INDIANAPOLIS — In many cases, emergency medical service workers are the first to treat people with COVID-19.
In honor of National EMS week, RTV6 is highlighting the strength and resilence of EMS workers as they work on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's been the best job on Earth I do know that," Linda Hodge-McKinney said. "I wanted to work here so bad that I couldn't stand it when I first got hired."
Now, 34 years later, McKinney is calling it quits as an Indianapolis paramedic. She actually submitted her retirement paperwork in February, not knowing what was in store for her final weeks.
"Now, if I would've known," McKinney said as she laughed. "No, I wouldn't have done anything different."
Over the years, McKinney said she's seen plenty of changes, but nothing like this pandemic.
"The closest that I've come to anything like that is when AIDS first was out there and we actually had to start wearing gloves because we never wore any kind of PPE," McKinney said.
Now, paramedics put extra PPE on including surgical masks, gowns, face shields before making runs.
One of the people who came to celebrate McKinney's retirement is Nadiah Vargo, from one of McKinney's most challenging runs.
"That's the only run in my whole career that ever took my breath away when we first arrived and she continues to take my breath away just the way she's so brave," McKinney said. "It makes me cry. I'm just so happy I could be a part of that."
Nadiah was critically injured three years ago when she was attacked by two rottweilers. McKinney responded that day.
"I met her when she rescued me," Nadiah said.
"It was tough," McKinney said. "Had to take a big deep breath and then keep moving and take care of her."
Nadiah is sad because her hero is retiring.
"I wanted her to stay a firefighter so she can keep doing what she was doing," Nadiah said.
Indianapolis EMS has treated 1,400 patients since March 1 along who have reported flu-like symptoms.