cover image AMBULANCE GIRL: How I Saved Myself by Becoming an EMT

AMBULANCE GIRL: How I Saved Myself by Becoming an EMT

Jane Stern, . . Crown, $23 (240pp) ISBN 978-1-4000-4832-8

At 52, Stern, a well-known foodie—she and her husband, Michael, have coauthored some 20 books on American culture and food, including Roadfood—found herself profoundly depressed. Holed up in the couple's Connecticut home, she'd lost interest in doing much of anything. Phobias (bus riding, air travel, claustrophobia, etc.) made her isolation worse. One day, on a whim, she responded to the "volunteers wanted" notice at the local firehouse and signed up for EMT training. No one teaching "boot camp"–style classes would have tolerated a queasy (much less depressed or phobic) recruit, so she had to tough it out. Humor definitely helped. As Stern remarks, after a few classes covering major trauma, "I am no longer clinically depressed but instead am dying of everything simultaneously." Some of her class notes are funny, like her list of EMT no-nos: don't replace organs hanging from bodies, don't give CPR to a severed head, don't attempt to revive someone in a "state of advanced decomposition" and if "you have a patient whose leg or arm is partially amputated, do not pull it off to make things 'neat.' " After training and certification, the real work started, and while initially it did the trick—"in helping others I learned to help myself"—the ultimate truth, that she couldn't save everyone, brought back her depression. Stern's memoir is a quirky mix of humor, self-doubt and courage. Agent, Michael I. Ruddell. (On sale June 24)