In the back of his A-TEC ambulance, Allen Fink admitted that being an emergency medical technician is a young man’s game.
Fink began his career as an EMT in 1978 at the Hebron Rescue Squad. After 35 years in the business, the 66-year-old Hebron resident has watched as medical advancements and new technology have vastly improved the likelihood of survival for someone in an accident.
Fink retired from A-TEC Ambulance last week, and he sat down with Northwest Herald Reporter Jim Dallke to talk about the his career, the lives he has saved and the time his own life needed saving after suffering a heart attack on the job.
Dallke: How did you get into this line of work?
Fink: I started out a million years ago as a volunteer on the Hebron Rescue squad. That’s where I got my start.
I was a farmer at the time and there was gentleman that was on the Hebron Rescue Squad at the time. Through talking with him, it lit the fire. And I wanted to give something back to the community. So I got my EMT at Hebron Rescue Squad. After that, I got involved with EMTI (Emergency Medical Technician-Intermediate) and I was in the first class in the state of Illinois for EMTI. And that really lit the fire.
Eventually I left the farm and then we moved to Harvard and I got on the Harvard Rescue Squad. And they were paramedics. And of course that just lit the fire even more. I was 30 years old at the time when I got my EMT, so I kind of got started late in life.
Dallke: What kind of emotions are coming to you now that your 35 years are coming to an end?
Fink: I’ll fully admit it; I’m ready. I mean, yeah, I’m going to miss it. But I’m glad to be done. I’ve reached a point in my life where it’s time to pass the torch. It’s a young man’s profession. It’s time to just enjoy life.
Dallke: In this line of work I’m sure there have been some very rewarding days and some very difficult days. How have you dealt with some of the more difficult days?
Fink: We’ve lost people. But where I get great joy is helping the elderly. It makes my day when I can make their day. Of course, with my age and everything, I can relate to them more. And after my heart attack I can relate to the cardiac patients even more. Before my heart attack I took care of people and thought it’s never going to happen to me, you know? And then when I had my heart attack, it put a whole different twist on everything. I know what they’re going through because I was scared to death. Just terrified. I knew what was going on. I knew I was having a heart attack.
Dallke: What has been the most rewarding thing about this profession?
Fink: When I’ve helped people ease their pain or just ease their anxiety, that’s my reward. Just making them feel better. Trying to keep them calm. Getting them from A to B as safely and as quick as possible.
Dallke: What will you miss the most about being an EMT?
Fink: No more responsibility. No more worrying about the patient. I kind of let that get to me sometimes. I feel, this is just me, I feel responsible for that individual. It’s not like I’m running the punch press or driving a truck. I’m responsible for that person’s life. And for me personally, that’s where a lot of my personal anxiety and pressure comes from. Somebody’s trusting me to keep them alive when we’re in those situations.
Dallke: How have you seen the profession change over the years as far as advancements in technology or improvements in the way you do things?
Fink: The people of McHenry County are just so fortunate that the EMS (emergency management services) has progressed to the point that it has now.
Paramedics now can come to the house. They have the technology with the 12 leads (electrocardiogram) and the drugs to literally save lives right in the back of the ambulance or on the floor of that house.
Years ago, we would just scoop and run, pretty much. And the training now that the medics have to have, it’s just phenomenal. And the resources the villages now have to offer the public, the public just doesn’t have a clue how fortunate they are.
You get out away from Chicagoland here, it’s a whole different world. It’s still pretty much kind of throw and go. They’re doing the best they can for what they’ve got, but people are lucky here in Chicagoland.
Dallke: What will you do now with all your free time?
Fink: I’m a person that can’t sit still. Yes, I’m going to be off the ambulance. I kind of want to kick back for a little bit, but I’ve got to be doing something. Even after my heart attack, I had double bypass, and I was only in the hospital for four days. I just can’t sit still. I was riding my motorcycle a month after my heart attack. Don’t tell the doctor, because he would be furious.
Who is he? Allen Fink, an EMT and paramedic in McHenry County for 35 years who retired last week.
Family? Wife Ann, two daughters, six grandchildren, one great-grandson.
Favorite food? Pasta
Personal hero? “My medical superiors. They’ve trained me. I answer to them. I respect them greatly.”