Robert C. Glaspy, Jr., BSP (Bachelor of Science in Paramedicine), NRP (National Registered Paramedic)
Health Planner and Substance Use Disorder Response Coordinator, State of Maine
When he was a kid, it just always seemed like there was someone to defend, to protect, to help. His heart hasn’t changed, but his skills and abilities have taken him forward as a career paramedic.
PEOPLE GETTING HURT
From the time Rob was a kid, he wanted people to be happy and healthy. But when they weren’t? “I wouldn’t say I was annoyed,” he recalls. “I think that sometimes as humans we can be challenging with the way that we handle things, or with communications, but as a child I was never annoyed with anything, I just wanted people to get along.” Because of his large stature, he found he never had to fight anybody to get them to lay off someone else. “It’s surprising that you can tell someone to stop, even at such a young age. You assert yourself, say ‘That’s not right, leave them alone.’ That’s that.”
This attitude didn’t immediately translate into paramedic care. Rob became a police officer. It was only when he felt helpless to deal with someone’s asthma attack that he started his search for the training he felt he needed to feel better equipped to take care of people.
Well, social life wasn’t exactly a problem for friendly, outgoing, caring Rob — until he felt that there was too much of it. “It was a detriment to the point where it was difficult for me to get through school because the only things I was worried about were friends, people, relationships, in the sense of camaraderie.” Figuring out how to allocate time to schoolwork (and himself) became so difficult that for a time Rob needed help from a resource teacher.
Rob didn’t have an official diagnosis, not one he can recall, anyway. And he doesn’t recall being that upset about needing extra help. “‘So we have to do all this work,’” he recalls thinking. “‘Not a problem, let me just get it finished.’”
Some say being bored is a simple matter of failing to connect. Rob says, “My mom was like, ‘Listen, this is what you’re going to do: you’re going to get your homework done. If folks take the time to sit with you and work with you, you’re going to pay them the respect to make sure you’re getting it.’” Eventually, science caught his attention. “It felt like magic.” Moreover, the classes on physiology let him connect the human body with what he was learning from his father about cars. “I would be able to associate one thing with another thing, and that was really cool.”
Rob’s father was a building improvements supervisor for the Indianapolis Public Schools. “He was in charge of looking at a building and saying, if we’re going to do this addition to the school, what are we going to need, how much is it going to cost, and these are the plans to follow.” His mother was a lab tech — a laboratory technician at a hospital. “She’d talk about blood gas and blood sugars and biochemistry, that kind of thing. That was really interesting.”
Community college was a boon for Rob; so was attending the police academy, where he felt he could answer both his need to protect and his love for people. “I wanted to have a career, but I didn’t know what that really looked like. Cops protect people, so I could protect — you know, ‘serve and protect’, and it was a real thing.” What’s more, the police academy gave Rob new confidence in his learning ability, something that hadn’t exactly felt nurtured in high school. “I saw that I was fully capable of studying, and studying on my own.” It was the first time he’d ever felt like that, and at 23, he felt it wasn’t a moment too soon. “It just was a huge confidence builder when it came to academics. I was like, ‘Wow, I’m getting pretty good grades here, better than I did in high school.”
As a volunteer firefighter, Rob had to become an EMR, entry level medical skills. But it wasn’t enough for Rob. “I was like, ‘This is really cool stuff, but I want to do more than what I’m allowed to do here.” He began pursuing more training, learning about the EMT and paramedic levels. “At the highest level, you can intubate people, you can cardiovert people, you can pace people’s hearts if they need it, and I was like, ‘That’s what I want to do. I want to be able to do all of the things, all right?’”
He says it went back to the experience of that asthma attack in Indiana. “Thankfully the firefighters and the EMTs showed up and administered albuterol, and I knew I never wanted to be helpless again when it came to someone having a medical emergency like that. It bothered me the most! I just had the insatiable appetite for the knowledge of how to help people in their worst moments.”
So he went to EMT school, began working for an ambulance service, and then went on to paramedic school.
Rob co-founded the Connecticut Association of Paramedics and EMTs in response to a law that said only privately-employed first responders were not entitled to equal benefits to municipally-employed first responders. “It came down to protecting people, right?” Rob recalls. “If I showed up and there was a scene where there was a firefighter, a paramedic, or and an EMT, and me working for a commercial entity (such as the private ambulance company he worked for). If we were to do the exact same call and work together as a team, that firefighter, EMT, or paramedic would have been ab le to take advantage of that benefit, whereas I wouldn’t.”
So how did he handle it? “A group of us got together and said, ‘It’s not right.’ We discussed it and started a petition. We got like ten thousand signatures, and we went to the [Connecticut] Capitol Building and said, ‘This is totally unacceptable.’ Through different conversations we were able to have all EMTs, all EMS providers, no matter where you worked, added in the next session.
Currently Rob is working in Maine to get new tools — procedures involved in counteracting drug overdoses — into the medication boxes of paramedics. “I knew that one of the biggest impacts [I] could have was in policy-making. I wanted to contribute to building regulations for policies that will give emergency medical service providers more tools.” To him, it seemed like a natural progression if he wanted to do more: to be able to equip other people to help.