Inside the life of an EMT

Cima: “I initially thought that it would be all saving lives”

Sandro Cima (pictured)is an Oak Park resident and EMT.

Photo courtesy of Sandro Cima

Sandro Cima (pictured)is an Oak Park resident and EMT.

Sandro Cima seemed well rested from his shift the day before. He sat on the chair with a relaxed posture and an open smile. He talked about a shift that requires the utmost amount of concentration, sacrifice, knowledge and empathy.

Cima’s interest in the career as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) started when he witnessed a boating accident on Lake Sonoma in June 2017. One of his friends who was there is a registered nurse and knew how to help.

“The driver of the boat got really hurt. I saw one of my friends jump off the boat and go over to triage [determining who has treatment priority] the people, call into the 911 dispatch center and give them a report,” Cima said. “She [Cima’s friend] seemed really useful in that moment. She knew what she was doing and to me, that was extremely respectable.”

Although he did not yet know this situation would lead to his career, Cima was so deeply touched by his friend’s action that he felt the urge to obtain that ability and skill. He enrolled in an EMT program in August 2018.

“While I was in [EMT] school I thought it was saving lives, heroic acts, cool and funny things, but I realized that it is is also other jobs,” Cima said. “It has a lot of calls where it feels like being in a taxi with paperwork.”

In between mounds of paperwork, long shifts and the occasional bouts of boredom, the job shows it’s other facet: the rewarding part.

“When that one big call comes, it balances out,” Cima said. “You have that really magical day, that really magical patient or that call that just went right.”

Through Cima, it becomes evident that the job as an EMT is a very multifaceted task. He spoke about rewarding moments, but also the pain that the job brings with it.

“It is witnessing the not so great parts of society that not too many people really have a reason to go see,” Cima said. “There are probably not too many jobs like it: where you are invited into people’s homes and they are in the most vulnerable positions. You can use your imagination what uncomfortable positions people might have to call 911 in.”

Seeing people in these vulnerable places also inspires empathy. Cima is often faced with the question of how much.

“It’s trying to figure out how much empathy I give each patient because if I sit there and I put myself entirely in their shoes to the best of my ability, there can be a real sadness to that,” Cima said. “I do so, but trying to figure out where that healthy boundary is on doing that is something that I struggle with.”

While there are the standard textbook procedures, every case diverts from the example. And in those sometimes hectic, sometimes critical times, decisions that are made have a final impact on the patient.

“If you make the wrong decision it hurts. You think about it a lot, it remains with you,” Cima said.

While talking to other EMTs and Paramedics, Cima was told that such emotional baggage was the main reason why some people don’t succeed in the EMT profession.

“People can’t forgive themselves, or they are not really able to move on. If you are going to be in the health profession, and you’re going to be making decisions, you’re not always going to be able to make the right one,” Cima said. “You’re not God.”

Aidan Scott/Talon

All first responders have to make critical decisions, and all have their ups and downs.

“When you’re at work, you’re at work. You can’t just pick up the phone and call your family at most times. [Being an EMT means] not being able to be present in important times for the family,” Cima said. “I’m very new to it, but [in] a career where people are 20 years into this thing, they have given their lives. It is unbelievable to me the amount of sacrifice that firemen, EMT’s and police officers make.”

To Cima, being in the uniform means always strategizing and weighing the situations he finds himself in.

“What if I respond to a huge multi-vehicle accident with multiple ejections and rollovers and all I have is my partner and I and it will take 10 minutes for additional resources to get here? What do I do then?” Cima said. “It’s your responsibility to deal with that kind of thing more than anyone else. There is always some intimidation in that, but also it’s like holding a key to that big door in the sense of responsibility. I am happy to carry that key.”

Despite the hardships, Cima says this profession means doing what he loves with a smile.

“The best thing is finding something that I love and am excited to go do every day. Not only that, but the sense of purpose behind it [is what matters],” Cima said. “I’m just in love with the whole profession itself and especially the people I work with. I idolize a lot of the paramedics, ER physicians and nurses that I see. It feels great working alongside them.”