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American Sirens author Kevin Hazzard tells the story Freedom House, a neighborhood nonprofit that, with the help of a pioneering physician, trained some of the nation’s first paramedics.
DAVE DAVIES, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I’m Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.
In most of the United States today, if you have a medical emergency, you can dial 911 and count on an ambulance arriving with a crew who have the equipment and training to perform CPR and provide other critical care before getting you to a hospital.
But as recently as the 1960s, that just wasn’t the case.
Back then, your call for help would at best get you a ride to the hospital, perhaps in a police van or a hearse from a funeral home, but no medical treatment until you reached the emergency room.
Our guest today, Kevin Hazzard, is a writer whose new book is the remarkable story of a community organization called Freedom House Enterprises in a Black neighborhood in Pittsburgh that became an incubator for modern emergency medicine.
With the help of an innovative physician, the organization trained a cadre of men as paramedics – a term then just coming into existence – and sent them in newly equipped ambulances on lifesaving missions that earned a national reputation and spawned similar programs in other cities.
Kevin Hazzard is a journalist, a TV writer and author of a previous book called “A Thousand Naked Strangers” that was about his 10 years working as a paramedic.
His new book is “American Sirens: The Incredible Story Of The Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics.”
I had this dream when I went to sleep on a couch in the living room last night because I was so tired, I woke up during the night and I got up quickly to get in bed which caused my memory of my dreams to fade quickly, but I was able to save part of one dream by voice recording it before all of my dreams faded away because fortunately my MP3 player is in the living room.
All that I was able to save of this dream was that I remember being inside a multi-story hospital / office / house-like building.
I went to bed too late last night, I slept very well, I did not voice record any of my dreams, and so I woke up with my stomach cramping and bubbling remembering none of my dreams until I laid there to focus; and I managed to barely remember part of two dreams from last night.
All that I can remember of this dream is that it took place during the day, I remember being near the student pick-up/drop-off of the C Elementary School, and I remember something about a sweepstake(s) (maybe I and/or someone else won it or heard about it); and I remember talking with my former male classmate DH, but that is all that I can remember of this dream.
All that I can remember of this dream is that during at least two parts of the dream I went to a fictional buffet for a baby shower and/or birthday party of a family member (in real life my family is invited to both of those this weekend for several different family members), the second time/day that I went to the buffet was for myself I think and someone else was with me (maybe my brother GC), and during both times/days we saw a somewhat older somewhat nosy/paranoid woman with whitish colored skin with dark-colored hair in the same area of the buffet; and on the second day/time I even pointed this out to my brother GC, and I thought it was strange that the same woman was in the same area of the buffet again.
More things happened in the dream before and during these different parts/days but I can not remember the details, and two other parts of the dream took place at E Manor on two different days and maybe my brother GC was with me again; and both times the same woman from the buffet was there, and each time she walked down from the second floor of E Manor like she lived there (in real life no one has lived in E Manor since my grandfather died last year).
During the buffet parts of the dream the woman and I probably only said hello and a few other things about the buffet, but during the E Manor parts of the dream we said a bit more as I was surprised to see her at E Manor both times because I did not know anyone was living there and I probably did not know this woman and maybe I recognized her as the same woman from the buffet; and she seemed like a somewhat nice older woman who was maybe a bit nosy/paranoid and/or something like that (she possibly somewhat reminded me of Miss Marple from the television show Agatha Christie’s Marple), we had a conversation, but that is all that I can remember of these two parts of the dream.
The last two parts of the dream are unclear and confusing, I think that in the first part I remember seeing a scene of a male EMT (emergency medical technician) on his job and I think that he died (not on the job but probably of natural causes at home, but this was not shown or explained) or he left his job, and so they needed to hire someone else for his job.
In the second part I was possibly at E Manor and my mom walked into the living room in a rush wearing a blueish colored EMT uniform to my surprise/confusion, oddly my mom did not look or sound like herself and she looked and sounded like a certain actress whose name I can not remember who has light-brownish colored skin with brownish or dark-colored hair, but oddly I did not notice that my mom looked and sounded nothing like my real mom.
Somehow she got the EMT job that used to belong to the man in the first part, which was shocking/surprising/confusing because my mom has not had a job (the paying kind, like me she does work, but not the kind that get recognized and that you get paid for in our society) since she was pregnant with me and she has no medical training/experience as far as I can remember and she is shy like me, and she was nervous and in a rush to get to work so she had no time to talk.
I remember seeing a scene of my mom/the fake version of my mom in the ambulance with the other EMTs who were welcoming her, she was still very nervous, but I woke up.