What Did You Say 69

by Joe Moore

What Did You Say 69
By Joe Moore

Thirty years of serving the island in EMS is a long time.  That’s a lot more than one hundred thousand hours.  For just a little less than fifteen years, I was the director of EMS.  That’s also more than a hundred thousand hours.  Now with some overlap of these positions, it might seem that that’s a lot of time to donate.  You are right.  Eventually, there had to be some pay involved.
I never received a penny for doing the work from the end of September through the month of May for the first fifteen years, nor any pay for the rest of the year either.  That was all volunteer time.  In 1999 or 2000, it was determined that the EMS providers were getting busy during the summer time, and working EMS runs was not conducive to doing many summertime jobs, so pay was necessary to help cover the loss in wages from not taking a summertime job.

What did you say?

Well, I was busy cooking dinner at one of the restaurants on the island.  The other two paramedics were not on the island due to a family emergency downstate.  I knew they were going to be gone that whole weekend, but I was simply hoping that there wouldn’t be any emergencies.  I was completely wrong.

So, you must imagine a really busy summer night in July of 2000 with a very popular restaurant.  The restaurant kitchen had me as the primary cook, one other assistant cook, and a dishwasher.  We were in the middle of the dinner rush with the whole restaurant full.  All the food was cooking, and we were setting up the last table of twenty people when the pager on my belt blasted out, “Beaver Island EMS, respond to the East Side Drive for a patient with chest pain.”

I worked feverishly to finish this last huge table of people when the pager went off a second time with the same information.  I finally heard one EMT respond that they were headed to the garage.  I put the last of the main courses on the plates and told my assistant to finish plating with potatoes and vegetables, and I walked out the back door to grab my radio from my car.

I keyed the microphone and said, “Bob, pick me up by the Catholic cemetery, and we’ll head down to the residence together.  I’ll be waiting.”

“Roger,” Bob replied, and I took off my apron, tossed  my chef’s hat into the car with it, and began the quick walk to get to the location.

We had to transport this patient, and, by the time we were done, I went back to the restaurant to find the owner standing in the kitchen very angry.  Needless to say, I lost my summer employment that time.  There was a nice tip from the table of twenty and my paycheck waiting in the owner’s pocket when I picked up my car.  That was the end of my summer job.  So, I suggested that the paramedic be paid for being available.

We figured that the summer jobs back then might pay about ten dollars an hour, and that a worker might have to work ten hours or more per day, so we settled on the $100 per day for the on-call paramedic, which made the paramedic available for emergencies 24 hours per day, seven days per week for the entire summer season.  The budget for the summer was $10,000.00, and just about matched the earning lost by a summertime only worker.

This worked out to $4.33 per hour for a 24 hour day, with no increase for overtime.  It eventually worked to have people available as an EMT as well, so there could be a guaranteed crew available and responsible for responding to emergencies.  This made summer employment for the other volunteers, a definite requirement for survival throughout the year, a viable situation.  Others could respond when not working, but there were two people on-call at all times.

When I retired sixteen years later, I had not received a raise.  I was still being paid sub-minimum wage without any benefits whatsoever.   After one of my EMT students took the paramedic program, it became obvious that she would make a wonderful EMS director, and she worked very hard at it.  This lead to the paramedic being paid year round as paramedic at the same rate, but there was additional pay for being the director of EMS established that year.

It was that same year that I received a plaque for my twenty years of service to Beaver Island.  The year was 2006.  I continued to be on-call as a paramedic to give the director days off, and to earn a little extra money to help pay the bills.  I retired from my teaching job the following year, and the income level dropped quite a bit, so the EMS pay was essential to survival.  This director was not finished in the department of learning and wanted to move on into nursing. 

The director gave up the job to be able to move to attend nursing school and get herself in a position for making a living for her family.  For six years, this wonderful person put her heart and soul into providing excellent patient care to the people of the island.  It was sad to have her move on, but it was an essential step in her life.  One more terrific person in the EMS profession left and moved on with their life.  Good for her, bad for the island.

So, the next three years, for most of the summer and fall, I was on-call a lot, most of the time.  During the summer, I was the only paramedic available for these three years.

I figured it out after thinking about it for a long while.  I have gone on a lot more than one thousand emergencies over my career on Beaver Island as an EMT and paramedic.    There may be a lot more, but there were other EMS providers on the island and other paramedics doing the job and being primarily responsible for the emergency patients.  Without permission, I don’t want to name them individually.  They have a right to their privacy. 

For a period of between ten and twelve years, every single high school student was involved in education in the emergency medical field.  Every year, I taught health education in the first semester of high school, and then the second semester was medical first responder class.  I am very proud of the fact that this was the first true introduction to the health care field that these students were exposed to.  Several of them over these years went into a health related field for their career training and are still working in a health career.  There are physical therapists, nurses, paramedics, health billing specialists, pharmacists, and several other areas for the students from our school.

Then, for ten years, every other year, these students were given the opportunity to take an EMT class during the school year as well.    This was a deeper education experience with much more anatomy and physiology and treatments that were taught.  Before the age requirement went up to eighteen, Beaver Island had the youngest licensed EMT in the State of Michigan.  She licensed at sixteen and did run on some emergency runs with us.

I had two students that took the medical first responder, Basic EMT, and the EMT-Specialist class from me that actually licensed.  Just one of these is still functioning as an EMS provider as this is written.  Now, you must also realize that the paperwork for the daytime classes was also accompanied by paperwork for nighttime adult classes as well.  In the first twenty years of my EMS career, I believe that I taught more than forty EMS classes, either MFR or EMT or both, some during the day, and some during the night.  This was all done on a volunteer basis with no pay for the instructor and no fees for the students other than purchasing the textbook.
So, if half of these were MFR clases at 100 hours each, and the other half were EMT classes at 200 hours each, my volunteer instructor hours would add up to quite a few hours, and continuing education classes had to added to this as well as community CPR, healthcare provider CPR, and other specialty classes in cardiac, stroke, and trauma certifications.

One more record that needs to be mentioned is presented here.  In 1989, I was the only EMT in the State of Michigan to take three licensing examinations on the same day.  I took the Basic EMT exam, the EMT-Specialist exam, and the Instructor Coordinator exam all on one day right here on Beaver Island.  Some might want to know how I did.   I passed all three with a score above the minimum of 85%, but back then you couldn’t find out your actual scores.  Now, with the National Registry, you can.  Then in 2000, four of us drove down to Battle Creek, and we all took the paramedic exam, written and practical, and we all passed that one also.

So, making commitments to the EMS profession was definitely in my blood, as they say.  There were plenty of other opportunities to learn and to teach.  In order to keep the instructor rating for the American Heart Association, I had to teach two classes each year.  For some of these certifications, there was no one to teach on Beaver Island, so I had to travel to be able to teach them.  Several trips were made down to Battle Creek to teach with the two people who had offered the paramedic course here on Beaver Island.  I would go to Kellogg Community College, and spend the weekend helping to teach the Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and the Basic Cardiac Life Support courses sponsored by Kellogg Community College.  This not only helped me to maintain the certifications as instructor and provider, but also helped keep these skills in good form.

The same situations occurred in other instructor certifications as well.  Many of these were easily included into the Medical First Responder and EMT classes that were offered here on the island and for continuing education credits required by the State of Michigan for EMS providers.  These courses included Pediatric Emergencies for PreHospital  Providers by the American Acadmy of Pediatrics, Advanced Stroke Life Support by the University of Miami, and International Trauma Life Support.  On a few occasions, these courses were also taught off the island in several locations in northern Michigan.  When the National Registry became the certification required to license in Michigan, I became skills examiner for the National Registry, and I traveled off island to help test individuals at the Advanced EMT and paramedic levels. 

All of these certifications are instructor level certifications and there were others as well.  This made it possible to incorporate these skills of assessment and treatment into those who took the classes that I taught.

It is interesting to note that there were several of these attendees to the EMS classes that I taught were not really interested in getting licensed.  They were just taking the programs for gaining the knowledge since the EMT classes covered a large quantity of medical emergencies.  To give some examples seems valid here.  I taught three high school students and one adult in an EMT class.  The three high school students had wanted to take this program, but they were not old enough to license.  The adult taking this class was licensed and is providing EMS services to the island today.  This kind of situation happened a lot over the years, and the numbers of people interested increased, but the number of people licensing decreased.

What did you say?

When the first decade of this century was completed, there were over fifty people living on or having island connections that had successfully licensed in EMS whether they used the license or not.  As of November 2017, there are twenty-six people living on Beaver Island that have either been licensed or are continuing to be licensed in EMS.

I said that the gaining of knowledge for knowledge sake was the reason that many took the program, but they were not truly interested in getting a license.  They were not interested in providing services to the community.  If you look at this from a different point of view, you might even see the positive outcomes of having trained citizens that know when a situation is an emergency, and know what to do to stabilize the situation, AND know that EMS should be called to the scene.  How can you put a price tag on that?

What did you say?

There are some who got angry with the money spent to teach the classes when there were few providers coming out of the program with a license.  I looked at it differently.  If five people took a class, and only one was recommended for licensing, I found that this was a valuable program for all.  Yes, the cost of the books and the clinical were not leading some to licensure, but, if you were on the scene of an emergency and one of them were present, you could be assured that they knew more than the common person, and you also knew that you could rely on them to do exactly what you asked them to do.  In other words, they each were another pair of hands to help out, and these were trained and knowledgeable hands, AND they respected your decisions and your requests and would follow them.

I guess there is a comparison to be made here.  How many EMTs came out of the first EMT class on Beaver Island and then stayed on the island to provide EMS service to the community?  Well, the answer to that question isn’t what you might expect.  There was one who licensed and stayed on the island.  That’s why a second class had to be taught the following year.  I was in that second class, and I stayed and provided thirty years of service to the island.  Others passed and helped for a while, and then left or gave up due to the commitments necessary to provide service with the increasing learning and skills required.  I stuck with it and learned the skills and continued to teach them, so I could maintain my skills.  The teaching was an excellent review for me and for any who sat in on the classes.  What would it have cost to send us off the island to a conference instead of having the courses here?

So, let’s say that there were ten members of the local EMS agency that could get the majority of the needed continuing education credits right here on Beaver Island by attending some of these  EMT and MFR classes.  How much money could be saved?

Well, let’s take all ten of those EMTs and send them off the island for a conference.  The flights alone for this would be $100 per person or $1000.  Most of these conferences are two to three days.  So, let’s have them spend three nights in a motel in a fairly large city since that’s where these conferences take place.  Let’s estimate $150 per night for each of these ten people.  That adds up to $1500.  Now, arew e going to ask them to pay restaurant costs?  Let’s say we give them $25.00 per day for meals.  That adds $250.  Let’s say that the gas is also paid for as a traveling expense for travel downstate to a big city.  That adds at least another $250.  So we are now up to at least $6000, and there haven’t been any sharing of knowledge amongst the members because they all go to individual sessions that interest them.

For the half that amount of money, an MFR or class could be attended right here on Beaver Island, and the credits could be earned right here without sending the money off the island.   The EMTs could share their knowledge with the MFR students and share their skills and develop working relationships with the new MFRs that are trying to gain knowledge and skills.   You instructor is doing double duty in the paperwork department because there are more people in the classroom, but more experienced people will ask good questions and the new students will gain knowledge from those answers.

For that amount of money a full EMT course could be offered, and even more of the positive aspects may be shared and relationships developed.  More and more desire to help serve is also included in these joint programs.  When those that are doing the job are able to talk to those that are wavering on the edge of doing something for their community, the positives of this working together in a practical session cannot be better.  The social aspect has more and more true influence than the career itself.

So, doing your continuing education program along with a regular class is very valuable in three completely different ways.  The instructor gets review and new information to present.  The students benefit from the exposure to those doing the job.  The EMS providers get to help teach and review their knowledge and skills.  The last thing that comes out of this is the knowledge that we are all in this together, and the social aspect cannot be overlooked.  These benefits seem to make this a much more preferred method of teaching.

Now, I’d like to jump out of the EMS arena for just a little bit.  As a classroom teacher in the Beaver Island Community School for more than thirty years, having done my directed teaching and student teaching right in this same school,  I know that there are some students that were pleased with my demanding schedule of assignments and were very capable students and completely gained the curriculum objectives without too much trouble.    These student will never have any issues with the proper use of grammar or the “too, to, two” or the “their, there” or making the subject agree with the verb, or anything else that I taught in the school to the 7th and 8th grade classes including mathematics and social studies. 

While I’ve had some influence on some in the EMS area with nurses, EMTs, MFRs, paramedics, pharmacists, and other areas that have been picked up by my former students, I didn’t really know how my classroom management and classroom atmosphere effected some of the students that passed through my program until one day, a former BICS graduate came back and told me that she was dying.

I was so saddened, I cried right then and there.  This student had a brain tumor that was going to take her life, and she had made certain to come back to the island, after moving away, to make certain that I knew that my teaching had helped her get through  a touchy period.   She gave me a hug, and she helped calm me down.  She thanked me.  Then after she died her parents handed me a letter that she had written to me.  I had put this letter away because it made me so sad.  It is dated 8-4-99 and was handwritten on notebook paper.

“Mr. Moore,

This letter is far too long overdue.  I have thought of you so many times in my life.  You have always been a mentor to me.  During the time that I was on the Island, you were able to give me a great gift. The gift of self-respect  and a feeling of self worth.  I was able to go through life and succeed  at many things that I would never have tried if you had not given me the attitude and outlook on life that you did.  I have a great deal of respect for you and who you are.

As you know, I believe in God, specifically the Bible and Jesus Christ.  He has been a very Faithful supporter and comforter to me during this time in my life.  I have always had a close relationship with God but have never truly understood how closely He can be and wants to be in each day of our lives.  He wants to be our Friend (and a mentor as you were to me).

He Asks Simply “He has shown you O man, what is good, and what does the Lord requiiirrreee of you but to do justly, To love mercy, and to walk (daily) humbly with you God?”  Micah 6:8

I thank you for being in my life and the person who you are.  Give my best to your family, I hope All are doing well.

I Love You (Always Have)

Camille Skinner”

As the saying goes, “I made a difference with THIS one.”    Over the years, there have been a few of these wonderful former students that have come to me and thanked me, but none was as heartbreaking as this one incident in my life. This beautiful soul is with God now, and her letter inspired me to continue to do my best teaching and mentoring many more students in public education and in EMS education.


 I do remember a Navy sailor walking into my classroom many years ago, and he looked somewhat familiar, but I couldn’t put a name to him.  He was in his dress blues, or at least it looked dressy.  When he opened his mouth, I knew exactly who he was.

“Mr. Moore,” he said.

“Well, hello, Rick,” I replied.

We exchanged pleasantries, and then he went on to say.

“I want you to know something.  I took Physics with you here a few years ago.  You remember that class?” Rick said.

“Of course, I remember,” I said.  “We did some interesting experiments right here in the classroom.”

“Yes, and this class turned out to be a turning point in my life,” Rich said.  “I was completely mesmerized by these physics experiments.  It peaked my interest in mathematics and physics and anything related to physical science.”

“I’m glad that had some input into your interests,” I said.

“Well, Mr. Moore, I am now and engineer aboard a nuclear submarine  and I took that interest and made it into a career in the Navy.”

“Wow, Rick, you’ve made quite a move from your Beaver Island home,” I smiled and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Well, you had a big part in this, and I want you to know the influence you had in my decisions to go into the military and use the physics and continue study in that area,”  Rick reached over and shook my hand.

“I kind of lost track of you and your family,” I said, “once you moved off the island.  I hope all is well with the whole family.”

We exchanged some information about our family situations, and Rick left my classroom after shaking my hand one more time.  I haven’t heard another thing about how he or his family is doing, but once again, I made a difference.

Then, another person came to my home to do some work, and he also made complimentary comments about how I had influenced and peaked his interest in math and physics.  Apparently, these courses were valuable in accomplishing that peak in interest in physical science. 

I remember one project that the Dominican sister principal allowed me to do.  I was allowed to bring my physics class out to my property about a half mile from the school to complete a project that we started in the school.  That project involved graphing the shape of a parabola on a piece of plywood.  I had gotten my father-in-law to purchase some fiberglass cloth and resin, so we could build a parabolic mirror. 

The graphing of the parabola including all the calculations were done by the students on graph paper, and then this was cut out and traced onto the plywood.  We built a flat square of cement on the ground near my trailer with a vertical pipe sunk into the middle of the cement, and placed a pile of sand next to the pad.  Using the wetted sand, we used the graphed form and the pipe in the middle to form the sand into a six foot parabolic shape in three dimensions..  We then used cement to make a hard covering over the sand and shaped the cement into the same parabolic shape over the top of the sand.

While the resulting cement mold was not perfect, it was in the shape of a parabola.  After two coatings of thin cement were placed and smoothed using the plywood mold and the pipe, the three dimensional mold was ready for fiberglass.

We usually took the last twenty minutes of an hour class to drive out, so some work, and then come back to the school.  The students learned the graphing of the parabolic shape, the theoretical benefits of the parabolic shape, and then the learning moved on in the classroom to mechanics and many other topics, but we continued to work on the mirror project for the last third of the class time. 

Once the fiberglass had been placed, we cut four more pieces similar to the mold used in the sand and the cement, and we used the fiberglass to secure these supports to the  molded back side of the mirror.  Once the project was completed, we all were excited to actually lift the mirror from the form to see how we did.  As has been previously stated, the shape was not perfect, but it seemed to be somewhat close. 

We placed it back down, and I went to the grocery store to buy some aluminum foil to glue on the inside of the inverted parabola.  Using just the next two class periods, we placed and glued the aluminum foil with the shiny side to be facing toward the sun and the dull side glued to the fiberglass.  We finished this work on the Friday of the school week.  The mirror should be ready for use the next week.

One of the physics students had been gone for a week or so, and on Monday, we did not do any class work.  I drove the students out to my house, and we carefully stood the mirror up.  The student who had been gone, (we’ll call Will) decided to point the mirror toward the sun while I exclaimed, “Wait!”

I was worried about safety, and every teacher should be, but I couldn’t stop him.  With Will standing in front of the mirror with his back to the sun, he moved slightly to the side of the mirror, and the focused sunlight melted a hole in his jacket.  Another student exclaimed, “You’re on fire!”

Will almost dropped the parabolic mirror, but we grabbed it just in time.  Needless to say, the students learned that focused sunlight did get hot.  I believe that the mirror was used to heat up hot dogs for a lunch at the school, and then it was no longer used for anything and ended up in the dump.  That was some project that showed the reality of the parabola and the ability to focus sunlight for a purpose of heating something up.

Another time, I was having a hard time showing students the practical applications of vectors.  It finally dawned on me that we could do so using a pool table.  It took a great deal of after-school discussion with the principal, a Dominican sister, to allow me to take my students down to the bar downtown, a short walk from the school, to use the pool table for the table top to demonstrate the vectors.  The experiment used  the pool tables and a clicker with tape for timing, protractors for measuring angles and sheet of paper for bulletin board covers to cover the felt of the table. 

We gathered the data on one day, and we took all the papers and stuff back to the classroom.  The students analyzed the data and used the vectors and momentum to calculate the physics of the situation.  Although the calculations were not perfect, the students all remembered the process and were quite adept at using vectors to calculate.  It was a near perfect teaching and learning moment.

I had several former students mention this to me over the years.  It was a creative method of adapting to a much less technological way of understanding theoretical things in the physical world.