As a South Branch Emergency Services EMT, volunteer Chuck Collins uses cutting-edge equipment to help save lives. But Chuck says he was born with the two tools most important to providing high quality emergency medicine: his ears.
“You have to listen very carefully to the person you are helping to determine what is happening to them and how best to help,” said Chuck, 58. “Listening with compassion shows patients that you respect them, and that builds trust.”
Compassionate listening played a key role when Chuck was among those responding to help an older man with stroke-like symptoms.
“I asked questions and listened as he described what he was feeling and what he had been experiencing,” Chuck said. “I told him that I didn’t think he was having a stroke then, but that his body was trying to give him a warning sign. I encouraged him to let us take him to the hospital, and thankfully, he agreed.”
A few weeks later, Chuck was at a sandwich shop when the man he had helped walked in. He told Chuck that doctors had found blockages in both of his carotid arteries, which meant he had been in danger of a stroke. Instead, the man had surgery, recovered, and was out for lunch himself.
“He thanked me for saving his life,” Chuck said.
Chuck has been an EMT for 37 years and, in 2015, joined one of the squads that merged to form South Branch.
Helping older adults is one of the things Chuck loves best about being a South Branch EMT. Sharing what he’s learned about helping them with new EMTs and cadets is another.
“The biggest thing I try to impress on the next generation is to listen to them. Know that your encounter with that person may be the first human contact they have had in days or weeks. Know that a lot of times they are going through changes where their bodies aren’t working like they used to, and a lot of times, they are scared,” he said. “ You have to be that comforting voice. You have to show them that you have confidence in your abilities and that you understand their concerns.”
Chuck lives in Metuchen with his wife, Gina, and has an adult son. He is a Maintenance Financial Manager for the New Jersey Turnpike Authority.
He encourages anyone who has thought about becoming a South Branch EMT to give themselves the opportunity. “You never know what your inner self is capable of doing until you try it,” he said.
South Branch Emergency Services is looking for volunteers like you! No experience is necessary, and training and gear are provided for members. Visit sbes365.org to sign up or learn more.