Protect Hopewell Valley: How and why did you decide to volunteer?
Sarah Hopkins: I always had the personality of wanting to help if I could. As a college student, I was a resident advisor and came upon two colleagues in the dorm who were trying to help a beloved janitor who had collapsed from a heart attack. It was quite some time before the ambulance arrived, and we helplessly stood by as he died. This was someone we all knew and loved. I swore I never wanted to feel that way again, and I took my first CPR class.
(After college) I worked at Bristol-Myers Squibb in Plainsboro. I took a 40-hour first responder course and volunteered during work hours as part of a team willing to help fellow employees until the ambulance could get there. In 2010, I was traveling along River Road in Pennsylvania with my husband, and we saw people gathered in the road, and cars were stopped, because a bicyclist was in the road. I went to get out of the car, and my husband said, “Let me stop the car first!”
I was evaluating the patient when a man arrived and said he was a retired EMT, and asked how he could help. I asked him to stabilize the cyclist’s head. The rider became conscious and pulled off his helmet – the head trauma was bad. The police arrived, and I asked them to provide oxygen. The ambulance arrived, and a helicopter came. That guy lived!
Later, I thought to myself, “I can’t see anything worse than that, and I still wanted to have my hands in there, and be helping. If I’m going to be the kind jumping in to try to help, I want to have more ability to help.”
I took the fall EMT course at Pennington.
SH: It’s been the best almost five years of my life, just how rewarding it is to be part of this team, work with these great people, and feel like I can really help others. I wouldn’t be able to do this without the support of my family, too. My children are supportive, and my husband is always encouraging me.
PHV: Describe your most memorable moment as an EMT.
SH: When I was first volunteering, a four-year-old went face-first down a slide, and had a very bloody face. I saw the parent was carrying the child toward me, and I jumped away from the ambulance, running toward them. The child reached out to me and went right into my arms. I carried him back to the ambulance to treat him. He knew I was going to help him, and he wasn’t afraid.
PHV: What has surprised you about working as an EMT?
SH: When a call comes in, you’re not really sure what you’re going to find when get there. You get a call that someone has fallen down the stairs, and actually, they have had a seizure and are resting their head on the stair. Or you figure out that this person has had a stroke. That’s part of the adrenaline of it – you are never going on a routine anything, and you have to figure out how to work through whatever you find.
PHV: Any advice for those interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or EMT?
SH: One of the great things about Pennington First Aid is we have an observer program. You can actually learn CPR, and get to ride on the ambulance and can observe what’s going on. Even if you decide that you don’t want to become an EMT, you have that CPR training. But if you have the ability and the inclination – if you can give the time to volunteer, and you’re the kind who can do this work – you should do it