Emma Straight’s interest in medicine was strong. Certified as an EMT when she was just 16, she spent 20 hours a week with the Westport Volunteer Emergency Medical Service. Her usual shift was 6 to 11 p.m.
In addition, at Staples High School Emma founded and led the Prosthetic Hand Club.
After graduating last spring, she headed west to Santa Clara University. She intended to major in biology. But an Introduction to Public Health class in the first quarter — covering the spread of disease, our healthcare system and the socioeconomic impact of illness — sparked her interest.
She switched majors, to public health.
Emma had no idea of the public health crisis just around the corner. But when her college shut down in mid-March and she returned home, she knew exactly what to do.
On March 16, Emma headed to WVEMS. She’s been working 3 shifts a week ever since.
“I always felt comfortable there,” she says of the Jesup Road headquarters next to the police station. “It was a calming place for me.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it still is.
Despite the public health crisis, it’s also a very safe place, Emma emphasizes.
“I’m really, really proud of our leaders, like Marc Hartog and Kevin Doherty,” she says. “They prioritize our safety, and give us a lot of up-to-date information. We have to be safe. If we get sick, we can’t help anyone.”
The safety protocol begins with detailed questions asked by dispatchers, for every call. Many are now COVID-related. EMTs must be certain of every situation, before they arrive.
Once on scene, EMTs keep their distance while asking their screening questions. If a patient shows symptoms of the virus, they don protective gear.
But, Emma says, “Our patient care is the same as always. It hasn’t changed at all.
“We’re super cautious,” she reiterates. “We don’t know who has been exposed to what. Everyone is on edge. But there are so many precautions, we feel good.”
The public has been great about donating masks too, Emma notes.
When she was in high school, Emma felt good about giving back through WVEMS. Now rather than just sitting home, she feels “really, really good. I feel like I’m really able to do something, at a very tough time.”