JAY – Carol Pillsbury has seen a lot of changes in the emergency medical field since she began her career about 30 years ago.

When she was younger, she thought about being a doctor or a lawyer.

When she had a child, she realized she would not have the time needed to dedicate to either of those professions for a long time.

She did, however, set her sights on becoming a paramedic.

Her dedication to her medical profession was recognized in May. The Maine Emergency Services board awarded her the 2017 Maine EMS Lifetime Achievement Award.

Pillsbury works for NorthStar EMS and was nominated by a colleague.

She has inspired and mentored many people in the emergency medical field. She teaches an emergency medical technician course for high school seniors and adults at Foster Career and Technical Education Center in Farmington.

Pillsbury considers being part of the emergency medical services a privilege.

“We see people at their worst and saddest and they welcome us in to help them. We sometimes see them when they are making the transition to death and we are the ones holding their hand,” Pillsbury said. “We hear amazing life stories. We see them when they have done some really wild and crazy things. But in the end, they are our fellow human beings who need our respect, our knowledge and our skills. How can anyone ask for anything better to do with your life!”

How did you get into the emergency medical field?  When I was in high school I wanted to be either a doctor or a lawyer. I couldn’t make up my mind. They were both so exciting to me. I had a child very young and then realized at that point it would be a long time before I could dedicate the time needed for either of those disciplines. The television show “Emergency” came to be and I knew I could become a paramedic.

Did you start out as an emergency medical technician or have you always been a paramedic? Everyone has to start as an EMT. From there, there are several paths to choose from to become a paramedic.

What do you like about your job? The variety, the respect and trust the community has in the people responding to their emergency, being able to help others. There are always stories to tell about calls.

Are you a mentor to others in the emergency medical field? I am. It is fun to watch providers grow into confident caregivers.

What has been your most difficult challenge and your most inspiring achievement? The most difficult is growing older in a young person’s field. I went on a call for a man in cardiac arrest only to find he was just a few years older than me and my first partner in emergency medical services. Sadly he did not survive. The most inspiring is easing someone’s pain and being able to help people and families you know. One of the first calls I went on as a new paramedic was a woman in cardiac arrest. We got her to the hospital with a pulse. She eventually had a heart transplant and lived for 20-plus years more.

Were you surprised to be awarded the Maine EMS Life Achievement Award? Very much. It was a wonderful surprise to be thought so highly of by your peers.

How have things changed in the emergency medical field since you started?  Oh my, there have been so many changes. When I started there were seven different license levels, now there are four. We now have helicopters in Maine. The expectations of EMS is much, much greater today, the training is longer. Paramedics today really bring a miniature emergency room to the patient. Paramedics today can interpret 12 lead EKGs and activate a catheterization laboratory. We now have quality assurance programs in place. We have to worry much more today about our safety. We interact with other public safety departments more and rely on each other every day.

Paramedic Carol Pillsbury, left, of Jay, gives a tour of a NorthStar EMS ambulance to children. 

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