The Barnes & Noble Review
Gourmet magazine columnist and roving foodie Jane Stern serves up a delightful account of how she transformed herself from "a raging former urban Jewish hypochondriac on the order of Woody Allen" into a functioning human being, by becoming an emergency medical technician (EMT) in her blue-collar Connecticut hometown.
A lifelong neurotic, Stern was blindsided at age 52 by crippling depression and phobias too numerous to count. Her epiphany occurred one day during a session with her beloved shrink, when she suddenly realized that the only times she was able to forget her excruciating fears were times when she was helping people. Immediately, she signed up to join her local ambulance squad and embarked on a rigorous course of training that would literally change her life.
In her wry and witty memoir, Stern regales us with unforgettable tales from the EMT trenches: stories of roller-coaster rides in the big rig, surreal encounters in the ER, and late-night stops at Dunkin' Donuts with the fellow volunteers who have become her surrogate family. She also describes how the death of a close friend sent her spiraling back into a depression that threatened to unravel her marriage of 32 years; and how the unspeakable tragedy of 9/11 irrevocably cast some much-needed perspective on her problems, real and imagined.
Hilarious, moving, and altogether engaging, Ambulance Girl tells the inspiring and life-affirming story of a fearful middle-aged woman who learned -- late in life, but not too late -- that the best way to help yourself is to help others. Anne Markowski
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) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
In this revealing, often wryly humorous memoir, Stern, coauthor (with husband Michael Stern) of 30 books on American food and culture and the monthly "Roadfood" columnist for Gourmet magazine, shares the life-changing experience of becoming an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). When she found herself clinically depressed at age 53, Stern responded by signing up for an EMT class in her Connecticut hometown, driven by childhood memories of performing repetitive head transplants on her stuffed toy bears. She sweeps readers along with stories about her first EMT calls, establishing camaraderie with the mostly male fire department and EMT team, encountering her first dead patient, dealing with the emotional difficulty of handling dead children, and forging a poignant personal connection with a terminally ill AIDS patient. She also reveals how the stress of responding to calls and of constantly being on call eventually began to disrupt her marriage and caused a relapse into depression, all to vanish suddenly when she and her fellow EMTs and firefighters struggled with the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and waited for the call that never came. Throughout, readers will be captivated by the author's lively writing, which genuinely conveys the significance of finding, as she helped others, the means to heal herself. Highly recommended for academic libraries supporting an emergency training curriculum and for public libraries, especially in communities with emergency services and critical incident stress management teams.-Dale Farris, Groves, TX Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
A witty, self-deprecating account of how becoming a volunteer emergency medical technician transformed a reclusive, depressed hypochondriac into a vibrant whole woman. Co-author with husband Michael of numerous books on food and pop culture (Dog Eat Dog, 1997, etc.), a columnist for Gourmet magazine, and a contributor to NPR’s The Splendid Table, Stern at age 52 appeared to be a woman of accomplishment. She describes herself, though, as clinically depressed, claustrophobic, and floored by panic attacks. Her decision to become an EMT was, she says, a spur-of-the-moment act, taken after a couple of months of psychotherapy and treatment with antidepressants. It also seems driven by the desire of this urbane, well-traveled outsider to become an accepted part of her largely blue-collar New England community. During months of thrice-a-week classes, mostly with fit young firemen and police trainees, overweight, overage, and overeducated Stern struggled hard to fit in, at times losing her dignity, but not her sense of humor. Once certified as an EMT, she faces some real-life tests. The claustrophobic writer dreads riding in the back of the ambulance, but of course she must, and with a couple of drunken, bleeding motorcyclists to care for she doesn’t have time to be afraid. Her fear of dead people is challenged when she is confronted with her first corpse: fat, naked, blue, and covered with Cheerios. And on it goes, through fires, accidents, and domestic crises, until the day Stern sees someone she knows become a virtual vegetable after an EMT rescue. Questioning the value of heroic saves, she begins again to sink into depression, coming out of her funk only after the events of 9/11 make her seerescue workers as a noble brotherhood. In the end, she achieves her goal and closes her account of self-transformation with the joyous announcement: "I am a part of something at last." Funny yet moving, a midlife crisis tale with all the elements of a TV movie of the week. Agent: Michael Rudell/Franklin Weinrib Rudell & Vassallo