This story has been circulating around the various EMS forums over the past 24 hours:

A veteran firefighter refused to respond to last month’s deadly shooting spree that left Rep. Gabrielle Giffords wounded because he had different political views than his colleagues and “did not want to be part of it,” according to internal city memos.

Some posters in EMS forums are wondering if this firefighter’s refusal to respond detracted in any way from the heroism of those that did. I have only two things to say to that:

1. The firefighters and paramedics who responded to that scene were not heroic. They provided medical care under difficult and chaotic circumstances… just as they are expected to do. It’s our freakin’ job. Doing it well does not make you a hero, nor does dying in the line of duty. Every cop, fireman and EMT takes a calculated risk every day when they put on a uniform. Sometimes the unexpected happens, or the calculation proved incorrect. Sometimes the buildings collapse on you, or the drunk driver plows you over while you’re working the accident scene, or the intruder you didn’t see manages to shoot you where your vest offers no protection…

… but these things happen, and we know and accept it.

When we bandy about words like heroism so freely, it cheapens the meaning of the word. I’m not a hero, and it would shame me to be called so while in the company of men who are.

2. You don’t get to choose your patients. You may not like them, you may not approve of their lifestyle choices, you may resent being the taxpayer saddled with the bill of their system abuse, and you may disagree with their political philosophy…

… but when the alarm goes off, you answer the fucking call.

And you render the same quality of care, be they crack dealer or Congressman, skell or socialite. We as a profession are accorded a sacred trust by our patients, and foremost in keeping that trust is the implicit understanding that you answer the call when it comes in, without hesitation or mental reservations.

If you can’t do that, then get out.

The only good thing that can be said of Mark Ekstrum here is that he realized that, and chose to retire before his department decided on how to discipline him.

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