Ode to the Third Shift: Staying Up To Preserve Lives

"There is one call in particular that sticks in my mind because it is one of those bad calls," South Area Fire and Emergency Response District Battalion Chief John Lauer said.

It's a tragic call SAFER Batallion Chief John Lauer remembers as his first.

"It was actually at the end of the third shift," Lauer said. "It was a call that I had to wake up for. The pager went off, and I was asleep. I got up."

"It was a car versus a deer," Lauer said. "The deer went through the windshield. The person driving the car didn't feel a thing. Let's put it that way."

A life was lost that night .

"That was the first thing that I saw that day," Lauer said.

Similar stories stick with Lauer to this day while driving his middle-of-the-night shifts.

"It showed me the force of things that I had no idea that was," Lauer said.

But, not all nights are tragic.

"When we're not busy on third shift, we're relaxing to the point of literal sleep," Lauer said.

While they wait for a pager to sound, signalling a call, paramedics relax at the fire station, in a kitchen, living room or they sleep in dorm-like rooms.

"It's not our own bed. It's not our own house," Lauer said. "That's a unique aspect of this job."

Unique, yes, desirable, maybe not so much.

So why would someone choose to treat people suffering emotionally or physically in the middle of the night?

These paramedics say the reason is simple.

"There's no better feeling than helping somebody," SAFER EMT/Firefighter Landon Franck said.

"This is what I'm supposed to do," SAFER Lt. Jackie Murray said.

"I enjoy helping people," SAFER EMT/Firefighter Jason Brandt said.

"You're here to protect the community when everyone is asleep," Murray said. "When they truly need you and sometimes it is at 3 a.m."

Lauer and his colleagues said they sacrifice a lot of family time at home while putting in 12- and 24-hour shifts.

"My family will always come first, but when I am here, this is my family also," Lauer said.

Lauer's goal is to make sure someone else's family stays whole.

"It was somebody's relative. It was somebody's close relative," Lauer said referring to his first call. "Somebody loved this person and vice versa."

Family drives Lauer to provide and love for his passion fulfills him personally.

"The ultimate thing for me is preserving life," Lauer said.

However, it's not about him. which is why he said he's made to be a paramedic in the field.

"There really isn't anything else I'd rather do: saving a life," Lauer said.

He doesn't look forward waking up to the bad calls, like his first one that reminds him of how fragile life can be.

He looks forward to the good calls, which hopefully means no call at all.

"Most nights we (paramedics) kind of wish, that we go to bed, and we can wake up the next morning without any incidents," Lauer said. "They happen and that's why we are here."

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