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By Ilona Bray

With advanced emergency medical technician training, Barb works for two fire departments in California, one in the town of Wilton and one in coastal Marin County. Her jobs involve helping people in emergencies like accidents, near-drownings, heart trouble and more. She helps people whether they have health insurance or not. She gets them stable then arranges for an ambulance or helicopter trip to the hospital.

As a kid, did you ever imagine you would someday be a paramedic?

Actually, I’d wanted to be a doctor, but got married and had children young. Then, after we moved to small-town Corte Madera, I signed up for a volunteer firefighter program. I was lucky that they put me through paramedic training.

What’s been a high point in your job?

Recently, I got a thank you note from a woman whose close friend was close to death when we were called out, due to alcohol issues. She said I had been one of the first people to treat him like a human being, and he’s since quit drinking and turned his life around.

What kind of person makes a good paramedic?

Number one, you need to be calm in an emergency, like with people bleeding or choking, or ugly situations like family abuse. You also need to think on your feet because there’s something unusual about nearly every case.

Any tips for kids interested in becoming paramedics?

Visit your local firehouse and ask for advice. Also, look for internships through your school or local hospital, like in an emergency room.

As a paramedic, do you think public health insurance is important?

Very. I see uninsured people calling an ambulance because they’ve got no other healthcare, for everything from colds and stomach aches to more serious stuff that should have been treated earlier.