THIS SHOW IS SO IMPORTANT.
I know that stupid phrasing gets thrown around often; usually to the chagrin of the word important. But this show truly was important.
It was Janurary of 1972, and a little show named Emergency! made it’s debut on NBC. Created by the masterminds of Jack Webb (Adam-12, Dragnet, Mark VII Limited), and Robert Cinader, the show followed the lives of firemen/paramedics John Gage and Roy DeSoto on their adventures through LA County in Squad 51. The show ran until May 28th of 1977, with six television movies to it’s credit.
To the layman, this seems unimportant. But let me give you an idea of how much this show did for the US. Let’s say, for a moment, that you lived in a small community somewhere in the Midwest in the 1970’s. One day, you’re at home with mum when she suddenly has a heart attack. Right there, in front of you. First and foremost, the general populace at large doesn’t know the signs of a heart attack. In this timeframe, medicine was only something you really considered when you saw your doctor for your physical. It was still somewhat taboo to really talk about injuries and the like. Regardless, you’ve at least witnessed dear old mum pass out, and you call 9-1-1 instinctively. You reach an emergency dispatcher and tell them your mother’s fainted, and you need help immediately. You’ll get that help, right?
Wrong. The dispatcher gives you the number to a company that will send you an ambulance: a private, for-hire company. And when that ambulance arrives? They will likely do very little life-saving interventions for your loved one. In that timeframe, you really didn’t even need first-aid to get on an ambulance; just a really nice set of white clothes and a hearse or a dedicated unit to put lights on and go woo-woo. You did very little in the back to help that patient, other than watch them and reassure them that you’d be at the hospital…soon.
The ambulance that you take for granted now was nothing like the ambulances of 40 years ago. We have evolved as EMS providers; we are able to actually save lives. This show followed only 1 of 10 (that’s right TEN) paramedic/EMS services working in the United States. Let me repeat that: ONE OF TEN SERVICES THAT ACTUALLY HAD EMS IN THE UNITED STATES. This show, which ran a new episode roughly once a month for six years, actually showcased the good that these services were doing. It brought national recognition to the need for better equipped EMS services.
The show also was accredited for being the first show to demonstrate real CPR to the United States; something that was still in it’s infancy, and which we now stress is a necessary way to save someone’s life the sooner they get it when they need it. In the show, you’ll see times when people literally are confused as to why a fire unit shows up to their home, and even tell Johnny and Roy that they don’t need firemen, they need a doctor. Now, we simply call 9-1-1 and when the ambulance shows up, trust blindly that they’ll help.
THIS SHOW WAS SO IMPORTANT. It was the start of America’s recognition into Emergency Medical Services. It was a turning point in the country to demonstrate that early, life-saving interventions could help people in their time of need; the self-same services that are simply taken for granted now.
And the show didn’t just do fire and EMS, either! It showed what it’s truly like to work in a hospital. The show also followed nurse Dixie McCall, doctor Kelley Brackett, and doctor Joe Early after the paramedic duo would bring them a patient. Yes, like most shows of the era, it was very melodramatic…but it did showcase what most of your EMS and hospital providers (and to a lesser extent, firemen) go through on their tours of duty.
The next time you’re bored, I highly stress you to watch this show. Remember the reasons that persons like myself are on ambulances, accepting crappy pay and little recognition. See why we put ourselves in a little slice of hell and remember that we’re not all douchebags.