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Your Health: A Noozhawk partnership with Cottage Health

Up-and-Coming Emergency Medical Technician Diego Topete Gets Bigger Picture

Carpinteria-Summerland firefighters prepare to move a car crash victim to a back board at the scene of a recent wreck. Click to view larger
Carpinteria-Summerland firefighters prepare to move a car crash victim to a back board at the scene of a recent wreck. (Diego Topete / Noozhawk file photo)

From an early age, Diego Topete has been drawn to emergency work.

A Santa Barbara native and self-described adrenaline junkie, Topete is an aspiring paramedic. He currently works as an emergency medicine technician, or EMT, for a local ambulance company and is passionate about first response care.

“I was always fascinated with the emergency line of work,” he told Noozhawk. “I like the field interface of everything. In my opinion it moves a lot faster. Being in the field and having no information is so different than working in a hospital and having a case presented to you.”

Topete’s love for medicine and the unexpected has always been a part of him.

“My dad bought me a (emergency) scanner when I was 8 years old,” he recalled. “I would listen to the frequencies of the police department and fire department. I feel like all my free time growing up was spent doing that.”

Knowing he wanted to pursue a career as a firefighter, Topete joined the Santa Barbara County Fire Department Explorer Academy.

“It was once a week and we met for three hours,” he said. “We would do things from hose evolutions all the way to knots, ropes and medical operations.

“We were given the opportunity to go on ride-a-longs with fire engines. I went out with Station 17, which serves Isla Vista, and really enjoyed it.”

The academy offered a window into the future of what a firefighting career entailed, and Topete felt like he was exactly where he should be during those sessions each week. The world he had once only been linked to through a one-way radio started to become a tangible reality.

Diego Topete is pursuing his dream of working in emergency situations, now as an EMT after graduating from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department Explorer Academy. “I was always fascinated with the emergency line of work,” he says. “Being in the field and having no information is so different than working in a hospital and having a case presented to you.” Click to view larger
Diego Topete is pursuing his dream of working in emergency situations, now as an EMT after graduating from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department Explorer Academy. “I was always fascinated with the emergency line of work,” he says. “Being in the field and having no information is so different than working in a hospital and having a case presented to you.” (Topete family photo)

This realness became even more so when he received his first digital camera.

“There was a call on my street and I took some pictures of that ...,” he recalled, smiling at the memory of his first encounter with capturing field action.

While most teens could be found downtown at the movies or on the beach during a free weekend afternoon, Topete often was at the scene of an emergency.

“What I really like about emergency photography is that you don’t have all the time in the world,” he said. “You have a very select amount of time to take pictures. No one is waiting for you, and you have no opportunities to get a second shot.”

Topete’s new job has similar requirements, like getting it correct on the first try.

“I think successful qualities of an EMT are keeping calm and not letting things affect you,” he said, recalling a few instances that were jolting at first.

“We responded to a motorcycle accident and the rider had shattered his tibia and fibula in three different places,” he said. “When you approach any scene you first worry about the patient’s spinal cord and their ABCs: airway, breathing, and circulation.

“The first time doing CPR was surreal. After I stopped and thought about the fact that I was trying to bring a person back to life, and for it to happen on my first CPR patient ... I felt really good after the call. We had brought that person back to life.”

Noozhawk intern Sophia Spann can be contacted at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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