How to Prepare Your Children for an Ambulance Call

“Sherry!” My voice rose in a panic. “The car isn’t here! Mom and Dad took it!”

I was standing in the garage, trying with everything my 14-year-old self had not to panic. But I knew that my older sister desperately needed the car.

Sherry never even flinched or slowed down. She thundered by me and out the back door. “It’s fine!”

I followed. She was going the wrong way. But I wasn’t about to argue with her when she was so clearly on a mission and nothing, not even a missing car, was going to stop her.

She pounded on the front door of our neighbor’s house. When the door opened, she slipped the pager of her belt.

“You know I’m a volunteer EMT, right?” she asked. “There’s been an accident, and I need you to help me. You need to take me there.”

And sure enough, that lady grabbed her keys and jumped in the car. I can remember watching them race down the road. I found out later that they beat the ambulance to the site, and Sherry was busy treating people by the time the ambulance arrived.

I’ve followed Sherry’s EMT career through the years from a distance. I greatly admire someone who can race to tragedy to help, having no idea what could be wrong.

She’s been an EMT for 30 years, and she’s never lost that ability to rope people into her EMT work.

When Sherry called me up one day and said, “I need you to help me,” I knew that protesting was useless.

But this time, she didn’t need a ride.

Sherry needed a book.

In midst of all the work an EMT does, Sherry had started organizing the school tours for the ambulance. Dozen of school children traipsed through the ambulance station (or they took the ambulance and some fun props to the elementary schools). Looking to teach and entertain, she wanted a book to read to them.

So we created Zoe and sent her on her first ambulance run to help poor Bella, who broke her leg.

(And boy, did this fiction author learn a lot about EMT work!)

While Bella’s Broken Leg (Zoe to the Rescue) is a great resource for stations–especially for EMS Safety Day for Children and school tours–there are three easy ways you can use the book at home, too.

But just because it’s a teaching tool doesn’t mean it is boring. Bella’s Broken Leg is meant to entertain as well!

1. Use the lessons that Zoe must learn as teachable moments for your children.

Before Zoe can go on the ambulance, she must learn three important rules. After talking to many EMTs about what children should first do in an emergency, we crafted these rules in a way that is easy to learn.

The rules are simple steps that we tend to forget to teach our children. They give a way for children to get help but also stay out of danger.

Reading through Bella’s Broken Leg a few times will probably be enough for your children to memorize the rules.

2.  As Zoe reaches the scene where Bella has fallen, begin asking the question, “What would you do?”

Make the book interactive. As Zoe finds Bella, begin to ask your children what they would do in that situation.

I am always amazed at the opinions and ideas children have when asked these types of questions.

Zoe’s backpack has three items in it. One item is useful for the situation. Ask them what one they think would be best to use and why. Guide their answer gently.

My 3-year-old is determined that a stethoscope is always needed in every circumstance. I remind her that it’s always good to check the heart, and that the EMTs will do that, but there may be other things that have to be done first.

3. As the EMTs take Bella to the hospital, talk about the equipment they use and its purpose.

Ambulances can be scary places for children, whether they’re the patient or someone they love is the patient. Just the equipment can be scary. Take a few moments to discuss why the EMTs put Bella on a backboard or use a neck collar.

And don’t forget to pick up your copy of Bella’s Broken Leg here!

We truly hope you and your children will never see the inside of an ambulance (except for school tours, of course).

But now I have to go. Sherry’s trying to rope me into writing the second book about Zoe, and this time she wants to talk about bleeding. I hope my stomach is ready for this!

Let me know in the comments if you have a great way to prepare your children for emergencies…

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