EMT Yadira Arroyo died on her day off.
That is to say, it should have been her day off — if Yadira Arroyo hadn’t found herself on the endless treadmill of needing overtime to make ends meet.
Like so many FDNY EMS members, Yadira took that extra shift when it was offered.
And in a 24-7 department of roughly 4,000 EMTs and paramedics — responding to as many as 5,000 emergency medical calls a day — it was always offered.
Yadira had no way of knowing that Thursday was going to cost her everything.
Her path crossed with Jose Gonzalez, who authorities describe as a 25-year-old serial criminal with a history of mental illness. She couldn’t have foreseen that he was going to yank her from her ambulance and, as authorities have alleged in the two murder charges against him, viciously run her down on a Bronx street.
EMS workers are trained to see PATIENTS as PEOPLE first, and problems second — even though they know things can go sour in a heartbeat.
The same threat rides alongside every police officer and firefighter and quite a few other city workers who don’t get to carry the title of first responder.
But Yadira belongs to a special group. New York’s EMTs and paramedics bear much of the burden of responding to the city’s most vulnerable. That includes the mentally ill, the addicted, the poor and the dying — as well as those caught in the grip of tragic accidents.
Like most healthcare workers, EMTs and paramedics get little acclaim, and inadequate compensation.
New Yorkers are quick to laud — and rightly so — our firefighters and our cops. And the city loves its hero sanitation men and women, too, just as we honor the quick-thinking transit worker who averts a subway suicide.
But we’ve been slow to recognize the strain on EMS — and the intense pressure of their heavy FDNY workload. Nearly 2 million 911 calls a year.
After 14 years on the job, Yadira Arroyo, a mother of five with a state-issued EMT certification that had to be renewed every three years, earned a base salary of $48,153.
She got enough overtime to raise it to $66,750 — that’s a lot of missed holidays and double-shifts.
Until Yadira Arroyo died in the Bronx Thursday, few of us grasped the risks and dangers faced by EMTs and paramedics.
New York is a city that knows some debts can never be repaid. But we owe it to Yadira Arroyo to do more for her EMS family.