Friday, October 30, 2009

Lost History--Freedom House on EMS Cutting Edge

I was doing some window shopping--looking around TJ Maxx yesterday. They had a display of 2010 calenders and appointment books; you know, the ones with themes and pictures. One was 365 days of African-American History. It attracted my attention with its Library of Congress pictures--on the cover was a group photo of the Pullman Porter's Union. I opened it up and it fell to a page with a picture of an open ambulance rear door and two Black men wheeling a cart with a patient. I stopped and read about Freedom House in Pittsburgh, PA. And it is a truly amazing story; starting in 1967 this organization trained men who had little formal education how to be paramedics. This was just two years after the landmark report "Accidental Death and Disability: The Neglected Disease of Modern Society" had been issued. They were doing just about everything out in the field that our paramedics do today. Among the pioneers of this organization were Dr. Peter Safar, who basically invented CPR, and Dr. Nancy Caroline, who wrote one of the best paramedic text books ever. There is now a documentary film available about Freedom House, and a website. Here is an article from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that was also carried on the EMS museum website. Here is a clip of the trailer for the film.

Every paramedic in this city stands on the shoulders of these pioneers, men who were throwaways, from the worst neighborhood in Pittsburgh. They have been forgotten. We would do well to take time to remember them.

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