Lauren Mizell traded her mellophone and Gator Band uniform for a pair of goggles and protective gear. The cheers and chants became sirens and lights. Football tackles became gunshot wounds and 911 calls.
She replaced the feeling of being the center of attention while playing at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium with being in the back of an ambulance, barreling through the streets of Atlanta.
As a healthcare professional, the 20-year-old UF music in combination with medicine junior and Gator Band mellophone-player wanted to help her community with her active EMT certification. She said she couldn’t remain idle at home while the pandemic took a toll on her community.
Mizell returned to her hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and transitioned to remote learning after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on March 17 that four UF students tested positive for COVID-19.
She began working with Life EMS Ambulance Service in early May, transporting patients with ongoing health issues and a few tentative COVID-19 cases.
Life EMS Ambulance Service has a designated COVID-19 truck, Mizell said. But while she doesn’t work on the COVID-19 truck, Mizell has to still take precautions such as wearing goggles, gowns and surgical masks when encountering possible COVID-19 cases.
Mizell said she has come in direct contact with a few presumptive cases showing mild symptoms like a cough and fever. However, she signed up for the possibility of a pandemic when she received her certification and isn’t scared, she said.
“We just know we have a job to do,” Mizell said. “We know that we need to take precautions to keep us safe.”
Mizell knew since high school that she wanted to work in emergency medicine, she just didn’t know which route to take, she said. Originally, her plan was to become a physician's assistant -- the EMT profession simply provided her with the required 2000 direct patient care hours needed to apply to physician assistant school, she said.
But she fell in love with the profession while becoming EMT-certified summer 2019 at Grady Hospital, the largest hospital in the state of Georgia, because of the fast-paced and unpredictable environment it provided.
Through Grady’s accelerated program, Mizell said she became certified in eight weeks as opposed to traditional EMT programs, which are completed in 20 weeks.
“I had no social life,” Mizell said.
She attended class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday and had to complete certain tasks such as helping a patient going through cardiac arrest to become certified, she said.
Mizell’s first trauma call during her EMT training was a gunshot wound, she said. As she was sitting in the back of the speeding ambulance, she said she felt nervous but excited because she was going to use her newly learned skills.
“Just being inside of an ambulance with the lights and sirens going is something that you don’t really know what it’s like until you experience it,” she said. “I just remember thinking this is really the profession for me.”
Mizell said her end goal in emergency medicine is to one day be a flight nurse.
Flight nurses handle far-away trauma cases and transport patients, she said. During her interactions with flight nurses, she said she was impressed by their extensive knowledge, and fell in love with the profession after watching a crew land a helicopter on the hospital’s helipad.
“With them, it’s super fast-paced, and I love aviation,” she said. “I was just almost entranced by these people.”
Mizell said the most difficult part of being an EMT has been trying to keep her family safe. After shifts, Mizell said she has become accustomed to taking off her uniform in the garage, washing the uniform in searing hot water and cleaning every doorknob and surface with a disinfecting wipe.
Her parents Brad Mizell, 52, and Kim Mizell, 49, said they are both proud of her job because they support her goals in life. Lauren, Brad said, has been the funniest and strongest person around, he said.
“She’s not a person to sit around and watch life go by,” Brad said. “She’s found her calling.”
Brad Mizell said his daughter had always been trying to help others, even during high school.
Brad Mizell attended one of his daughter’s track meets in 2018, he said. While running a 100-yard sprint her junior of high school, he said Lauren noticed one of her track competitors start to topple over, grabbing a leg in pain.
Lauren wanted to win so badly and put her all into the race, he said. But when she noticed the other girl falling behind, she turned around to help, he said.
“She just puts other people first,” he said.
UF Gator Band member and EMT Lauren Mizell risks contracting COVID-19 while transporting patients on an ambulance.