Paramedic

Peter Canning, Author
Peter Canning, Author Fawcett Books $24 (320p) ISBN 978-0-449-91276-8
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
Mass Market Paperbound - 368 pages - 978-0-8041-1614-5
Open Ebook - 249 pages - 978-0-307-55893-0
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To be a paramedic, Canning reports in this absorbing chronicle of his first year on the job in Hartford, Conn., is to be demeaned as an ""ambulance driver"" and to be disparaged by white-collar colleagues and even by patients. But the work is greatly rewarding as well, providing a panoramic view of society and a concrete sense of accomplishment (though, sometimes, anguish). Canning's vignettes, brisk if not always elegant, are elevated by the perspective he brings. As a graduate of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and a former health department staffer for Connecticut governor Lowell Weicker, Canning traded statehouse compromise for street survival. ""Don't assume anything,"" Canning's paramedic teacher tells him, and Canning learns his way without losing empathy. He goes through heart attacks, drug overdoses, a patient soiling his uniform, even the delivery of a dead baby. He reads obits--""the EMT Sports Pages""--looking for background on the people he tried to help. He reflects on aging after depressing visits to nursing homes, laments poor kids doomed in ""houses unfit for human habitation"" and checks his own hostility when racial conflict unnecessarily shadows his work. And he wonders about public policy, how so many people ""crying wolf"" can lead to poor response and how Connecticut's policy of home rule affects unequal emergency services. In places, Canning strains--""I want to find my own greatness,"" he writes--but he succeeds in finding heroism in an important job done well. (Sept.)
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