Nothing is typical about the life of a paramedic.
In addition to an unusual schedule, not everyone could handle the thought someone else’s life is literally in his or her hands.
Taylor McClain wouldn’t choose a “typical life.” As a paramedic and director of community outreach for Lincoln County Ambulance District, Troy Base 1, she has a chance to save lives – as well as influence them.
“We go into people’s homes when they’re sick or injured, and they trust us,” McClain said. “I wouldn’t trust just anyone in my home, so I think they’re relieved to see us there.”
“One of the great things I get to do (as community outreach director) is to teach the community CPR and help them on how to take care of people until we arrive.”
Weather in Lincoln County, like the rest of Missouri, can be unpredictable. Flooded, icy or snowy roads can be a regular occurrence in the area at times. Where a hospital can be five minutes away in an urban or suburban area, it could be much longer to the nearest medical facility in a rural one.
“If you’re coming from Truxton or Elsberry, it’s still going to take time to get to the local hospital (in Troy),” McClain said.
This means paramedics have to spend more time with sick and injured patients. During those trips, paramedics can see patients change from better to worse over time in the ambulance, so building relationships with the patients is more important in rural areas.
“It’s not just about giving care medically, it’s about being there emotionally,” she said. “The ability to show people that you’re there for them is important.”
“We look for people like Taylor who aren’t scared to be with a patient for an extended period of time,” said Ray Antonacci, LCAD chief.
Growing up in Wentzville, McClain was part of the department’s Explorers Program while in high school, getting first-hand experience twice a month from trained paramedics. From there, she attended Lewis and Clark Technical School in St. Charles for EMT training, then paramedic training at the Responder Right EMS Academy in St. Peters.
Through a family friend, McClain learned she had a chance to work for the ambulance district that inspired her to become a paramedic – and she didn’t waste the opportunity.
“I loved it here. I loved the environment here, and I wanted to work here,” said McClain, who has been with the LCAD for nearly two years.
McClain also said living in Lincoln County is much different – and better – than her home of Wentzville because of the slower pace of life.
“There’s way fewer people,” she said. “It’s closer to work, and we have fantastic people.”
As community outreach director, her life has come full circle. McClain’s career was born in the Explorers Program, and now she is paying it forward by helping to train future paramedics in the program.
“It’s kind of satisfying seeing (students) excel in the program,” McClain said. “It’s also kind of bittersweet seeing them go from being 14 to being 18 or 19 and working alongside you – and knowing you had a part in helping them get there.”
Antonacci said working with the Explorers program is passing down knowledge from generation to generation.
“We feel we can exponentially touch people’s lives,” he said. “When Taylor saves someone’s life, it’s because I had a hand in that in the Explorers.”
When another person ends up saving a life, it’ll be because Taylor had a hand in teaching them.
“It goes on and on.”
Unfortunately, not everyone can be saved, which is a painful reality among all first responders. That’s why it is paramount for them to take a step back if necessary, and the LCAD has those resources when those dark moments happen.
“I have a great shift, and I have a great partner to talk to day in and day out when I need them,” McClain said. “I know I can also lean on my battalion chief and my commander.”
“Our highs are higher when you save somebody you know would die if you weren’t there,” Antonacci said. “The lows are just as low when you can’t save someone.”
“It’s all about how you handle those moments, and we make sure our paramedics are taken care of emotionally and mentally when those times happen.”
McClain honestly doesn’t know what the future holds for her, but no matter what she does, she said she would always keep her paramedic’s license.
“I do want to go back to school and finish my associates degree,” she said. “I do know I don’t want to be chief, however.”