Last year, in the City of San Francisco, the Fire Department responded to 149,000 calls for help.
Each one of them, unique.
None, however, were quite like the call SFFD Paramedic Angela Castro answered in Bernal Heights on Friday in November.
“This call has impacted my life in such a way,” Castro said, “I don’t think I’ll ever lose faith again.”
To understand why the call had such the impact that it did, one first must travel back to Castro’s childhood and one of the very reasons she became a paramedic. When Castro was just five years old, her father died of a heroin overdose in an SRO in the City’s Tenderloin District.
She knows she was powerless as a little girl to save her father but thought, perhaps, that one day she could help save other people’s family members when they were in need.
“I wanted to be there for somebody else’s dad,” Castro said.
So, beginning in 2010, Castro studied and trained to be a paramedic and in 2015 landed a job with her dream department: San Francisco. She was now in a position to help other families. On November 2, 2018, that is just what she was called to do.
“The call came in as an entrapment,” Castro recalled.
After the emergency brake on her SUV failed, 57-year-old Linda Ruiz had become pinned between her vehicle and her home. Her pelvis was being crushed by the weight of the vehicle pushing down on her.
Castro and her partner were the first responders to arrive at the accident scene. It didn’t look good for Ruiz.
“This is going to be bad,” Castro recalled thinking. “I am either going to be holding someone as they die or doing anything I can (to save them).”
For the next 40 minutes, Castro and her partner kept Ruiz alive while dozens of other firefighters worked to safely lift the car off of her.
“It was difficult,” Castro said, “because she was giving me her last rites, ‘Tell my family this, tell my family that.'” Castro said she refused to do it. “If you give up hope, we’ll all have no chance,” she said to Ruiz.
Ruiz, to her credit, did not give up and eventually, Castro got her to the hospital. Ruiz was badly injured but alive.
It was what experienced rescuers call a “career call,” one that is remembered for the rest of the first responder’s life. “The Division Chief told me I wouldn’t see another call like this for 50 years in San Francisco,” Castro said.
Two weeks later, however, this unforgettable call morphed into an unbelievable one thanks to a call from Castro’s sister.
“She was saying, ‘Linda, that lady you saved? She’s related to us! She’s family!'” Castro recalled. “I went, ‘Oh my God! Stop, just stop. You are kidding me!'”
Although they had never met, Ruiz is indeed related, by marriage to Castro.
The two women have grown close since the ordeal and promise to stay that way.
And, for Castro, a paramedic who got into the rescue business because she wasn’t able to save her family … finally did.
“Yeah, I did it. Totally. I did.”
This post was originally posted at http://www.nbcbayarea.com/news/local/-SF-Paramedic-Who-Rescued-Trapped-Woman-Gets-An-Emotional-Surprise-508476501.html.