Ambulance Girl

How I Saved Myself By Becoming an EMT

Publisher: Broadway Books
The basis for the movie starring Kathy Bates, Ambulance Girl is an inspiring story by a woman who found, somewhat late in life, that “in helping others I learned to help myself.”

Jane Stern was a walking encyclopedia of panic attacks, depression, and hypochondria. Her marriage of more than thirty years was suffering, and she was virtually immobilized by fear and anxiety. As the daughter of parents who both died before she was thirty, Stern was terrified of illness and death, and despite the fact that her acclaimed career as a food and travel writer required her to spend a great deal of time on airplanes, she suffered from a persistent fear of flying and severe claustrophobia. Yet, this fifty-two-year-old writer decided to become an emergency medical technician.

Stern tells her story with great humor and poignancy, creating a wonderful portrait of a middle-aged, Woody Allen–ish woman who was “deeply and neurotically terrified of sick and dead people,” but who went out into the world to save other people’s lives as a way of saving her own. Her story begins with the boot camp of EMT training: 140 hours at the hands of a dour ex-marine who took delight in presenting a veritable parade of amputations, hideous deformities, and gross disasters. Jane—overweight and badly out of shape—had to surmount physical challenges like carrying a 250-pound man seated in a chair down a dark flight of stairs. After class she did rounds in the emergency room of a local hospital.

Each call Stern describes is a vignette of human nature, often with a life in the balance. From an AIDS hospice to town drunks, yuppie wife beaters to psychopaths, Jane comes to see the true nature and underlying mysteries of a town she had called home for twenty years. Throughout the book we follow her as she gets her sea legs, bonds with the firefighters who become her colleagues, and eventually, comes to be known as Ambulance Girl.

READ AN EXCERPT

1

I am G-65.

That is the number I was given when I became an Emergency Medical Technician at the volunteer fire company in Georgetown, Connecticut. I live in Georgetown, a rural, blue-collar town whose main attraction is a sprawling defunct wire mill with broken windows.

If you live in Georgetown and...
Read More

READING GUIDE

1. Stern seems to find the experience of anonymity refreshing, even euphoric. Of her first day in a hospital emergency room, she writes, “I am just a spare pair of hands that day. I have no name, no authority…I am hooked.” Similarly, her strategy for getting through the terrifying experience of...

Read More