My journey of helping EMS/FIRE in need, started with a spur of the moment trip to the beautiful country of Iceland. At 21 years old, it was a life changing experience, but was rough. The idea of running away to another country seems like a dream…it was my dream. The plane tickets were purchased, as I sat on a 36-shift, sleep deprived. Three days later I was off to Iceland without telling my family, friends or anyone else (my family was pretty livid). The idea was to use some mediocre survival skills to get by. What was brought with? A tent, a knife, some matches, clothes and dehydrated food. Stepping off the plane, the rigid air of the ocean hit me. I thought, “what did I get myself into”…After barely getting a flame going by the ocean, the reality of sleep deprivation, anxiety and bitter cold hit me. All I could think was, “I got to get warm and figure out a plan”. This is how I managed to get to know the firemen of Keflavik, Iceland.
As this page is about brotherhood, the European countries I’ve visited, definitely hold this true. My thought process was, “I’m a firefighter, I’m cold and I here’s a fire station”. It was the ideal place to warm up. Immediately, I was greeted by the Deputy Fire Chief Sigurður Skarphéðinsson. After he heard my story, he first asked, “why”. I explained to him that I think life is meant for adventure. He shook his head and my hand, leading me inside. As he offered a cup of coffee, I realized something, we’re all truly out to watch over each other in this field…
Anyways, the point is that this man didn’t know me, but immediately after finding out I was part of the FIRE/EMS service, Mr. Skarphéðinsson offered me a place in his home…without hesitation. I couldn’t speak the native language, but that didn’t stop us from sharing stories. It was difficult because all I wanted to do was listen to their stories, but all the crew wanted was to hear mine. The few things I can share before this gets to long is, there’s only about 15 paramedics in the whole country. They all get sent to Pittsburgh (I believe), where they get trained and return home. Many struggles faced by Icelandic firefighters include frozen lines, very rural areas and rugged terrain. Mr. Skarphéðinsson actually made me download an Icelandic app that would automatically log my signal, just incase I would be lost. Emergency services could then track down my last location. He also went on to show me their homemade HAZMAT trailer, ladder truck and SCBA equipment. Everything was so similar to US gear, but at the same time, completely different.
Getting back on track, these men didn’t know a thing about me. All they knew was we shared the same passion…helping others in need. There was no way these men would have left a fellow firefighter or paramedic in the cold. I even got an invitation to stay their over night. We always say we would help out another firefighter in need, but how many of you would offer your station as a place to sleep?
I still keep in contact with Sigurður Skarphéðinsson…I wish I could have stayed longer and learned more from this group of talented firefighters, but I had adventure on my mind. Before leaving I was gifted a map, a good luck and of course, a patch…There’s a lot more to this story, like how I was almost killed by Russian Iron Workers (drunk off some good Icelandic Vodka), how I had to hike down a mountain for four hours in the dark, and even how I watched the Northern Lights from a mountaintop (laying in a hot spring). That’s another story though….pictures from this can be found on my Facebook: medic element. Website: medic element.com Instagram: medic_element