Seventeen-year-old Mikka Crabtree has a passion for emergency medical care and she is feeding that passion by shadowing the professionals at Crittenden Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
The Crittenden County High School junior is spending a portion of each week during the spring semester with EMS as part of a Vocational School training program. Mikka participated in the Vocational School's nursing program from August to December. While most of the students in Mikka's class are busy observing nurses in health care settings this spring, Mikka received permission to observe EMS professionals at work.
Mikka's interest in emergency care is not easy to explain, although she said her father Mike has influenced her more than he probably realizes. Mike has been an active member of the local Rescue Squad since about 1991, and currently serves as assistant chief. It was his talk of successful runs and helping others that inspired his daughter. Not surprisingly, Mikka, with her parents' permission, joined the rescue squad in December of 2005 when she was 16 years old.
"I think Dad was hesitant about me joining the squad because of the graphic nature of the job and what I might see," Mikka said. "But, I knew I could handle it."
It was on an icy night in January 2006 that Mikka realized she wanted to do more than serve on the local rescue squad. The young rescuer recalls that night being her first major run - a serious car accident.
"I remember wathcing people work the accident, and that is when I saw EMS come in - and I knew I would probably like EMS better," she said.
Mikka's vocational training has already prepared her for some of the basics such as taking vitals, spiking IV bags, and administering oxygen. However, the young rescuer's passion for health care is driving her to learn more. The youth is setting her sights on enrolling in Basic EMT classes, which she would be eligible to take during evenings this fall as a high school senior.
Mikka's mother Cindy said most people Mikka's age do not know what they want to do, and it is exciting to see her daughter with a passion and already knowing what she wants.
"Anything she wants to do, she does well," Cindy said of her daughter. "She gets so excited that we have to rein her back in sometimes," she added.
For now, Mikka's education is most important and what the family is focused on, according to Mike. Cindy explained that she and Mike want Mikka to pursue her goals, and also want her to enjoy being a kid, especially during her senior year of high school.
In addition to knowing she wants to complete basic Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training, Mikka also would like to pursue becoming a paramedic, and perhaps a flight medic, which would require even more extensive training. The young Crittenden Countian, as of now, also knows she wants to stay in this community.
"Most of my friends want to go to college and start somewhere new, but I want to stay here," she said. "I want to be that someone that others can look up to some day."
Local EMS Director Randy Free said Mikka is well on her way to achieving her goals. "Other young people should look at her as an inspiration to do what they want to do," he said.
Free, who has talked with Mikka about becoming an EMT, described the student as bright, intelligent, and someone who absolutely loves what she does. The director said, "I think she will be able to handle this job well, and she is a pleasure to be around."
Local paramedic Dawn Lamb said she has never seen a young person with such enthusiasm for this type of work. "Mention EMS and Mikka's face lights up," Lamb said. "When she is here with us we encourage her to keep her grades up and make sure she does her homework."
"Many look at me and see my age and think I am immature and still a child," Mikka said, "but I've had to step into the role of an adult and I've seen things most teens won't see until later on, and I can handle it."
Mikka explained that she has already had to face an emergency run that involved someone she knew. "You learn not to overreact, not to stress, and do what you're trained to do to help, and not let your emotions take over," she said.
Mike agrees that the experiences with Crittenden EMS and the Rescue Squad have been positive for Mikka. He also noted that EMS and the hospital have been a good influence on his daughter.
"Since she's started this program she has been more responsible as a young adult at home," he said, "and I am proud of what she has done."
Mike added, "This has been a wonderful opportunity for her because she is so focused on what she wants to do. We worry about what she sees, but we have talked about it and she can handle it - she's prepared."
Mikka agrees. "I'm ready to step into it," she said of her future EMT role. "I'm not there for the glory," she said, "and there's no money for what I'm doing right now. It's what I love and I have a passioin to do it. No doubt this is what I want to do."