In the United States, seniors are eligible for early retirement at age 62. At age 63, Victor Hoffer began to work at Marion County Fire District #1 (MCFD1) as a paramedic.
“I was a probie to people who were 40 years younger than me,” Hoffer said. A “probie” is slang for being the new guy. The experience was so unusual he decided to write a book about it.
Throughout his career Hoffer estimates that he has taken care of 84,000 people and delivered 22 babies. He said most people are lucky if they get to deliver even one baby.
When asked about the most memorable call he’s been on, his face got serious, putting his arms on his knees he leaned forward, as if getting ready to tell a long story.
“May I tell you a little about respect and courtesy?” Hoffer asked, before beginning his tale.
He started to tell the story from when he was working in Tigard. It had all the hallmarks of an epic hero’s tale: a snowstorm, a woman going into labor and a patient almost refusing help.
When the paramedics got to the home of the woman who was giving birth they discovered that she, and her family – who were Muslims – were uncomfortable with letting her leave alone with all the male firefighters and paramedics.
The closest female paramedic was in Forrest Grove. Instead of leaving and letting another crew take care of patient, Hoffer spoke with the family.
“I said ‘sir, I understand you’re Muslim. I have great fondness for the Muslim religion. How about we put your wife on a stretcher, cover her up, and then you can sit right next to her?’” Hoffer said.
With a little communication and understanding they were about to take the woman to the hospital where she safely delivered the baby.
Hoffer told another story of an elderly woman that he had taken to the hospital. To calm her nerves during the ambulance drive, Hoffer told her about his time as a hospital chaplain and they chatted about his schooling.
He gave her one of his trading cards – picture a baseball card with his picture, name and title – and she blew it up into a full sized poster, which she hung above her bed next to Jesus and Sean Connery.
“This is why I love doing whatI do,” Hoffer said. “I took 20 minutes to make her feel better, to give her happiness, and she took my card and blew it up.”
For people who do not have loved ones who are able to accompany them to the hospital – a friendly, caring paramedic can make a world of difference.
In this time of the pandemic, where the elderly and medically vulnerable are supposed to be staying away from people, Hoffer has found himself as the canary in the coal mines. He will go into a medical call first and determine whether the patient is suffering from COVID like symptoms or not to limit potential exposure of first responders.
Though first responders have a high burnout rate, Hoffer has been volunteering in fire and rescue for 40 years. His favorite part of the job is showing his patients love and kindness– soothing nerves of those in a medical crisis.
MCFD1 has experienced budget reductions due to the leavy failure in November. Hoffer was laid off from paid staff but is thankful for the opportunity to still volunteer.
His book, The 63 Year Old Probie, is available for purchase on Amazon.