Senior citizen EMT earns honor

At age 70, Sandy Farkas was named East Windsor Rescue Squad District 2’s EMT of the Year last week.

By: Chris Karmiol
   EAST WINDSOR — Sandy Farkas just turned 70 and she is quite familiar with the sound of an ambulance siren. Ms. Farkas is in and out of emergency rooms constantly and has been for years now.
   Don’t go sending get well cards to her anytime soon. Ms. Farkas is in and out of emergency rooms by choice. She’s been an active emergency medical technician in the East Windsor Rescue Squad District 2 for the past 23 years and has been named its 2001 EMT of the Year.
   She said she felt terrible receiving the honor. It’s not because she’s ungrateful, but the tiny woman — as she describes herself at under 5 feet tall and less than 85 pounds — does not think she deserves to be singled out.
   "This is strictly a team effort," she said. "As far as this award given to me, I could not do it without my team. I would be nowhere."
   The Bronx, N.Y., native, who moved to East Windsor reluctantly in 1971 and now lives with her demanding cat, Madison, had no plans to provide emergency service when a friend mentioned volunteers were needed two decades ago.
   "Absolutely not," was how Ms. Farkas recalled her response in 1979. "I have no medical background, I can’t do this. I had no background at all."
   As reluctantly as she left the city for the suburbs, Ms. Farkas took rescue training classes. She fell in love. Her initial training, 50 hours of classes, prepared her for a role on the rescue squad. When the squad became an emergency medical service squad in 1981 Ms. Farkas went back for an 81-hour course to become an EMT. That four-month course included training in CPR, childbirthing and other medical emergencies.
   Of the past 23 years Ms. Farkas has served, she said that a childbirth she assisted in the back seat of a Dodge Durango on Probasco Road was most memorable. The car was en route to the hospital where the mother had originally planned to have her baby.
   "It was quite an elation," Ms. Farkas said, "after all the stuff we see that isn’t pleasant."
   Among those unpleasantries, most rescue workers would agree, was Sept. 11. It was both unpleasant and unforgettable.
   "My most satisfying experience was having the honor to go to the waterways on Sept. 11 to help people," she said. "We staged a convoy of ambulances, one ambulance after another. We were down there mostly for the support of fire, police and rescue workers. Unfortunately there were no (patients) to care for."
   In her lifetime Ms. Farkas expected the state of the world would improve as she aged.
   "I was born in the Depression," she recalled. "I was 9 years old when the war broke out at Pearl Harbor. We went through that whole era. I never thought I would live to see something as horrific as Sept. 11."
   After 23 years of car crashes, fires, fights and accidents, is it time to throw in the towel?
   "I don’t want to quit," she said. "I’m not a quitter. If I can go out for 20 minutes and make a difference then why would I want to sit home?"