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My Ambulance Education: Life and Death on the Streets of the City

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The brutally honest story of an emergency medical technician.

At 18, Joseph Clark started working as an ambulance attendant to pay his way through college. For the next seven years he worked New York City's most dangerous neighborhoods as an emergency medical technician (EMT), dealing with the medical emergencies from drug overdoses, gang fights, car crashes and worse, all while juggling schoolwork and a personal life.

His stories are a graphic...

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My Ambulance Education: Life and Death on the Streets of the City

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The brutally honest story of an emergency medical technician.

At 18, Joseph Clark started working as an ambulance attendant to pay his way through college. For the next seven years he worked New York City's most dangerous neighborhoods as an emergency medical technician (EMT), dealing with the medical emergencies from drug overdoses, gang fights, car crashes and worse, all while juggling schoolwork and a personal life.

His stories are a graphic portrayal of the life of an ambulance EMT. From dealing with a body that is frozen solid and trapped under a front porch to climbing into the burned-out wreck of a car to treat the seriously injured driver, Clark's stories are horrifying, poignant, touching and often filled with the dark humor that is so characteristic of the people who work under extreme stress.

My Ambulance Education is a testament to the medical first responders who scramble to provide the on-the-spot care so vital to the survival of victims. EMTs struggle daily (and nightly) with emotional strain, sleep deprivation and, inevitably, burnout.

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Editorial Reviews

Lethbridge Herald - Garrett Bishoff
Clark carries the reader along his emergency ride of screaming sirens, gunshots and bloody messes... The stories are not a list of Clark's experiences but a continuous, flowing story. This is what makes the book so good... [It] gives us an appreciation for the efforts of the emergency medical services and is an eye-opener to the everyday things we don't think about that help or hamper [them]... A very good read in itself and a must-read for anyone with at least a small interest in the medical profession.
The Spectrum (St. George UT) - Terri Schlichenmeyer
My Ambulance Education is a lot like that accident on the highway: you want to look, but you don't want to see. That's because this is a darn good memoir, but the graphically gruesome, stomach-clenching tales might mean trouble for delicate readers. Clark doesn't candy-coat anything and his stories are often blunt, yet respectful. He's particularly gracious to colleagues in the fire and police departments and the Emergency Departments to which he transports patients.... In the end, Clark is honest about why he got out of the biz, but he clearly doesn't regret his time spent in the back of a rig. Despite the blood-and-guts — can I warn you enough? — I liked this book a whole lot and I think you will, too.
This one gets nine stars. It was a nice read—fascinating, fast moving, and very well written. It had the feel of House's Wilson in an ambulance. The book was immediately engrossing and tastefully dealt with potentially icky experiences while still being refreshingly honest. The author is also the Dean Koontz of memoir writers - successfully blending the horror of the job with humor. This is definitely recommended for medical drama fans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781554074471
  • Publisher: Firefly Books, Limited
  • Publication date: 3/27/2009
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 936,664
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph F. Clark, PhD, is a scientist, researcher and faculty member in the University of Cincinnati's Department of Neurology, specializing in the causes and treatments of stroke. The author or coauthor of numerous articles in scientific journals and three scientific textbooks, he lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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Table of Contents


  • Foreword
  • Introduction
  • John Doe and Company
  • Introducing Death
  • Christmas Eve
  • Suicide Is Painful
  • Lost Glasses and Drugs to Go
  • A Crushing Blow
  • Tunnel Vision
  • Bob the New Guy
  • Sleep Depraved
  • Vomit on the Ceiling
  • Angel Dust
  • The Streets
  • Shake and Bake and Other Ambulance Regulars
  • Visiting the Newborns
  • Drunks Are a Part of the Job
  • Along for the Ride
  • Brothers in Arms
  • Alternate Uses for the Ambulance
  • Killing Time in the
  • Spic and Span
  • My Ambulance Ride
  • Holly Holiday
  • The Big One
  • Last Call
  • Afterword
  • Glossary
  • About the Author
  • Picture Credits
  • Index
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In this era when terrorism and disasters are very real threats to all of us, we have a new awareness and appreciation for the services provided by emergency medical service (EMS) personnel. Yet for more than 40 years, EMS personnel have toiled diligently to take care of people in their hour of need. One patient at a time, these unsung heroes have placed the interests of others before their own and saved countless lives.

My Ambulance Education by Joseph Clark is a testament to the challenges that EMS personnel everywhere face daily. Whether they are assisting a patient who is having difficulty breather, treating someone's pain, or merely providing safe transport to the hospital for a psychotic patient, they must always be prepared to help the next person for whom they are summoned. They do this willingly and seldom with any accolades.

Despite the personal rewards that EMS
personnel often receive from all of this, their jobs exact an emotional toll — a big one. There is an emotional strain that is often overlooked and rarely discussed for fear that this would be perceived as weakness. My Ambulance Education is more than a collection of experiences. It's more than an accumulation of intense life events that most of us will never encounter. It is a daring and open debriefing session, a necessary unburdening of an emotional weight that would crush most of us.

This book's bold approach reaches a balance that many books attempt, but few achieve. It is frightening yet humorous, disheartening yet inspirational. These are just a few of the emotions in the complex mix that our EMS personnel are expected to manage every day. Joe Clark was no exception. Now, his shared experiences offer us a peek into the non-stop challenges of this job. His delivery is natural, genuine and brutally honest.

Prepare yourself for a roller coaster rider of emotions as you enter a world of psychological stress and physical challenge. Some people, such as EMS personnel, will find it liberating to share "war stories" and (finally) openly confess the emotional strain that they, as heroes, have endured for so long. But everyone can learn from the experiences recorded in these pages.

Todd Crocco, MD
Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine
West Virginia University
Morgantown, WV

I started working on an ambulance when I was 18 years old and in high school, and I actually considered making it my career. But I headed to college as a chemistry major instead. This ended up being the ultimate double life, because the student lifestyle is very insular and not an accurate reflection of reality. In college, if you make a mistake in a test there may be a final or makeup so you can do it over. But in life, and on the ambulance, there is no such thing as a do-over. The ambulance life is excessively harsh and contains more reality than most people should have to deal with. When I was faced with the choice of making a career as a paramedic on the ambulance or heading toward another destiny by being a college student, the choice was easy. Today, I am still in college — as a professor.

One of the few harsh realities of being a student is that college costs money. I did not have the money for tuition, and the ambulance was willing to pay me. People need ambulances 24 hours a day, seven days a week. So I could go to classes during the day and work nights and weekends. There was no shortage of shifts, and it meant a steady income to cover college fees. I put in 36 to 48 hours every weekend during term, and worked full-time during breaks. Full-time on the ambulance was 60 to 100 hours a week. If things were slow, I could even study while working a night shift. Although I pulled a lot of all-nighters on the ambulance, I never stayed up all night studying for an exam or preparing a paper. Sleep was too valuable to lose because of a test.

I decided to write this book because paramedics and EMTs deserve more recognition for the service they provide to the public and the hospitals they serve. The tragedies of September 11, 2001 highlighted the importance of emergency services. The heroism and dedication seen on that day and in the months that followed were not a surprise to those on the job, but the appreciation and thanks from the public was long overdue. Paramedics receive as many as 3,000 hours of training, enabling them to make early assessments of patients and treat many medical emergencies. They are highly skilled professionals who are able to apply the latest medical research to give every patient the best possible chance of surviving.

I firmly believe that public health would be greatly improved by doing research that leads to better therapies for the patients on the ambulance while they are in the critical first minutes after a life-threatening event. By bringing the emergency room to the ambulance, a paramedic can save lives before patients even get to the hospital. Although I do not plan to work on the ambulance again, the people still on the job have my respect, my sincerest admiration and even my sympathy. We all have defenses that enable us to deal with the job. This book is my ultimate defense system.

The events portrayed in this book are based on fact, though I have changed the names and altered the order of some events. These stories are a distillation of about eight years of working on three ambulances and two emergency rooms in New York and Michigan. These experiences have shaped, and are still shaping, my career as a university professor.

I do not recommend doing what I did to pay university tuition, but neither would I trade the memories for anything.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2014

    Very good read

    I enjoyed the professional yet down to earth writing of true experiances. Throughly enjoyed this book

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2009

    Intense and Poignant EMT Accounts

    Dr. Clark takes the reader on a true and real journey of the little known or seen life of an EMT. The recollections are reality based, sometimes brutally so, but always with the dignity of the players kept in mind. This book will help people better understand and appreciate the work the EMT's do on a daily basis. The work we really don't think or worry about until we need their help. While the heroes of 9/11 will always be in the forefront of our minds, let us not forget the other EMT's who have and continue to keep our world safe. This should be required reading for all prospective nurses and doctors!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 20, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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