Pictured: Cameron Padbury

In October of 2014, Cameron Padbury was called to the scene to treat a man with a grenade lodged in his leg. For over eight hours, Cameron stayed by the 62 year old patient’s side while the bomb squad attempted to remove the grenade. Cameron is just one of the many heroes in the EMS industry that risk their lives everyday to help others. We decided to catch up with Cameron to hear his story and see what advice he had for aspiring paramedics. Read on to learn more.

Cameron, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. First off, could you tell us a little bit about yourself.

CAMERON PADBURY: I am a 38 year old divorced father of three beautiful daughters. I’m the lead operations supervisor in Walker County for Regional Paramedical Services, Inc. I’m also an EMS adjunct instructor for Bevill State Community College.

EXCELLANCE: How long have you been a paramedic and how did you get into the field?

CAMERON PADBURY: I have been in EMS as an EMT for 20 years. I have been a Paramedic for 18 of those. EMS was not my first choice, I had actually joined the Marine Corps my senior year of high school. In January of that year I was in a wreck, we were struck by a drunk driver and airlifted to Carraway. I ended up with two metal plates in my face, so I got a medical discharge from delayed entry before I even left for boot camp. I decided after recovering from my injuries that since I couldn’t go in the military I’d become a Paramedic and try to give back what was given to me that night.

EXCELLANCE: In October 2014 you had quite the experience while on the job. You treated a man who had a grenade lodged in his leg and stayed by his side throughout the entire ordeal. Tell us a little bit about that experience and what you were feeling that day.

CAMERON PADBURY: Yeah, that was a really long day. We had already been pretty busy, and I was running from one scene to the next helping out my crews. I’m a supervisor so I don’t normally work on an ambulance anymore, I just respond to the major scenes to help the crews out or handle communications. I went to the hospital, because dispatch called and advised that the ED had a GSW patient they wanted transferred out STAT. We had already picked up two transfers and had other calls going on at the time, so it looked like it was going to take a minute to get a truck up there.

When the crew that was going to take the patient got there, I decided to go with them, since the patient was critical. We were advised by the receiving hospital that we would not be allowed in the ED until we were cleared by the Bomb Squad. The police finished escorting us to the “safe zone” and I told both crew members to get out and get to whatever place the police had decided was far enough away. The medic that I rode in with was pregnant, and the EMT let me know she was afraid as well.

Pictured: Brian Tolbert

A medic from one of the trucks that took another transfer (Tim Brown) volunteered to stay with me, the Bomb Squad said they would feel better if there were two of us in the back since he was critical. The medic from the second transfer (Sherrae Hall) was running between the ED and our ambulance bringing us supplies and taking blood work back inside. A few hours later the supervisor for Jefferson County (Brian Tolbert) showed up on scene to help out and advised me that management wanted all of our people out of the possible blast zone. So, I had to make Tim leave, he didn’t want to leave me in there alone with the patient. None of my Walker County crews would leave the hospital until I told them I was going to be OK, and to head on back and keep doing their jobs. A few minutes later Brian came to the door, on the phone with upper management, and said I could get out too, due to the amount of risk to us we didn’t have to stay with the patient. I refused to leave, so Brian told management we were both staying, I wasn’t leaving the patient and he wasn’t leaving me.

For the next several hours I stayed in the ambulance caring for the patient, and Brian was running the scene with the police. Brian swapped with me a couple times so I could run to the restroom, and he brought me a soft drink. During this whole time the patient was awake and alert, he was pretty nervous about everything that was going on and just wanted to get inside the hospital and have surgery to get the projectile removed. We talked a lot about just about anything you can think of to try and keep his mind off of everything to keep him calm. It was imperative that he remain still. We joked, prayed, and laughed all while continuing to treat him.

After eight hours of sitting there waiting, EOD from Fort Benning, GA arrived to help us out. SSG David Mensink told Brian and I we had to put on the body armor they gave us and explained what he needed to do. Brian got the medications we needed from the ED, I gave the meds and controlled the airway while Brian and SSG Mensink tried to remove the projectile. Once they got it out we rushed him straight into the trauma room and turned him over to the surgeons. When we got back outside and were turning the body armor back over to EOD, Birmingham PD Bomb Squad thanked Brian and I and told us we were crazy.

EXCELLANCE: What happened after the event was over and you went home? How did this particular event impact your life and that of your family?

CAMERON PADBURY: Well, I drove back to base in Jasper and finished up the paperwork on the call then went home exhausted. My three daughters were there waiting for me. I told them what had happened since they were going to see it on the news anyway. My family was pretty upset at first, but everyone was just glad we all made it back home in one piece. They all know that because of the nature of the job, there’s always the chance they could get that call telling them I’m not coming home. I think they all handled it pretty well. My daughters started telling everyone their Dad was a hero, and their teachers asked about it at school. I tell them I’m no hero; we were all just doing our jobs.

EXCELLANCE: What do you feel like are some of the pros and cons of being a paramedic?

CAMERON PADBURY: I’d say some of the cons to being a medic are the long shifts away from home, working most of the holidays and always having to leave your family during times when they really want you there–like bad storms, natural disasters, and such. Pros would be being there for other people in their darkest hours, seeing the difference we can make in someone’s life and just giving back to the community. One of the biggest pros where I work is that we are all like family, it’s not just a job.

EXCELLANCE: Have you had any other experiences as unique or memorable as the grenade situation in your time as a paramedic?

CAMERON PADBURY: I have had several calls over the years that stand out in my mind as much as the grenade call. I think it was the winter before this call that I got stuck on I-65 in Birmingham in the ice and snow with four patients for over six hours. I’ve been shot at, had knives pulled on me. We had an over turned gasoline tanker that was pouring fuel out of it as we were trying to get the driver out. There have been a lot of bad calls that you just can’t forget and a lot of funny ones that stay with you too.

EXCELLANCE: What are some tips you would give to other paramedics about staying safe while on the job?

CAMERON PADBURY: Always, always wear your PPE and wash your hands. Learn to slow down when driving emergency, if you don’t get there alive you can’t help anybody. Keep your head on a swivel and listen to your gut.

EXCELLANCE: Lastly, do you have any advice for individuals who want to become paramedics and what they can expect?

CAMERON PADBURY: If you’re doing it for the money don’t…it doesn’t pay well. It takes a lot of dedication, and you never stop learning or studying if you want to be good at it. Listen to us older guys; it’s better to learn from someone else’s mistakes.

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