“We’re being asked to risk our lives for something. I feel like I’ve been drafted.”
– Alanna Badgley, 28, a paramedic serving Westchester County
This is the quote on the front cover of the April 9 edition of Time Magazine. It belongs to the woman who is pictured on the same cover, in a medical mask, looking both focused and exhausted – but that’s all we can read from her eyes, cast downwards.
“I think I was listening to a dispatch call when they took that shot,” said Alanna Badgley, a graduate of New Paltz High School and a longtime volunteer with the New Paltz Rescue Squad. “But I had no idea I was going to be on the cover. That really caught me off-guard. If you know me, I’m not someone who likes to be in the spotlight.”
This is coming from a woman who is at the frontline of the Covid 19 battle, picking up, treating and transporting patients from what was the original epicenter of the virus in New York State: New Rochelle. “They [Time Magazine] called me because I’m the president of our local union,” Chapter 20 of the International Association of EMTs and Paramedics, Badgley explained.
“The reporter wanted to do a ride-along with me to see what a day-in-the-life was like, but that wasn’t safe.” Instead, Badgley allowed the reporter to travel with her during her fly-car shift, where she drives in an SUV and serves as a backup support for the ambulance.
“Our company is Empress EMS. It’s very similar in structure to Mobile Life that we have up by New Paltz.” Her company services New Rochelle, Mount Vernon and Yonkers, all which have been hit hard by the novel coronavirus.
“It’s been nonstop,” she said, “but this week I feel like it’s slowed down somewhat. I’m scared to even say that.” Asked what has been the most challenging part of serving on the frontlines of this highly contagious and deadly virus, Badgley replied, “There are really two components to it: There’s the medical side of things, and that’s been challenging because we don’t understand this virus. That’s why they call it the ‘novel’ coronavirus: because it’s new to us. We’re learning things every day and figuring out how it symptomizes and what to look for and sharing stories with one another, so that we can get a clearer understanding of it.
“And then there’s the psychological component. I think the hardest part for me is that moment when families realize that they can’t go in the ambulance with their loved one; that they won’t be able to visit them in the hospital; that they might not see them for a long time.” Badgley said that those moments are fraught with fear, anxiety and crippling sadness. “All we can do is to try and provide them comfort and let them know that we’re going to do everything we can to take care of their loved one.”
According to Badgley, it was ironically refreshing to be with a journalist for the day, because “I was able to talk with someone who wasn’t an EMT or physician or patient. That hasn’t happened in what seems like a long time!”
The paramedic also feels that her time with New Paltz Rescue has helped prepare her in ways that she thinks about constantly right now. “I began working for New Paltz Rescue in 2011. Even when I went to undergraduate at Wesleyan, I would come home and work on the weekends and work with them over the summer. Their leadership and professionalism taught me so much. They laid the foundation for me. And I try and bring that community feel to my work here. Yes, we’re in a much more densely populated area, and I don’t have those longer drives to get to know the patients like I did in New Paltz; but I really try to connect and establish relationships, even if I have less time to do it in. It’s a critical component to what we do.”
Badgley worked as an EMT for New Paltz for several years, and then decided to enroll in St. John’s University to become a paramedic. She moved down to Yonkers. “I still work as a per-diem paramedic for New Paltz, but don’t have as many shifts as I’d like to, because that’s home to me,” she said. “There’s a real ‘We’re in this together’ camaraderie that they’ve achieved that helps sustain you through hard times.”
These are tough times, and Badgley said she felt that the story captured what they’ve been going through. “It took me a long time to realize that the picture I was looking at was actually on the front cover of the magazine! I couldn’t wrap my mind around it.” And then it was time to go back to work.
From the Class of 2009 to the front cover of Time: Masks off to you, Alanna Badgley.