October 11, 2022

It’s a familiar scene to Aggie football fans: More than 109,000 spectators descend on Kyle Field, drawn by the promise of an electrifying night game against an elite opponent in the Alabama Crimson Tide. There’s excitement in the October air, which is still tenaciously warm and stiflingly humid. As pregame rituals commence and throngs of fans file into their seats, a few dozen people in uniform quietly weave in and out of the crowd. Depending on their temperament, they might strike up light conversation here and there, but each of them keeps an ever-watchful eye on their surroundings, always prepared to jump into action at a moment’s notice.

For the dedicated staff of Texas A&M University Emergency Medical Services (TAMU EMS), football games are opportunities to put plans into practice and get meaningful experience in a constantly shifting environment. “We start planning on staffing for a season about a year in advance,” said Michael Middleton, TAMU EMS’ associate director. “On gameday weekend, we need to respond to anything the game throws at us as well as any calls from the rest of campus. For something like the Alabama game, we’ll probably start receiving more calls around Wednesday, and they’ll just keep coming in until Sunday night.”

To most of us, running this gauntlet of big and small emergencies in a loud, crowded environment would severely test our nerves. But to those who staff these events, including many current and former students, gameday is the time to shine.

“Aggies Serving Aggies”

For how essential it is to our society, EMS as we know it is a surprisingly modern concept. A groundbreaking 1966 report from the National Academy of Sciences painted a troubling picture of America before modern EMS. Back then, standards for ambulance services and emergency care varied between states, counties and cities, leading to unnecessary deaths and aggravated injuries. The same so-called “White Paper” paved the way for sweeping improvements to EMS across the country over the following decades. Today, Americans experiencing an emergency can call 911 and confidently assume they’ll receive care from trained professionals in a well-equipped, standardized ambulance.

There When Called Upon

In 2015, former student Alan Kilpatrick ’87, his wife Cindy and his family gave $25,000 to TAMU EMS through the Texas A&M Foundation to honor Alan’s sister, Kris, who dreamed of becoming an EMT before she passed away unexpectedly that year. Middleton and his team used the funds to purchase a new set of bicycles and defibrillators for their bike medics to carry. The Kilpatricks then gave an additional $25,000 to partially fund a new ambulance. “Then, last year, we got a call for a person in cardiopulmonary arrest,” Middleton said. “The bike team got there in record time and saved that person’s life. Here’s the amazing thing: They used the same bikes and defibrillator we had purchased in 2015, and the ambulance that came to transport that person was the same ambulance the Kilpatricks helped us buy. That person is alive today thanks to the equipment they donated.”