the patient and delivering
optimal service to the community.
Wars have taught us invaluable lessons
about strategy development, command and
control, and the use of innovative tactics.
They have also taught us many hidden lessons
about group interaction, the use of limited
resources and, most importantly, “blind” faith
and cooperation between forces from different service branches without bias or prejudice—particularly when it comes to combat
The importance of this unbiased attitude
and approach to patient care was never more
evident to me than in the sad, but powerful, story of the life and tragic death of Sgt.
Eric E. Williams, an Army flight medic from
Southern California who was killed on July 23
At Williams’ funeral, Army Staff Sgt.
Michael Constantine told of being on the
receiving end of Williams’ care in 2008, and
vividly recalled the battle that almost took his
life. A bullet tore through Constantine’s ribs
and collapsed his lung during a fierce battle in
Sgt. Williams was the flight medic who
rapidly arrived on an Army helicopter to
attend to him as he gasped for breath, watch
He never made it home, but the
stories of his heroic acts did.
his vision begin to fade and “tunnel,” and
had a significant amount of blood filling his
Constantine says, “I had started to give up
and let the inevitable rush over me until, in
a calm voice, I heard Williams’ voice say ‘Just
breathe out.’ So I did.”1 He then felt Williams’
hands repairing his massive, open wound.
Constantine says he looked up and
searched the medic’s face for some indication
of how bad the wound was. He told those in
attendance at his funeral that he was met with
a reassuring smile and words of promise from
Williams, who told him he would do all that
he could to save him.
Williams and his flight crew members did,
in fact, save Constantine, and he never saw
In July, four years after Williams saved
Constantine’s life, he learned that Williams
was killed as his second deployment ended.
Williams was in transit from his duty station
in Ghazni Province, Afghanistan back to the
U.S., and his forward operating base came
under enemy fire.
He never made it home, but the stories of
his heroic acts did.
The most important part of this story is
that Williams grew up in civilian life serving
with public and private emergency response
agencies. He had served as president of the
fire explorers while at Murrieta (Calif.) Valley
High School and later became an EMT for
American Medical Response.
Read Sgt. Eric E. Williams’ last blog entry,
“Coming Home,” at http://myfriendthemedic.