Book shows every day can bring new emergencies
November 30, 2010
Barry Makarewicz has seen it all.
He’s seen births, deaths, fires, life-threatening injuries, small cuts and bruises. He was on hand at the Trolley Square massacre in 2007 where Sulejman Talović killed five people and seriously wounded four others before taking his own life, and in another incident he was on hand to save the life of a 40-year-old woman who had a sudden cardiac arrest.
Makarewicz is a firefighter/paramedic who has been on the job for 21 years. And he and his wife Laura Howat decided to publish a book of his experiences.
The result is "Triumph, Tragedy and Tedium: Stories of a Salt Lake City Paramedic/Firefighter, the Sugar House Years," which was recently published by Dog Ear Publishing.
Makarewicz and Howat will be on KPCW’s "The Mountain Life," with Isaac Wilson and Derick Parra, Dec. 1, at 9 a.m. to talk about the book. Also, they will be at Dolly’s Bookstore for a reading and signing event on Sunday, Dec. 12, at 3 p.m.
Makarewicz wanted the public to see some of the strange, tragic and wonderful things he comes across every day of his working life.
Recommended Stories For You
"I wanted to show the whole spectrum of the types of calls we’ll respond to," Makarewicz said during an interview with The Park Record. "It’s a huge spectrum and the book attempts to show not only one end to the other, but everything in between."
Makarewicz said the book, which is available at Dolly’s Bookstore, Kings English Bookstore in Salt Lake City and http://www.amazon.com , was nearly two decades in the making, although it wasn’t something he originally had in mind.
"My wife gets credit for the idea," he said. "She was the one who said we should write a book about the experiences that started from the first day I joined the fire department."
One of the topics the book covers is the nature of the job.
"First off, it’s a very unusual schedule we work," Makarewicz said about firefighters. "We work 48 hour shifts. So we’re away from our families a lot. It’s tough to be gone that long and it’s tough to be gone the weekends. It’s unlike any job I can think of."
There’s also a lot of sleep deprivation, he said.
"Sometimes we go on two, three or four calls a night," he said. "So the sleep you get is broken up to an hour here and an hour there. Plus, there is physical wear and tear. So it’s not an old person’s job."
In addition, the firefighters and paramedics are constantly exposed to extreme situations and tragedies that many people never see or hear.
"There are several references in a couple of chapters about a series of events that happened that I responded to in a course of six days," Makarewicz said. "One was a bad car wreck that killed half of a good-sized family. Then a couple of days later, I went on the Trolley Square massacre. It was overwhelming to have all that tragedy packed in those two days. And they affected me for quite a while."
While the workplace does offer critical stress debriefing after a major incident, Makarewicz said he hasn’t taken advantage of it.
"It’s not as good as what the military may have," he said. "And that’s one area where the fire department could improve. So you also come up with strategies to deal with that stuff the best you can."
Makarewicz said one strategy is to remember a time when you were able to help or rescue someone.
"The ultimate is when you actually save a life," he said. "In my career, I’ve maybe done it a handful of times. And they have been those situations that if I had not done something that I did, this person would not be walking around, and not just walking around, but being a viable member of the community and family."
Makarewicz remembers a 40-year-old woman, with no history of bad health, who had a sudden cardiac arrest in front of her 10-year-old son.
"Her heart just stopped, and she face-planted on the carpet," he said. "Her family called 911 and we eventually got her back with artificial resuscitation."
The woman spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, and was later discharged with a 100 percent normal bill of health.
"That to me was the ultimate experience," Makarewicz said. "It’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
"Every once in a while you make a difference in somebody’s life," he said. "It doesn’t happen often enough, but occasionally you do something good for somebody who’s in a crisis. That’s what makes it all rewarding and worthwhile."
Makarewicz said these experiences needed to be in the book, but he did want to keep the book as neutral as possible, although it is written as a first-person account.
"I didn’t want the book to be about me," he said. "I wanted it to be more of a representation of what people in my profession go through. I wanted people to know what kinds of things go on every single day in an average community."
Makarewicz is one of the few firefighters/paramedics who actually live in the area they serve.
"On any given day I may have to respond to people I know as neighbors, friends and family," he said. "It’s happened several times. I mean I show up and I know the person in trouble.
"That changes the way you feel about what you’re doing. I mean you always try to do the best possible job you can, but it adds a whole different level of anxiety and dimension to the job."
Makarewicz and Howat’s goal was to educate the public about what firefighters and paramedics experience.
"Also, we want people to know that anything can happen to anyone at anytime," Makarewicz said. "People may think they live in a little town where nothing ever happens, but within a 24 hour day, there are all sorts of weird and bad things happening right down the street or right next door."