I grew up within 10 minutes of two different hospitals. An ambulance with EMTs was never more than a few minutes from anywhere in town. Until I married a small town boy and moved to the best place ever, I never really thought about emergency health care in small communities. I know there were volunteer fire departments (VFDs) in my area, but I never thought much about them or what they did. I assumed they fought fires, which they did and do. But they do a lot more in small towns like ours.
When I got married in 2005, lots of things changed including my address. I moved to a small community with one stop sign, a country store, two churches and a post office. Too small to even be a town. The tornado got the post office and the economy got the store, so I guess we are even smaller now. The nearest decent-sized town in our county that also has a small hospital is thirty minutes down a very curvy road, and only if you drive dangerously fast. Our little community is perfect for a lot of things, but emergency medical situations isn’t one of them. While we dated I had become more familiar with the local VFD as my husband and father-in-law were both members and regularly went out on emergency calls. After we married, my husband started working as a wildland firefighter, so the drive to help and protect runs pretty deep with him and an EMA radio is never far away. Hearing the pages and seeing him fly out of the house is not as regular as it used to be, but it’s still a pretty common occurrence. See, out here VFD members don’t just put out fires. I mean they do put out fires, but if you get hurt, first responders from the nearest VFD get to you the fastest. You know them and they know you. They do everything they can until an ambulance can get to you, which may be 15 minutes or so. It could be longer, depending on where in the county they are. Members of the VFD are literally the difference between life and death in some situations and they are volunteers.
Another thing about this small town life: you never want to see the Air Evac helicopter, but you are thrilled to see it when you need it. Even by ambulance at top speed, it’s a treacherous drive from out here and nothing is close. The nearest trauma center is over two hours away. That helicopter and its crew save a lot of lives in communities like ours.
A few years ago my father-in-law had a massive heart attack. 100% blockage of his LAD or “widowmaker”, as it’s lovingly referred to. First responders were at his house working on him within minutes. When EMTs arrived he was alert and feeling better, never really experiencing “normal” heart attack symptoms. They were preparing to leave to get him checked out when he had another episode. They immediately realized it was a life threatening situation and called for Air Evac. They drove toward the helicopter, which landed in the nearest town, to save time. He was flown to Vanderbilt, where they immediately performed procedures that saved his life. It was still a close thing for several days, but without our local VFD and that helicopter, he wouldn’t be here. I have no doubt about that. And stories like that happen daily.
Tonight as my husband was cooking supper, the page went out that our local VFD was needed to help land Air Evac for someone. This community is small enough that you immediately start trying to figure out who it is. Every siren. Every time you hear the helicopter coming over. Every single time you start to pray, because chances are good you know the person they’re here to help. My husband left to help the helicopter land safely and Tuck and I sat on the deck waiting for them to fly over. They always fly near our house because we are very close to the VFD, but today as they circled around our house to go in for their landing, my little boy stood on our deck waiving his arms at them and I swear they must have seen him. They flew low and directly over his head on their way to land. Because these are awesome people who love their jobs and love the communities they serve and they love making kids smile.
When a tornado practically destroyed this community, that VFD kept us fed and organized every thing we could possibly need while we tried to salvage what we could. We literally ate all our meals there. It was a gathering place for us to just be together and rest. It housed the church until it could be rebuilt. It is the heart of this community and I’m not sure what we would do without it.
If you have a volunteer fire department near you, show them some love. They run on donations and good will. The members literally volunteer and by doing so, save lives. If you see the Air Evac crew at a local event, because they’re often there to let the kids crawl all over their helicopter, thank them for their service. It’s not an easy job and it’s dangerous. These people make it possible for people like us to live out here on the farms we love away from the bustle we don’t. They are small town heroes and they need your support. #supportyourlocalVFD #luttstennessee #thevolunteerstate