From a firefighter to a flight paramedic, Greg Hamilton confides in HAA

Greg Hamilton has come down to Haiti for two weeks to volunteer with Haiti Air Ambulance as
part of the volunteering program. if the landscape does not appear so foreign to him, because
coming from Colorado, he is used to the mountainous landscape. however, he admits that every
single landing was a scene landing to him.

Haiti air ambulance: Can you introduce yourself with all the possible details?

Greg Hamilton: I’m a 30-year-old critical care paramedic living in Colorado now, but originally
from Maryland. I like to joke that I am genetically predisposed to medicine because my parents
met at a volunteer rescue squad and have pursued a career built on emergency service for over a
decade now. I’m also a huge advocate for a work/life balance and although I also spend my days
off chasing clouds. I try to do it while under the pretense of snowboarding, alpine hiking, and
skydiving. 

HAA: From a firefighter to an emergent medical personal, what was the motivation of this
change? What was your expectation by making this choice? Any regret so far?

G.H.: Many of the metropolitan areas in the United States have utilized firefighters as EMTs for
years now because of ability to provide a lot of resources and manpower to someone in need
quickly. The average fire department now responds to between 60% and 80% medical calls so
the transition to being medical was easy. My primary role was a firefighter and paramedic
assigned to an engine company and then any additional days I was either supporting our medic
program as a preceptor or riding an ambulance. The transition to aviation was a bigger jump. The
two greatest advantages are the opportunity for more complex patients, and as every flight
provider knows… the views. I however will forever miss my shifts. It was totally normal to have
ten or more people assigned to a fire station at any time, and the way a stranger blend from being
a coworker, to being a family member is something that’s a unique experience – and oddly
enough an experience that I think everyone who works at Haiti Air Ambulance also experiences. 

HAA: Can you tell us about the reason why you chose Haiti to volunteer?

G.H.: I have been wanting to get out of my space for a while now and as a paramedic, we have
very specific skill set that the sickest of the sick can benefit from but when it comes to
volunteering – it can be very challenging finding organizations that are looking for medics,
compared to nurses. Haiti Air Ambulance was just the program, and beyond a few social media
posts, I really came into this opportunity with a very limited number of expectations. 

HAA: What is the difference you have made between flying in the US and in Haiti? What
was new and similar for you?

G.H.: Flying in Haiti is something so very special. The topography of the country is wonderous.
Colorado obviously has mountains, so that’s nothing new to me. in fact, I looked up that the
Highest point in Haiti was just over 8,000 feet above sea level – so even though the highest
points in Colorado are 14,000 feet, the prominence of the surrounding area is usually around
9,000. And not only that but all day long I loved seeing mountains out one side of the aircrafts
and then seeing the beautiful blue water that the Caribbean is so famous for, outside of the
opposite side of the aircraft. The next biggest difference was scene safety. With the lack of the
established and commercial landing areas, it seemed like no matter where we went, every single
landing was a scene landing. 

HAA: Can you share the emotions you felt during your stay in Haiti?

G.H: My experience here is challenging to explain to people who’ve asked because there’s just
such a disassociation for what’s normal in America and to Haiti. I took at least a thousand
pictures to help bridge that gap. The most powerful emotion I experienced was the one of
gratitude. I’m so incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be a guest with HAA, I’m grateful to
my own program to be able to have the time off of work to be able to experience this, and I’m so
incredibly grateful that there are opportunities to be able to leave our little worlds as clinicians
and to be able to work with  other systems and clinicians (who are way smarter than me) on
different sides of the world.

Michelet Joseph