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Blog: This Week in Washington

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This week marks National Emergency Medical Services Week, a time to honor and recognize the hard work and sacrifice of EMS professionals and paramedics throughout our nation, including the more than 38,000 of them who call North Carolina home. The role they play in keeping people safe and working with police and firefighters to ensure a response in the event of an emergency is heroic. As we recognize their dedication, I wanted to let you know of some of the ways Congress has taken steps to assist these brave folks, as well pass along a story of one local paramedic who inspired a piece of legislation I've introduced to help those who sacrifice to keep us safe.

In Congress, we've made some progress in working to help keep EMS, paramedics and all first responders safe. Earlier this year, I supported the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012. While this bill's main focus was to extend the payroll tax cut, keeping an average of $40 a week in folks' pockets and extending emergency jobless benefits to those who so desperately need them, it also included language important to every EMS professional and every family throughout our nation. It set aside a portion of the wireless spectrum, known as the D-Block, solely for a nationwide safety network. It also mandated that funding from the sale of other parts of the spectrum be used to create this much needed safety network.

In the turmoil of a crisis, nothing is more important than communication. We know all too well of the reports of crowded networks and communication failures for first responders on September 11, 2001, yet they still moved forward with the task at hand and helped bring so many to safety before so many of their own were lost. We owe it to the men and women who keep us safe to never let that happen again, and I'm proud to support this dedicated safety network.

One idea I've found to be embodied in every EMS professional and first responder I've met is the concept of sacrifice. It is second nature to them. When a 9-1-1 call comes in or an emergency situation presents itself, it is these folks who speed toward danger and crisis. A year ago, next week, a clear example of this sacrifice happened in Cabarrus County, when CMC-NorthEast's Dr. Jon Hobbs was battling kidney disease. He was in need of a kidney donation. As his search continued, it turned out that a blessing was closer than he thought. Charles Cardwell, a paramedic in Cabarrus County, heard of Hobbs' need of help. Two men, with not much more than a professional relationship as they passed each other in the hospital, would share the gift of Charles' sacrifice. He donated his kidney to Dr. Hobbs and today both are healthy and both are continuing their work to help others in need and continuing to save lives.

This story reminded me of the depth of sacrifice that a selfless act such as an organ donation can have on people. From those giving and receiving organs, to the families and church members and communities that surround them, we can all pitch in to help them in a time of need. Seeing the financial setbacks that a donating family can endure, I knew something could be done to help. With their story in mind, I introduced the Charles Cardwell Share Your Spare Act, legislation that would provide living organ donors a one-time, refundable tax credit to help their families with bills, lost wages and financial sacrifices made during those times. This bill also has an impact on encouraging live organ donation for those who may be considering the sacrifice but are worried about the financial burdens. For those like Dr. Hobbs and others who are seeking a kidney donation, the average wait time is between three to five years. The generosity of our fellow Americans can help families facing this unfortunate situation, nationwide.

The theme for this year's EMS Week is "More than a job, a calling," and I cannot think of a more accurate description. From the selfless dedication they show in their day-to-day actions, to the way they make their service such an important part of their entire life, these men and women are truly on the front lines of protecting our families, our communities and our nation. Their role as first responders is not limited to their on-the-duty jobs. They are often the first people to step up in our community to assist with charitable work, local neighborhood efforts or coaching and mentoring our children on sports fields and in the classroom. They may be able to clock in and out of their job, but their role in service and selflessness seems to never end.

I'm proud to recognize our Emergency Medical Service professionals, and I ask you to join me in honoring them this week, and every week, as they continue to sacrifice and work hard to keep our nation safe and free.


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