Sydney Bennett Hill, 35, has one of the most draining jobs in Baltimore. He lives in Calvert County but works in Baltimore for American Medical Response, an ambulance company. Hill also volunteers with his local firehouse EMT. In his free time he enjoys fishing and collecting fire department related patches from different places or departments. YSK interviews are condensed for space.
What’s it like being an EMT in Baltimore?
Call-wise, we don’t handle the homicides as much — the city covers gunshots and violence.
We take care of the other end, after they go to the hospital. I take them to rehab facilities or back home, or between both. I do see patients when they’re brought in, and it can be very — I guess moving, but mostly hard. There’s a lot of young victims because of the environment. I believe everyone has the capability to get out of where they are, [yet] I see it every day.
I try to talk to everyone I transport. I find out about them not just to do my job but to bean ear for them. Sometimes they just want to be heard.
Working in Baltimore, I speak to people from all different backgrounds. I had a gentleman who I was transporting to a rehab facility in Pennsylvania. A car had been shooting at him. He was alive but had internal injuries. He said he didn’t know where he was going from that point on in life. So — I don’t normally do this — but I just said, “Do you mind if I pray with you?” and the guy looked at me and was like, “I would greatly appreciate that.”
Why are you an EMT?
As a kid I had a big thing with fire departments, and even today riding firetrucks, I still get excited thinking, “This is so cool!” I’m like a little kid.
Mostly, I always wanted to be helpful. It’s a higher calling — higher than myself.
There’s times where I’m in the back of cars talking to somebody who just had a severe traumatic event happen to them, and we’re both covered under this sheet while the guys are banging around outside. I talk with them to get their medical history, but also to get their mind off it. They come out and say, “It wasn’t that scary because you were there.”
I also got to bring in a new life at the end of last year. I got to deliver a baby. That was a turning point where I decided, all the bad stuff I saw? This is worth it.
How do you manage “the bad stuff”?
This is a big one for me, as a medical provider, firefighter, and EMT.
I consider my personal faith and my family. That includes my fire department family. If I had a bad call, I talk to them about it. But I don’t think the bad calls ever go away. They just get easier with time and talking. Also, not just me but some of the others, we have counselors.
How has being an EMT been affected by COVID-19?
There’s a lot more safety precautions. I’ve transported about half a dozen COVID patients, two or three I took to a residence to be isolated. We wear a surgical mask with a respirator, an isolation gown, the nurses are equipped, and there are more regulations to follow.
If I told you I wasn’t scared I’d be lying. But we have a job to do.
What does your Jewish identity mean to you?
It’s more of a family thing. I’m not a practicing strict Jew. I love bacon, I’ll put that out there. The others make fun of me for it, jokingly. When I say I’m Jewish, it refers to my history. I do try to follow certain holidays based on how I was raised. I have people say I’m not Jewish, I’m Jew-ish. [But] I’ve never come across [gate-keeping]. I’ve never come across a Jew who tells me I’m not Jewish. There are different sides to a religion. But I do believe in a God, and that everything happens for a reason.
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