Meet Isabelle Kim, a CJPVFD EMT and firefighter. Here, she is interviewed by CJPVFD administrative member, Dave Sidhu.
DS: What led you to volunteer with the Department?
IK: Joining the Department was completely random for me. I had never thought about becoming an EMT/firefighter or volunteering with a fire department or even that this was a possibility. One of my friends from high school told me that she had seen a flyer and was interested in joining. She asked if I would apply with her and I did, we both ended up getting voted in, and the rest is history. (Lol, not really, but that was nearly 6 years ago and I'm still loving my experience).
What have you found to be the most rewarding or fulfilling aspects of Department service?
Being able to use my free time to help the community and do something that actively benefits others is very fulfilling for me, and I feel like I've learned many useful life skills over the years. I've met some amazing people that I would have never met had I not been a member here, and have had unforgettable experiences -- being that person that is able to provide relief on the worst day of someone's life truly never gets old. I remember one call specifically where I thought the patient would either not make it or be comatose for the rest of her life, but she survived and made a near full recovery, and actually came back to visit the Department and thank us for literally saving her life that day. That definitely made a huge impact on me as such a tangible reminder that we really are making a difference in people's lives.
What have you found to be the most challenging aspects of Department service?
As a very petite Asian female, I do not match the demographic majority of Montgomery County Fire & Rescue -- I have dealt with my fair share of naysayers and those who refused to take me seriously because of how I appeared, but these people only encouraged me to work harder and prove them wrong. Those who are not in the Department may think that the time commitment is a burden, and while it is a lot, especially during the first few years of service, the time you put in is so worth it and I look forward to my shift every week. Honestly, right now, the hardest part is not getting a good nights' sleep before work, but a few hours of sleep is something I will happily sacrifice for everything the Department has given me -- lifelong friends, invaluable lessons, & some of my favorite memories.
Where did you grow up, what did you want to be when you were young?
I'm a Maryland girl born & raised - I was born at Holy Cross Hospital and grew up in the Rockville/Gaithersburg area. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher just like my mom, but that changed when I started watching Grey's Anatomy and
I decided I wanted to be the next Meredith Grey. Part of my desire to go into the medical field was definitely due to my experience as an EMT with the Department, as otherwise, I would have had little to no exposure to any kind of clinical setting. I really do credit my desire to stay within the world of medicine to the Department, and I know that I would be a completely different person without it.
Do you find your service to be helpful or useful in your profession?
Oh my goodness, yes. I'm going to be starting a master's in nursing program at Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in the fall, and pretty much everything on my resume that helped me get into the program stems from being an EMT. Being an EMT has opened up so many doors for me in terms of clinical experiences and part time jobs -- from contracting work at major music festivals, working as a CNA in hospitals, to conducting COVID-19 tests and administering vaccines. Having joined at 16, I spent a lot of my formative years hanging around at the firehouse, and I definitely learned many, many life lessons that are invaluable tools in any profession. Being personable and able to start a conversation with anyone, working well under stress, staying calm in emergencies, and how to speak my mind are just a few.
What message do you have for anyone thinking about volunteering with CJPVFD? Would you recommend volunteering?
Do it! I'm about to hit my 6 year service anniversary and I do not regret a single minute of it. I will say, though, what you put in is what you get out. There is a TON of potential for growth, learning, and personal connections through the fire service, but you do have to want it and be willing to work for it. As someone who has put in countless hours with the fire service over the past several years, I would recommend volunteering to almost anyone- it is a bit of a time commitment, but I think it's 100% worth it in the long run.
What hobbies do you have outside of work and volunteering?
I'm a full time student & also work pretty much full time (thanks, Zoom University!), so I definitely like to keep busy. Outside of all of my obligations, I love cooking and baking -- I started baking sourdough bread during the pandemic and have spent the past several months playing with different recipes. I also love spending time with friends, especially doing anything outdoors- hiking, happy hour, water sports in the summertime, exploring new parts of town. I've also been trying to read at least 4 books per month as I truly enjoy reading but haven't been good about putting aside time to do so!