MILLBURN, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — We have so many heroes on the front lines of this fight. Now imagine those devoting their lives to it who aren’t getting paid.
That’s the situation for local volunteer ambulance squads, responding to everything from sprained ankles to car crashes to the coronavirus.
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When Kristen Ryan signed up as a volunteer EMT four years ago, she knew she’d have to be ready for anything.
“Certainly it’s a different world right now,” Ryan told CBS2’s Jessica Layton.
But nobody, including the wife and mother of two, could have imagined the courage and commitment required to answer the call for COVID-19.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking when you get your first COVID-19 suspected call,” Ryan said.
She is one of about 70 members with the Millburn-Short Hills Volunteer First Aid Squad, putting patients in town ahead of themselves. The group is led by longtime president Steven Roth, who thought he’d seen it all — until now.
“Yesterday, earlier in the day, I helped a lovely elderly lady get up because she just fell, nothing else was wrong with her, and then later in the day, I suited up for a COVID-19 call. That’s what we do,” Roth said.
They’ve responded to dozens of calls from sick residents so far.
“They’re running a fever, there’s some shortness of breath,” Roth said.
They know that to help those who call on them, they need to safeguard themselves. That means personal protective equipment, which is in high demand in the tri-state area, on every call.
“One member suits up completely from head to toe, goggles right down to the footwear,” Roth said.
Social distancing in the back of an ambulance would be impossible. That’s why every person they treat, no matter what they’re treating them for, now has to wear a mask.
“We have to assume we could catch it from anyone,” Ryan said.
CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211
Keep in mind, in these scary times, they’re donating their time. Nobody’s getting a dime.
“People come by this building, they honk, they drop off cookies, they drop off pizzas, and to the heart, it’s wonderful. But we need the funds to be able to buy our equipment,” Roth said.
While funding is always a concern, they’re most worried about their own families.
“We are self-quarantining ourselves from each other just to be safe … It’s very difficult and it’s very difficult not touching people, not holding my kids, my grandkids,” Roth said.
A huge sacrifice so they can serve others in this unsettling and unprecedented time.