THEY WERE her childhood heroes. When her family needed them, they were there. When complications from her brother’s diabetes required immediate attention, she knew they would always come, and they always did. From her gratitude for their care, a desire was born to do the same for others. Mary Allison Dempsey wanted to be a paramedic, but it wouldn’t be easy.
Despite being a single mom at 20, Dempsey refused to give up on her dreams or change career paths, committed to becoming the one that answered the calls to 911. In fact, she answered 911 calls as a dispatcher before obtaining her dream job. Her parents stood behind her, offering their full support as Dempsey worked and studied to complete training as an emergency medical technician and paramedic. Dempsey knows she’s where she’s meant to be in her job today with Lincoln County Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
She said, “It’s an honor to be in my position. I’ve crossed a lot of obstacles to get to where I am today. My brother always needed medical attention for his acute, chronic condition. I always knew that I wanted to do something in the medical field. First, I got into dispatch and learned my love for emergency medicine. Now I get to serve like the medical professionals did for my brother. I saw firsthand the importance of first responders and how their knowledge and critical thinking skills save lives.”
Being mentally prepared and staying calm in emergency situations is imperative. Dempsey is trained to handle the situations but credits her faith for the underlying strength needed for her job.
“If you stay calm, then everybody else will feel at ease. It takes a lot of training and a lot of faith in God for sure,” Dempsey said.
It’s hard to believe some patients walk away from tangled wreckage, yet Dempsey sees it happen. At other times, it’s as bad or worse than it looks. Riding the roller coaster of adrenaline and emotions is a balancing act.
She said, “It hits me sometimes. You’re in chaos at work, then you come home to calmness, and you have to switch from point A to point B. Your family has no idea what you deal with at work, so it’s hard for them to cope with you. That’s probably the hardest part — transitioning and making sure home life isn’t affected by work.”
In most situations, first responders transfer care to the emergency room staff, and their interaction with the patient ends. But their concern for the outcome doesn’t end at the emergency room or helicopter door. Further interaction with the lives they save is not always possible, but it is always remarkable.
“It’s definitely surreal knowing that your knowledge and skills can impact somebody else’s life in the community. I’ve met a couple of different patients, and it’s just the greatest thing. It’s better than any medal or award because their family is forever grateful,” Dempsey said.
Dreams, like patients’ lives, are worth fighting for. In Dempsey’s case, pursuing the dream itself saves lives today.
She reminds us, “Never give up on what you truly feel is your passion. Being a female in the EMS world is very challenging. Don’t let challenges ruin your dreams or your true love for what you want to do with your life. With all the obstacles I’ve had to go through to get to where I am today, I try to push people as much as possible and encourage them to keep on going because one day, they’re going to be really proud that they can.” GN