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Haverford College

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For most high school seniors, attending school, completing homework, filling out applications for college, and hanging out with friends takes up all of their time. But while in high school, Haverford freshman Pritika Gupta added one more activity to her list: working as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for Swarthmore’s Fire Department.

Gupta is originally from Karnal, India. She moved to the United States before her freshman year of high school. By the time she had entered her junior year, Gupta’s family settled in local Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

During her junior year of high school, Gupta decided to join Swarthmore’s Fire Department as a volunteer to “figure out what I would like to do with my life.” Gupta’s parents, who are both doctors, began encouraging her to think about pursuing a career in medicine. “I told my parents that I didn’t want to commit to that profession until I tried something in the field. I didn’t know if I could handle the blood and the atmosphere,” recalls Gupta.

Gupta entered an EMT training course that included 134 hours of class and culminated in a practical exam. After receiving her certification the summer before her senior year of high school, Gupta officially joined the Swarthmore Fire Department as an EMT. For the next year, in addition to working 10 hours a week at another job, Gupta volunteered six or seven hours a week at the firehouse, and worked a 12-hour shift two weekends per month.

“It’s a fun life at the firehouse,” says Gupta. “The guys there taught me how to play pool and we would sit around, watch TV, talk, and listen to music.” But when the firehouse got a call, Gupta was prepared to switch to a more serious mode and assist the paramedics with helping victims and saving lives. “With and EMT certification, you can basically do anything but intravenous things. We can bandage wounds, give non-intravenous medications, and hand the paramedics tools they need to work on patients,” Gupta explains.

Gupta understands EMTs have a great responsibility, and she recalls some stressful experiences. Gupta remembers one evening when the firehouse received a first-response call to a car accident on one of the local streets. Two cars had collided; one woman passenger had flown through a windshield. The paramedics and EMTs had to “board her,” which entails placing the patient on a board and strapping her in to prevent movement and spinal cord damage. Gupta had the responsibility of holding the woman’s head steady while the others boarded her body. “It’s a really big responsibility, because if you let her head move, there could be permanent damage. I was very nervous. That whole experience was stressful. I was running around taking people's blood pressures and worrying about boarding this woman,” Gupta remembers.

Since beginning her tenure at Haverford College, Gupta has stopped volunteering at Swarthmore’s Fire Department. She has contemplated joining Ardmore’s firehouse, but Gupta is a busy student who already has three jobs at Haverford: she serves customers at the CPGC Café, mans the information table in the Campus Center, and watches over exercising students as a Fitness Center Monitor in the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center.

Gupta hasn’t decided on an occupation yet, but she does believe her EMT experiences have helped calm some of her fears about pursuing a medical profession. For now, Gupta is a pre-med student, and is considering a major in romance languages. “I know it would be difficult to be pre-med and study both Spanish and French for the romance languages major, but I really love languages.” It seems safe to say that if any student can handle the pressure, it’s a student who added the responsibility of saving lives to her daily planner in high school.

— Lauren Donaldson '06

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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