We Are AFSCME: A New York Paramedic Shares Harrowing Hurricane Sandy Story

November 03, 2012

Madelyn Brown
FDNY paramedic and Local 2507 (DC 37) member Madelyn Brown with her daughter.

Madelyn Brown is an FDNY paramedic with Local 2507 (District Council 37). Like her other AFSCME sisters and brothers working to help people during the disaster, she did extraordinary work on the job this past week.

The storm hit on Monday. I’d worked the night before in Brooklyn and the whole talk of the day was Hurricane Sandy. Initially, everyone didn’t think much of it though.

The actual day of the hurricane, I pulled a double (shift.) I came home for like an hour to get a little rest, then said ‘Let me just get to work a little earlier today because I know it’s going to be chaotic.’ That’s when my daughter was telling me, “Mommy, why can’t you be home with your family? Everyone else is home with their family.” I said “You know I have to go out and help people. There are people who are dying and they can’t make it to the hospital. I give them medicine, take them to the hospital.” My daughter, she calls me a doctor in the streets. My husband stayed home with all three of the kids and I headed out.

We got the regular people calling, all trying to get into the hospital before the storm hit. People started worrying. Then we started getting the emergency calls. A woman whose sister was going into cardiac arrest called. The elevators were out so we had to run up six flights of steps. That’s a lot to do when you’re carrying all that equipment. Unfortunately we couldn’t do much for her. This was between 7 and 9 p.m. Monday night.

The thing we were most worried about was the debris flying around. The trees were falling down. We didn’t want one falling on us so I had to reverse the ambulance a couple times, also because the wires were coming down on us. They’d advised us to wear a helmet.

We got another call from a woman who thought her mother was having a heart attack. She was so ecstatic when we got there. We evaluated her, took her to the hospital. It took us 10 minutes to go three blocks because of the trees and the power lines that were coming down. I kept in close contact with my husband and the kids. In moments like that, you just want to make it home at the end of the day. And if you can’t, you always hope that you helped someone else.

I grew up in Queens. I’ve been working EMS for 15 years. When I came out of high school I said I wanted to go to college. It’s funny, I was looking through this book of things I could study and I said, “Paramedic. That looks interesting.” I still wake up every day excited to go to work. When people are in trouble, I’m the one who comes. You get a rush when someone’s calling you and you can make a difference. That’s why we’re all in it.

(Some politicians) want to finish us off. We’re all union members though who are out here. We don’t even get paid that much. They want to take our pensions. Us – the ones who always go out to work in times like this and make the difference. Somebody has to go to help.

My prayers go out to all those affected and to my fellow first responder brothers and sisters. You're always appreciated.

– As told to Cynthia McCabe

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