ALBANY -- When it comes to the public's perception of Emergency Medical Services personnel, Dougherty County EMS Assistant Director Greg Rowe has it about right.
"Our job is kinda like other public safety personnel; you don't really think about us until you need us," Rowe said.
Dougherty County residents needed the EMTs and paramedics who provide emergency medical attention quite a bit in Fiscal Year 2009. The service logged more than 19,500 calls for help. In Lee County, which has a population about a fourth as large as Dougherty, around 2,600 calls were made.
This week, residents in both communities are being urged to thank personnel who often are the difference between life or death in emergency situations during national EMS Week, which starts today.
"Paramedics are like any other professionals; they feel like they make a difference in our community," Lee County EMS Director Bobby Watkins said. "So many times when we are called, our patients and their family members are so wrapped up in the moment that they don't think about saying thank you.
"We know they appreciate us. We know there are people walking around today because of the care they received from us, and that alone makes our job rewarding. I think our community has a certain level of comfort knowing there are trained medical teams close by."
Today through Saturday will mark the 37th nationwide recognition of EMS Week. It is acknowledged as an opportunity for the public to honor EMS professionals and for those professionals to connect with the public they serve. The theme for this year's EMS Week is "Anytime. Anywhere. We'll be there."
And while EMS personnel acknowledge that they are paid for the services they provide, they say a little bit of appreciation goes a long way.
"I think most medics look at (EMS Week) as a nice opportunity for the public to recognize them for what they do 365 days a year," Dougherty paramedic and recently promoted Field Training Officer Brian Williamson said. "In this profession, you see people at some of the worst times of their lives. They're focusing on that situation, but it always means so much when one of them takes a moment to say thank you.
"Sometimes I think we get bunched in with other emergency personnel, but what we want the public to realize is that we're trying to do our best to serve them. We treat people fairly, and we treat them with respect. Sometimes I think that gets lost."
Even with the thankless nature of the job, the men and women of Emergency Medical Services are always on standby, waiting for the next call.
"If you play golf, you'll understand when I say that staying in this profession is a lot like the game," Rowe, who has worked with Dougherty EMS for 29 years, said. "You can play lousy all day, beat the ball all over the golf course, but if you make one great shot on the last hole, everything else is forgotten and you're ready to play again.
"Every time I think I've had about enough of this profession, I'll have a day out of the ordinary or someone will call out of nowhere to say thanks. That's reward enough, when you get a call from someone who you've made a difference in their life. It's a pretty wonderful thing."