“I conquered the self-doubt, and now the sky is the limit.”
Set to be one of the only black female paramedics in Abilene history, Courtney Bradford will graduate in April, and test for her license in May.
Courtney originally attended Prairie View A&M as a pre-medical biology major to become an anesthesiologist, but she became pregnant with her first child and dropped out. In 2016, she went back to be a phlebotomist but would walk by the Emergency Medical Services room on her way to class and crave the adrenaline that came with the occupation.
“I’m an adrenaline junkie, I love getting something different. Thats what really drew me to it. I love people and love knowing that I could be the person you would call in an emergency. I could do this until I’m 60 years old if my body holds up. I’m totally comfortable and I love it.”
A single parent of two, an 11-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter, both of whom are active in multiple sports, Courtney said it gets difficult to juggle being a mom, student and coworker.
“Our program is a year and a half, so there’s so many nights I’m up until three in the morning eating chips and trying to study – anything to stay awake.”
In addition to her studies and taking care of her kids, Courtney works part time as an EMT, usually picking up 12-hour shifts.
She wakes up early to have her kids ready for the day so her mom can take them to school while she heads to work.
A typical day consists of five to eight calls in which a duo – EMT and paramedic – are dispatched to a scene. Courtney said it comes naturally for her to clear her mind and suppress her nerves on the way to answer to an emergency call, but it isn’t that way for everyone.
“You have to realize it’s an emergency to them, but not necessarily for me,” she said. “You have to learn to distinguish those two so that you don’t get in your head about the situation. I connect with people easily so I don’t get freaked out or grossed out. I can’t speak for every paramedic, we all have those things that make us uneasy, we all have strong points and weak points. For me personally, I love people, so it’s not a problem.”
Using her faith to overcome the things she sees on a regular basis has helped her to avoid becoming overwhelmed.
As an EMT, she said they see a lot of death, more than most others because they are always first to the scene and see the raw, horrific tragedies.
“You have to remember that God has the last say,” she said. “You can be the most skilled person, you can be the most prepared person, but if God says it’s time, there’s nothing in the world you can do about it. So with me having faith in God and that he is our Almighty, I have peace that I did everything I was supposed to do. Of course, there’s tears, it’s hard not to shed tears, but you have a peace with God.”
Courtney said the hardest thing to overcome is self-doubt. A lot of times, she gets sucked into feeling mediocre as she thinks about everyday life things such as paying the bills and making sure her kids are well-off.
“Sometimes when you become a single parent, you think there’s nothing else for you, you put yourself on the back-burner and think there’s nothing else for you,” she said. “That was something I had to overcome. It took me awhile to get it.”
Courtney jokingly said her favorite hobby is sleeping or watching Netflix, but she truly enjoys taking her kids out to do things when she isn’t working. Most of her weekends are spent traveling to different sporting events for both her son and daughter, who are both ranked track runners in Texas.
“Once you get to a job like mine, you have to be careful what you do and who you’re around. You have to hold yourself to a certain type of standard.”
Though she will be the first black female paramedic with her company in Abilene, she is the third to be an EMT, and the only black female in EMS at the moment – something she didn’t realize until her professors told her. Courtney said a lot of other minorities have a bad perception of first responders based on their experiences, and sometimes they don’t have the drive for it.
“There’s no reason it’s 2019 and Abilene is just now getting a black female paramedic.”
Looking forward, Courtney said she wants to spend a year or two in Abilene to gain experience, but wants to leave her lifelong home for the big city. Eventually, she’d like to be a flight paramedic, which only requires some training, an entry exam and three years of being a paramedic. She also wants better opportunities for her kids with better schooling.
Courtney said getting where she wants to be has taken much sacrifice, one of the hardest parts including letting naysayers be naysayers and moving toward her goals in silence. She hopes others can see her story and realize what they are capable of.
“If it’s really what you want to do, don’t let anyone get in the way of it,” she said. “Your best way to shut someone up is through your actions. You don’t have to voice anything, just do it. Remember what your goal is.
“I’ll be 33 years old in November. It can be done. I’ve done it with two kids who are super active. I’ve stayed up for hours studying and crying. There are several times I’ve thought, ‘I’m done, here’s the towel,’ and I had to step back and realize, this is what makes me happy and I have to keep pushing.”
Courtney said sometimes when you get yourself going on the right track, Satan comes in every direction. It is important to realize people can’t stop you from your goal when you’re achieving something for yourself.
“Nothing good comes easy.”