Michael was born in Longview, Texas and while he has spent time living in the panhandle area of the state and, briefly, in Minnesota, he’s lived in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex most of his life. He graduated from Marcus High School in Flower Mound in 2001, then from the University of North Texas (BBA, Financial Services) in 2006. His first job out of school was two years as a financial analyst at Bell Helicopter in Hurst.
From Finance to Firefighting
“The job at Bell,” says Michael, “I decided wasn’t really what I wanted to do, even while I was still working there, so I started taking a night EMT class. And I had friends who were firefighters, who turned me on to that as a career.” When Michael finished the EMT class, he quit the Bell job and shortly thereafter was hired on to the fire department in Carrollton, where he now lives with his wife of nearly five years.
Class at UTSW
Michael volunteered to enter the emergency medicine program at UT Southwestern because he was “ready to take on a bigger role and to further my career with the Carrollton FD.” He admits that the program can be “pretty intense, with seven months of full-time (Monday through Friday) class work, along with clinical and hospital rotations."
Even with all that, he says he has been “having a lot of fun—the program has been great.” Specifically, he says, “the faculty have been terrific. They each bring vast experience and different viewpoints to the table. It’s nice they all have such broad experience and backgrounds in the EMS field, and it’s obvious when they teach.”
Staying on Course
Michael volunteered for the UT Southwestern program, which includes students from nine other North Texas fire departments. The program begins with four months of mostly classroom work and includes a month of hospital rotations (at both Parkland and at Children’s). "The hospitals we go to are all top-notch,” says Michael, "and another month of field ride-outs with the Dallas, Irving, Garland, and Mesquite fire departments.
Every week, those in the program also have “skills” days and lab days, where fully-functional mannequins can be used to recreate any trauma scenario. Michael says, “You can recreate full CPRs if you need to, and run the call from start to finish, just as you would in the field.”
When all that’s accomplished, there is testing completed in order to pass the National Registry Exam, then application to the Texas Department of Health Certification to become officially certified.
Paramedics in the Lead
“As a paramedic,” says Michael, “I’ll mainly be riding on the ambulance, where before I was on the engine in the fire department. What I look forward to most is that now, on calls, I’ll actually take a lead role, a hands-on approach to the things that need to be done. I’m excited to be getting into the decision-making process on different calls.”
The toughest types of calls to make, according to Michael, involve situations “where you might be wrong. The person may be having trouble breathing, trouble staying alive, and it’s not cut-and-dried why, and you have to try to figure that out and prevent that from happening.”
Among the high points of the firefighting career for Michael is the team camaraderie. “We talk comfortably among ourselves and are good friends;” he says. “You have to like the people you work with, because there’s no ‘alone time’ for the 24-hour shifts. You work out, read, cook, clean, shop together.”
Down the Road
As the newest member of the Carrollton Fire Department, Michael has had occasion to fill in for firefighters at a number of different stations. Looking ahead, he can retire in Carrollton after 20 years of service, and “then do something else.” In the immediate future, Michael, as a paramedic, can be promoted to driver, then off ambulance entirely. Later, a promotion to captain would place Michael in a supervisory/administrative/managerial role.
The Last Word
“The best part of the job is the personal satisfaction of helping people. The day-to-day fulfillment you get for what you do is invaluable.”