Mike Hays was a pre-med student when he began volunteering at a local hospital to gain experience. Through that gig back in 1983, he made friends with some volunteer paramedics who inspired him to ride, he says—and that changed his entire life path.
After completing his Bachelor’s degree he took a year off with the intent to return to medical school, but he never went back. Instead, he developed a career in the emergency medical services, going from an EMT to a paramedic, and becoming an EMS lieutenant in Baltimore County.
With 33 years of service now behind him, Hays plans to retire from his paid role but to keep giving back through volunteering. He is also proud to have inspired his sons and daughter-in-law to serve as well.
What keeps Hays going is not the occasional excitement and adrenaline, he says, but the every-day interactions with patients. That’s because the majority of calls are for chronically ill people who need a ride to the hospital, he explains, and it’s your job to make them feel better. They may be lonely, and more than anything else, simply need someone to be there for them.
“You get a picture of all these calls—rescuing people, saving lives,” he says. “But the reality is that every experience you get enjoyment from talking to patients. Holding their hand.”
When it does come to adrenaline, a few experiences stand out in his memory.
One was a call in the middle of winter for a little girl injured sledding down a hill. She struck rebar, which got impaled in her abdomen. “We had to stabilize her and cut the rebar without moving her too much,” Hays says. Thanks to his team, she did very well. “We were able to transport her and the little girl was ok,” he says. “We worked together and she ended up coming to our company banquet that year.”
Another highlight was responding to one of his own family’s friends as she went into labor one morning. “She’s an ER nurse and she knew she wasn’t going to make it to the hospital,” he says. “The baby was coming too fast.” Hays rushed to her house and assisted her mother, an ICU nurse, with the delivery before the ambulance arrived. “Everything worked out fine and I’m his godfather,” Hays says. “I had gone 17 years in EMS without delivering a baby, and this was my second in two weeks.”
His other stand-out calls include cardiac arrests. The majority of people in cardiac arrest die, he says, but every once in a while you’re at the right place at the right time, and you can bring them back. “By the time you get to the hospital they’re talking to you and ok. That’s a great feeling.”
Aside from the rewarding experience, it’s the connections that keep Hays engaged. “The friendship, the camaraderie, giving back to your community… I just love doing it,” he says. This includes time doing service and events such as fundraising, dinners, training, meetings, and even workouts at the fire station gym.
To begin, anyone who’s considering joining HCVFA has to be able to make decisions without wavering, Hays says. “Figure out what you have to do and do it… You can’t doubt yourself.”
Then, take advantage of the free training opportunities, and don’t give up.
“If you stick with it you’ll find it very rewarding,” he says. “It’s a great feeling to help people and you’ll make a lot of friends along the way.”