Southampton student wins EMS award

Published 10:58 am Friday, July 4, 2014

Sam White, a Hunterdale volunteer firefighter, holds her award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior inside one of the station’s ambulances. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Sam White, a Hunterdale volunteer firefighter, holds her award for Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior inside one of the station’s ambulances. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

HUNTERDALE—Sam White was getting ready to have dinner with a friend on a chilly spring evening.

As the 18-year-old was getting dressed to go out, she got a call on her pager and had to put on a different outfit. A Hunterdale woman was bleeding badly after having accidentally reopened a wound.

In no time, Sam was on the road to the Hunterdale station where she boarded the second ambulance headed to the scene.

“She was bleeding really badly,” Sam said. “I remember helping out so much with her.”

Sam assisted with controlling the wound to make sure that she stopped bleeding, helped ease the woman onto the stretcher and into the truck, where she hooked her up to the monitor to check her vitals. Then she and the other EMS crew members just talked to her.

Sam regularly works with a monitor that checks a person’s vitals. -- CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

Sam regularly works with a monitor that checks a person’s vitals. — CAIN MADDEN | TIDEWATER NEWS

“We tried to talk about different things, to try to take her mind off of what was happening,” Sam said. “At the end of the call, when she was at the hospital, it made me feel better. We knew that she was taken care of, and we knew that she was safer.”

They’d taken her to the hospital in Norfolk, and after that, they came back to the station to clean the truck and get it ready for the next call. Only after all of that was done, Sam and her friend made it to dinner at 11 p.m.

“It definitely isn’t a normal lifestyle,” she said. “But I wouldn’t trade being a volunteer for the world.”

Sam said she’s not really worried about a normal lifestyle, as she is not a typical teenager.

“I have always been kind of a laid-back girl, I guess you could say,” she said. “I am not as much of a girly girl as other girls, if that makes sense.

“I just wanted to do something different, something other than the girls that went shopping all the time for fun, or got their nails and hair done. I’d rather be doing something like this.”

Sam, now thinking about EMS for her career, wants to go out on calls like that every day. And any given day that call could be completely different.

“Typical day?” White said when asked how a typical day might go. “I don’t even know what a typical day would be. You have to expect the unexpected.”

The scene can also be different from how it was described through the call.

“You can get paged out for one thing, and when you get there, it will be something totally different,” she said.

On those scenes, her role as a volunteer is support.

“I help out the career staff a lot,” Sam said. “I help out with checking vitals and help get them on medicine and stuff. Basic stuff — anything I can do, while they get all of the big stuff going.”

And that support role is paying off. Sam, a June 2014 graduate of Southampton High School, is the winner of Tidewater EMS Council’s “Outstanding Contribution to EMS by a High School Senior,” which is worth a $1,000 scholarship.

“That was definitely a blessing,” she said. “I did not expect to win it at all.”

She applied, which requires answering several essay questions, and then she went to the ceremony at the Norfolk Zoo, mostly just to check the event out and see what it was like. Sam didn’t think she had a shot at actually winning.

“The next thing I know, they are calling my name for it,” she said. “I was like, ‘Whoa.’ I just was not expecting it at all.”

Sam said she does not expect thank yous while she is volunteering with EMS, but this one felt like a big thank you.

“It was pretty awesome,” she said. “I felt like I really had given a lot to my community.”

Hunterdale Chief David Blythe said he’s proud of her.

“She is real deserving of it,” he said. “It’s a big accomplishment for her. It’s something good that she can put on her resume.”

Blythe said he’s been glad to have her serve at the department.

“She’s a good girl,” he said. “She is hard working, and she’s always at the fundraisers whenever she can be.

“I know she will go far, and I think she will be good in whatever she tries to go for.”

The scholarship will be used toward attending Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, where she will major in Emergency Management Services, with a minor in critical care. By her junior year, White will be certified to be a paramedic.

EMS was something that she wanted to do because of how much she wanted to help.

“My granddad died when I was really young from some medical problems,” she said. “I didn’t want to see anybody else really go through that, so I wanted to help everybody in any way that I could. I figured this was the best way to give back to my community.”

Sam started doing this when she was 16, as a high school sophomore. And she doesn’t limit it to just the EMS side of the Hunterdale Volunteer Fire Department.

“I just wanted to do something different,” Sam said of being a volunteer firefighter. “At first, I was leaning more toward the EMS side, then I opened my eyes toward the fire side and I got more involved, and I fell in love with it.”

Though Sam can’t say that she has always thought of herself as a firefighter, it feels natural now.

“I got involved, and I liked what we had to do, so I just went with it,” she said. “You never know what is going to happen. That is probably the best thing.”

Sam will always remember her first fire call.

“I was 16, and it was the summer after I had joined, so I had just gotten into it,” she said. “All scenes are kind of hectic — you are doing multiple things at multiple times, jumping from one thing to another. But this one was more so because I couldn’t really do much yet.”

It was her first structure fire, and she just sort of helped with safety; making sure the firefighters going into the building were safe. Though the house was lost, they were able to get out some key items, such as framed pictures and photo albums.

Two years and some 300 hours of training and classes later, Sam’s now certified to go into buildings, though she has not had to yet. The only exception being the burning building she ran into at the training center.

“Everybody is running out, and instead you are running in,” she said with a laugh. “But, to know that I can be there for somebody, to help save lives and property, that’s why I’d do it.”

They do several fundraisers a year at Hunterdale. The camaraderie amongst the firefighter and EMS volunteers and staff, both during fundraisers and on a normal day, is special.

It’s also nice to meet people in the community.

“You meet a lot of people that you never really knew were in the community,” Sam said. “It is nice to meet new faces and see what they have to go through because some people have different stories than others.”

Her parents, Jimmy and Lori White, have been completely supportive.

“At first, they were kind of surprised because nobody in my family has ever done anything medical or firefighting,” she said. “But whatever I have needed, they have helped me.”

Sam started this as soon as she was old enough, and through it she’s found a career path.

“It was probably the beginning of my junior year when it hit me,” she said. “I wanted to do something medical, and I realized this is where I want to be. I don’t want to be stuck in a hospital setting, I want to be in the back of an ambulance.

“It just hit me, I was like, ‘This is for me. This is where I fit in.’”

It all comes back to helping people.

“Something about it that you just get that feeling after you do it — you don’t need a thank-you for it,” Sam said. “You know deep down they are thinking, ‘I am so glad they are here.’

“When a call comes in, I just like doing it. I like helping people.”