Book Review: “A Thousand Naked Strangers”

By Douglas Soule on February 20, 2016 from Book Review via Connect-Bridgeport.com

Blood makes me sick. Even shows like Grey’s Anatomy send me searching for a bucket. In a burst of pure logic, I decided to read a book written about the experiences of former EMT Kevin Hazzard. Doing so was hazardous to my health. A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Back is definitely a “wild ride,” leaving stomachs churning and faces green.
 
Hazzard doesn’t strive for gruesome descriptions, gore is merely part of a paramedic’s life and is necessary to recount events. Day and night Hazzard would traverse the humid metropolis of Atlanta, droopy-eyed from exhaustion but still saving lives. From cases as mild as sprained toes to as severe as decapitation, he arrived with flashing lights and a blaring siren, prepared to do whatever necessary to ensure his patient’s survival. He faced shootings, fires, and meth-heads wielding rusty needles. He would then return home and kiss his wife on the cheek. A perfectly romantic gesture, had he not been covered with multiple kinds of body fluid.
 
Hazzard used easily understandable terminology, so I could read and enjoy scenes about medical procedures that would normally have me scratching my head and sounding out thousand-syllable words like an ape trying to learn English. There is an intensity to these scenes, the stakes being life or death; the quickening pulse of a dying patient set my own heart pounding. Yet, with this intensity is a professionalism emitted by the medics, moving quickly through the blood, sweat, and tears. Hazzard probably never needed to lift weights in his EMT days, for someone's life was always in his hands. And that is a heavy enough weight to bear.
 
When you are exposed to bloodshed every day, it tends to lose its nauseating effect. Hazzard went from nearly fainting at the sight of corpses in a textbook to eating right after seeing the aftereffects of a brutal car collision. Most people can’t even eat a sandwich in a car without feeling like theyate a million bucks. This transition from a normal dude to one who took it in stride when someone's heart stopped beating is more interesting to watch (in this case, read) than any mediocre hospital drama.
 
While reading this story, I realized that being an EMT is similar to a straight-out-of-high school marriage- periods of inactivity followed by dreadful conflicts followed by the inevitable burnout. The movies have gotten a lot of facts wrong involving the medical field, and Hazzard helps clear away the Hollywood smog, showing the reality of riding in an ambulance (most of it consists of idly sitting in an ambulance, but for some reason people are dying to get inside of one). When action does occur, it does so in bursts that only a trained medic can be prepared for.
 
Some who devote themselves to a career in comedy fail at being mildly laughable. Despite the grim subject matter of dead bodies, Hazzard managed to get me to smile in various sections of his book. Recounting tales of deranged patients and stupid mistakes allowed some humor in the pages to remain alive, even if some characters fail to do so.
There are heart-warming parts in this usually chilling novel, pearls that make the reading worthwhile. They may be few and far between, but this only intensifies their effect. For every life lost, there are many more saved. For every wail, there is a laugh. Death is inevitable. Hazzard has taught me that happiness is too- no matter the situation.
 
A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic's Wild Ride to the Edge and Backhad me on the edge of my seat, leaning closer and closer until my nose Eskimo-kissed the pages. Despite my phobias, I rode with Hazzard across Atlanta, a passenger in the ambulance, occasionally going pale at the descriptions of gore. Sit back and cover your ears, for this story is coming your way!



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