Charleston County EMS chief put on leave after memoir calls employees ‘bags of annoying hell’

Charleston County EMS Director Don Lundy looks at a map that tracks units throughout the area in March.

Charleston County’s chief paramedic was placed on paid leave this week after he authored a memoir that refers to unnamed employees as “life-sucking, energy-draining bags of annoying hell.”

Don Lundy, director of the county’s Emergency Medical Services, on July 4 self-published “Paramedic of the Heart: True Stories of Lives Changed” on Amazon.com, according to a webpage for the book.

County spokesman Shawn Smetana said in response to a request for comment that Lundy had been placed on temporary administrative leave “while the county investigates an internal human resources matter.”

“Because this inquiry involves personnel matters,” Smetana said Tuesday, “we will not have further comment at this time.”

Attempts to reach Lundy, 62, by telephone were not successful. In a message left on his cellphone, the West Ashley resident said he would not be able to respond to callers while he is away from his office.

A paramedic since 1974 who previously led EMS departments in Orangeburg County and Charlotte County, Fla., the Sunshine State native was hired in 2000 for the Charleston County post. During the past year here, he has battled some discord in his ranks that he attributed to employees disgruntled over a work-shift change and reduced overtime hours.

Lundy earns a salary of about $112,860.

Available for download on Amazon’s Kindle tablets for $9.95 or in paperback for $17.96, the 314-page book contains personal accounts from Lundy’s “40 years of helping people at their lowest times” as a paramedic, the author described. The biographical advice book also encourages readers to follow their dreams and “go do something fantastic.”

But a portion addresses the bad attitudes that Lundy has noticed in what he first said were six employees at four different departments. The book goes on to mention specifics about only four workers, but they are not named.

The idea for the chapter dawned on Lundy, the author wrote, as he walked through Charleston International Airport, taking note of how happy different airline employees appeared. Similarly through his career, Lundy wrote, he has dealt with many unhappy employees whose attitudes became apparent in how they treated customers and their co-workers.

He wrote of an overweight 40-something emergency medical technician who makes light of epilepsy patients suffering seizures, a worker who expresses contempt for authority, an overly emotional employee and a paramedic struggling with self-confidence shortcomings.

“They are life-sucking, energy-draining bags of annoying hell,” the author wrote. “And, for their own misgivings, everyone around them must suffer.”

He referred to his EMS job as a calling. The ones who treat it as a chance to garner attention through heroism often “b---- about everything from the elected officials, to the Director, to their supervisors ... to their own co-workers,” the book stated. “They gravitate to like-kind negative-nellys who will confirm their depressing thoughts.”

The writing garnered mixed reviews from five Amazon.com users.

One critic complained of a work wrought with misspellings, grammatical errors and confusing syntax that’s “nothing more than a collection of unedited and mindless rants.” The poster surmised that the subjects of Lundy’s book are current employees.

“I can’t even imagine how it must feel to be the paramedics he mentions specifically, who currently are working the streets of Charleston County, and reading their Chief’s words about them,” the reviewer, Frank S., wrote.

Another hailed it as a wonderful book that evoked tears with its account of a baby’s birth. That reviewer brushed off the author’s remarks about employees.

“We all have them but I have seen his folks in action and I have never seen him mention that about them,” the reviewer said. “He shows his caring by how he leads by example.”

Lundy has fought increased criticism from his employees since September, when the county converted the department’s remaining 24-hour shifts to 12 hours. Employees accustomed to the trade-offs for working longer days — more overtime pay and consecutive days off — grew unhappy, and they raised concerns that the change was affecting ambulance response times. One sent an anonymous email about it to local officials.

At least four of 170 employees quit because of the switch. The county hired more paramedics to make up for the change.

In an interview earlier this year, Lundy chalked up the complaints to employees with lingering resentment about the shift change.

For Lundy, though, his current post is a dream job, “a career choice of a lifetime,” the book stated. He expressed pleasure with the opportunity to work in Charleston, the “last bastion of civilization as we know it.”

“It is truly heaven,” he wrote. “That’s not bad for a skinny kid from Tampa.”

Reach Andrew Knapp at 937-5414 or twitter.com/offlede.