Gratitude to S.F.’s first responders

In recent weeks, our first responder system has come under fire, landed on the front page and emerged as a hot political topic at City Hall. That's appropriate since it is our job to fix problems. It's also my job as mayor to make sure that people understand that when you call 911, help is on the way and will get there quickly. That has never been at issue. What has been is the ambulance transport time once you are stabilized by our first responders.

Those minutes mean a lot when you or a loved one is involved in an emergency and help is needed. You want to know that help is on the way and that it will get to you quickly. You want to be sure you or your loved one will receive the best possible care. You want to know you're in good hands.

Thankfully, in San Francisco, you are. My wife, Anita, was involved in a fairly serious car accident last month. Neighbors called 911. First responders quickly arrived at the scene. Expert medical care was administered immediately. And the injured were rushed to one of the world's best trauma centers.

Now, I'm very relieved to say, Anita is OK. We are both thankful she did not suffer serious injuries.

But it's a reminder that when you're in an emergency in San Francisco, it doesn't matter whether you're the first lady or the very latest arrival to our city, the first responders who come to your aid and the medical professionals who treat you are simply the best: professional, efficient and compassionate.

Anita's story is like many others. In the aftermath of a car crash, confusion, pain and fear set in, especially in those first moments when you don't know how serious your injuries are. You just know that you are in pain. Anita suffered from chest pains, dizziness and lacerations in the wake of the crash.

After medics stabilized her, she was transported to San Francisco General's trauma center, where she received the same world-class treatment from nurses, doctors and staff that countless others received that day — and every day. Anita was discharged that night with a renewed appreciation of our first responders and the entire system of care that San Francisco offers. As a husband and mayor, I share her gratitude.

This world-class system of care is possible because we as a city invest in our public safety agencies, we attract and hire the best first responders, and we invest in our public safety and health care infrastructure.

Voters have repeatedly made investments in that infrastructure — including a new Public Safety Building in Mission Bay to serve this new neighborhood, and a greatly expanded San Francisco General Hospital, both to open soon.

I am going to see that the excellent response that Anita experienced is the same experience everyone has. So I don't mind the response-time for ambulances debate, and I'm committed to making needed improvements. Those improvements are already underway with valuable minutes already shaved off over the last few weeks with more ambulances available and more staff hitting the streets.

But as the political winds swirl, my wife's unexpected brush with danger, and the brilliant care she received from our first responders, will keep me grounded and focused on what's important, and what's real.

Ed Lee is the mayor of San Francisco.

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