Paramedic got her start as Advanced First-aider

BROOKLINE – For Brookline Ambulance Service’s Lee Duval, the road to becoming a paramedic began with dollar signs.

It’s not what you think. Duval, who lives in Wilton, was in banking before she transitioned into the Emergency Medical Services field.

“I got into it because my sister has an EMS background and she was on the ambulance in Milford,” Duval said. “And, of course, I heard about it and thought that it sounded exciting.”

She then responded to a letter sent by the town, “desperately looking for volunteers,” and soon started as an Advance First-aider before graduating to an Emergency Medical Technician.

“That was probably 25 years ago,” Duval said. “I did that for a few years before becoming an EMT intermediate, which is what I was when I started in Brookline. And now, I’ve been a paramedic for 10 years.”

Many responders say they got involved in EMS because they, or someone they know, received treatment from an ambulance response team.

“I did get into EMS because of my family,” Duvall said. “My father had some health issues and he used the ambulance frequently, so when they put the call out that they needed help, I wanted to see if I was able to help. And with my sister’s background I said, ‘Yeah, I think I can do this.’ And I really just loved it.”

Community support is essential to organizations such as the Brookline Ambulance Service and related volunteer services. People can volunteer in many ways, from the medical field to manning a ham radio.

“We are so fortunate in Brookline,” Duval said, gesturing about the new building that houses BAS. “And I think one of the reasons we have this support is we don’t charge for ambulance service. And that isn’t the norm. When people are having health issues, they’re bombarded by bills and they’re out of work but they’re able to give us a donation and they give us whatever they can.”

The other invaluable donation is measured by the time commitment involved in becoming a volunteer, she said.

“This is a huge time commitment, absolutely,” Duval said. You have to be able to balance your time. And you have to want to do it. People take their EMT or further training, and that’s a lot of time. And the hours of coverage involve some kind of a nighttime shift along with a weekend shift … It’s about the satisfaction of the patients and the thanks we get.”

Daytime scheduling continues to be the most difficult to schedule, so most towns now have full-time ambulance coverage, Duval said.

“You don’t have people that are available to respond during the day. Everyone has full-time jobs, and to be able to make the commitment again, on top of everything else, they have to pay for daytime coverage.”

In addition to Duval’s role as a paramedic, there is some down time that means clerical work needs to be done, as well as maintaining the equipment.

“I’m responsible for the ambulances,” she said. “I maintain them as far as making sure they’re clean, fully stocked with equipment, and after the calls begin, I make sure everything is in service, and the ambulance is all set and ready to go. We do daily checks on the equipment.”

Though the BAS averages 365 calls a year, calls may come in clusters one day, and then the next, not at all.

“You have to be very flexible. “We are sometimes absolutely overwhelmed. If I start my day on the run, I’m going to run all day long. But the ambulances are always ready for a call.”

And as an example, should a call come in right now, who would go?

“I would go, and we have daytime coverage so my partner today would also be responding,” Duval said. “She’s just down the road, so she’d either respond here to the bay or to the call, depending on where the call is.”

Ultimately, “the volunteers make this happen. And we’re fortunate to have a lot of volunteers. And whether they’re here or on call, they’ve got everything under control and we’re lucky to have them.”

For information about volunteering at the Brookline Ambulance Service, contact Lee Duval or Wes Whitier at 672-6216.