‘My Dream Came Full Circle’

By Kelly O’Neil, Attica Volunteer Fire Department and Darien EMS

When my son was 2, he fell (or jumped) into the family pool. Despite multiple gates – which he got through – and a floatation vest – which he got out of – and three adults within 20 feet, he somehow got in and was overcome by water.

I had him on the deck and I turned away from him to hook up the pool vacuum. When I turned back around, I found him floating unconscious in the pool. I panicked and although I managed to resuscitate him, it was a terrifying few moments not knowing how to save my baby.

We called 911 and he was taken to the hospital, miraculously suffering no long-term damage. From that moment on, I wanted to become a fire department medic so that I could help other people in their panic-filled moments – to keep them from that helpless feeling!

As a single mom, it took many years before I could do it. But when my son was 13, I became a basic EMT and exterior firefighter. I became an AEMT when he was 15. He sat through all the classes with me since there was no one to leave him with and my instructor was understanding.

My dad was a firefighter for my department when I was little. I was so proud the day I surprised him with a picture of myself in my turnout gear! It was so exciting to share that with him.

Oddly enough, during my exam for my EMT, my department had a called. It was a 13-year-old with a severe asthma attack and guess whose son it was?

I was allowed to go to him and see him as the paramedics loaded him in the ambulance. Then, with his encouragement, I returned to finish my exam. I don’t remember most of it because I was so anxious to finish and get to the hospital!

My dream came full circle that day. He was the reason I chose to be an EMT and he showed me again why we are so needed – especially in a small, rural town!

My son just turned 17 and he can’t wait to join a department too. I am happy to pass the tradition along to him.