IEMS paramedic honored as the best in the country

Local paramedic Bryn Arnold recently received national recognition for her efforts. (WISH photo)
Local paramedic Bryn Arnold recently received national recognition for her efforts. (WISH photo)

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – If superheroes are known for saving lives, then Bryn Arnold’s uniform should probably include a cape. However, it’s doubtful she would ever wear it.

“The hero word gets thrown around a lot and the last thing I associate with it is me,” she said.

Humble and hardworking, Arnold is a paramedic with Indianapolis Emergency Medical Services (IEMS) and rides in the city’s busiest ambulance, truck 11. Her typical shift lasts 12 hours. She has been a paramedic for about eight years.

“Just constantly run, run, run, run, run. There will be times where we leave at 7:00 am, we don’t get back to our station until 7:00 pm,” she said.

24-Hour News 8 tagged along for a few hours. One stop involved a sick person at the Wheeler Mission. Another was thought to have been having a stroke in his west side apartment. After careful questioning, Arnold determined the man might have been suffering from alcohol withdrawal.

The third call was about a man unconscious downtown. Turns out he was distraught after learning his brother died of cancer. “Where do you live,” Arnold softly asked him. “Right here,” he said, referencing how he was homeless and lived on the streets. Arnold continued to console him as he apologized for the fact that an ambulance was called. “I understand, it’s hard,” Arnold continued to tell him as he talked about how he was coming to grips with the loss of a family member.

Arnold said tender, caring moments like that one happen more often than people think.

“A smile can go a long way. A hug can go a long way. Anybody that knows me knows I’ve always got a smile, I’ve always got a hug to give,” she said. “People have no idea how much of an emotional impact you can have on someone.”

There are a few who do have an idea, specifically when it comes to Arnold’s impact.

“I think of a caring, compassionate person,” said Matthew Keinsley when asked to describe Arnold.

“Very genuinely kind-hearted, very sweet person,” added Joseph Cadwell. The paramedic used to be a partner of Arnold’s for years. Keinsley was one of her trainees. “She was always a great leader,” Keinsley added.

Saying both revere Arnold would be an understatement.

“Doesn’t matter what types of runs she gets, what people she interacts with, always keeps a positive attitude. She’s just willing to go that extra mile for every patient,” Keinsley said.

“She really understands that 90% of our job isn’t the high critical runs even though we do those. But most of them is just comforting people and telling them that when things are bad, don’t worry, I’m there for you, I got this,” Caldwell said. “Bryn’s really good at that.”

So good, that the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) named her the 2016 Paramedic of the Year. Not just for Indiana, but the country.

“I cried, I did,” Arnold said. “I was freaking out. I got goosebumps, I have goosebumps now talking about it.”

The second surprise was learning Keinsley and Caldwell were two of four coworkers who nominated her for the award.

“I didn’t think there was anyone else better,” said Keinsley.

Caldwell again pointed to the fact that Arnold maintains her skills and positive mindset while riding in truck 11. “That track has been very notorious for just grinding down your belief in goodwill in men, that kind of stuff. Because you see kids get shot, you see drugs non-stop, you see just all these terrible things that society has. And (Arnold) fully realizes that’s a very small portion of the population in that area.”

When we asked Arnold what it meant to know her coworkers felt she was worthy of such an award, she immediately turned the praise in their direction. “If it wasn’t for them I truly honestly would not be here because they drive me to be better,” she said. “The people here, they’ve made me who I am.”

In a matter of hours, we learned that’s a person who cares for others both physically and emotionally in a way that stands out above the rest. Her run involving the distraught man downtown ended with a warm hug and a smile on both of their faces. “Take care ok, and call us if you need us,” she told him before heading back into truck 11.

“I love my job and I come in and I do my job and I take care of myself, take care of my people, take care of my patients, and I go home,” she said. And thanks to Arnold’s hero-like efforts, many people get to eventually go home, too.

Having one person with IEMS carry the distinction of Paramedic of the Year is an accomplishment in and of itself, but Arnold is not alone.

Anne Edwards won the same award in 2011 while working with IEMS.

She’s currently the Director of Intelligence and Emergency Operations at the MESH Coalition, but she’s still a part-time paramedic with IEMS. When we caught up with Edwards, she was monitoring the activity surrounding the PGA tournament in Carmel in August while also keeping an eye on medical runs in Indy.

Edwards was proud to hear another IEMS paramedic got national recognition.

“It says a lot about the people that want to work in EMS as whole and for IEMS that it’s, you strive to be the best that you can be and the best patient advocate that you can be.”

Just like Arnold, Edwards does not consider herself a hero. She said she takes care of people because it’s her passion.