June 25, 2017
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Paramedic keeps answering the call

  • Paramedic Susan Ilene Farren is demonstrating how to do CPR the proper way on Dr. Ken while Rohnert Park Mayor Jake Mackenzie looks on. Photo by Irene Hilsendager

By: Irene Hilsendager
March 31, 2017
Death of her mother steers Susan Ilene Farren towards a career in rescuing people

The concept of paramedic has been around since the early days of Roman conquest, in which the older and less physically capable warriors were used to remove wounded soldiers.

However, the term paramedic didn’t unfold until the Vietnam War, in which doctors did not want to go out and provide intensive medical care to patients who were badly wounded in the battlefield. The upshot was medics were instructed in advanced medical skills and sent out into the field to do work that was ordinarily reserved for doctors.


Introduction of ambulance services

Paramedics came into play when the civilian ambulance services were introduced, and the role of paramedics have been taking greater responsibilities as their training and skills continue to get better.

A paramedic is a medical professional who provides medical care to patients en route to a hospital or other medical facilities. 

Susan Ilene Farren has been a paramedic for 32 years. In 1984 she attended the Stanford paramedic program, which was an extremely competitive program, but Farren passed it with flying colors. In the spring of 1985 she went to work in West Oakland and, according to Farren, her first day on the job was a baptism by gunfire.

When asked why she would choose the demanding and emotional profession of being a paramedic, Farren says, “the truth is we are made for careers, careers are not made for us.”

Farren says she has been a rescuer all of her life. Her mother died when Farren was 17. And that is something that probably steered her towards this profession. She was in the ambulance when her mother was transported to the hospital. And something clicked in her mind that this career could be for her. She tried criminal law but it didn’t feel right, so she decided that becoming a paramedic would be best as it kicked in again to being a rescuer.

One day Farren was sitting on the first base line watching her son play baseball. She remembers it so well; it was the Cal Ripken Blue Jays. A youngster went up to bat and a strange sound was heard. It was a baseball aimed directly at Matthew Henry’s chest and as the young man took three steps and trying to do a high-five with the first base coach, Henry collapsed. 


Quick to react

Farren knew there was no reason for Matthew to collapse but a quick and immediate impulse went through her body to run, as someone needed help. While running something said to her in her head, “commatio-cordis.” She only had heard that phrase one time in paramedic school. Why she remembered this, she could not understand.

Farren and her husband ran to the child, turned the body over and realized Matthew was trying to breathe. Farren felt for a pulse but found none. She knew something was terribly wrong. Between the two adults, they started CPR until the professionals would arrive. The word “commatio-cordis” again was echoing in her head. This boy would die, if she didn’t do her job. Saving Matthew was a life-altering blessing for everyone. Emotions were running in every direction. Farren says every time she has a run for a medical call from police, fire or another emergency, every event affects her mentally and every such call leaves a trail with a sense of innocence. 


Emotional mark on exhausted body

Farren says she goes on many calls and does all of the right things but when the patient never survives, it leaves another emotional mark on her tired and exhausted body. 

She says she has met the family and Matthew talks about his accident as if it were a story, but that moment life took a right turn. Farren says since this incident life has been altered and has been a spiritual experience for her. Her one take is for any bystanders to learn CPR so they may save a life until the proper professionals arrive. 

Farren pleads with bystanders to get involved. Make that phone call and try to save a life. Don’t stand there and think help will arrive shortly, that person may not be so lucky as to stay alive until professionals arrive.