Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad (BHVRS) "Why I Ride" series features BHVRS members and why they chose to become an EMT and volunteer.
Carolyn Sayre, NREMT
Member since 2017
I have kids, a job, and so many responsibilities. Is it really possible to find time to volunteer?
It is absolutely possible! When I first joined I was worried about balancing the squad with a work-from-home job and a four- and seven-year-old. But the Berkeley Heights Volunteer Rescue Squad (BHVRS) worked around my schedule. They understood I had little kids and was only able to give so much. They offered me the option of riding at night or during the day when the kids were in school. The nice thing about the BHVRS is that you can respond to calls from home. When I am on shift I can still help the kids with their homework or sit down for a family meal.
I can tell you that my son and daughter have never remembered the bedtime story I missed when my pager went off or I had a training to attend. But they sure do remember, “My mom is an EMT!” You can talk about kindness and sacrifice with your children or you can lead by example. You can show them what it is like to reach out and touch someone’s life—not for money or personal gain but out of compassion and a pure willingness to help.
How has the BHVRS changed your life?
Being on the squad has brought an incredible perspective and joy to my life.
It is impossible to come back from a call and be mad about the sauce that spilled on the floor or the laundry that did not get folded. I have a bulletin board by my door that has every thank you note patients have sent me. Every time I leave the house I can’t help but smile thinking of them. The BHVRS has grounded everyone in my family to remember what truly matters. My daughter is counting down the years until she can become a cadet and my son wants to be a firefighter!
I’m thinking about joining, but I’m not sure if I can do it. What made you take the leap?
I have been in awe of EMTs and firefighters for as long as I can remember. Every time I saw an ambulance or fire truck zipping by I wondered what was happening and if I could help. As someone who has had to overcome a lot of health challenges—both personally and among family members—I know firsthand how difficult it can be to sick, feel helpless and rely on others for care.
About two months into my training, my choice to join the BHVRS was further solidified. My four-year-old son fell off a playground structure and suffered a mild concussion. Our wonderful partners at the Long Hill Volunteer Ambulance Squad responded. As a parent, that is the worst possible moment of your life. I remember that feeling every time I interact with a patient and their family. If I can make a small difference in what is probably one of the worst days of their life, then all the training and hours on call have been worth it.
Were you nervous?
You better believe I was nervous. I have worked in science and medical writing for 15 years, but I never did anything clinical in the field before I joined the BHVRS. I often hear people say, “Oh, I could never do that,” but you would be surprised how you can rise to the occasion when someone is in need. I will never forget the overwhelming excitement and anxiety I felt the first time I heard that pager go off. But more importantly, I will never forget the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction I felt afterwards. We were riding home in the ambulance and I knew I was hooked. I was asking our crew chief tons of questions about the call. I remember taking a deep breath and thinking to myself: “That was incredible—I can do this!”
From that moment on, everything came at my own pace. Over time, I learned about the equipment, patient care and how to drive the ambulance. It always amazes me that the BHVRS is made up of people of all ages and from completely different walks of life, and yet we are all a family. We trust each other with our lives and will do anything to help one another be successful. I owe my success to the crew who trained me and my incredibly supportive family who are equal partners in my eyes at the BHVRS.
What was your most memorable call?
My most proud and touching moments have been when I was able to help a child. Most of the kids we see are so scared when we first meet them. But by the time we arrive at the hospital they are smiling, laughing and naming the stuffed animal we gave them. Nothing is more rewarding than making a difference for a child who is in crisis and lending a helping hand to support their parents.