TODAY   |  March 27, 2013

Accountant, 65, answers calling to become EMT

Jerry Leener went into accounting because he was good with numbers, and he did very well in the job for decades, until he felt called to do something a little different: become and emergency medical technician. NBC’s Jane Pauley reports on his challenging but rewarding new life.

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>>> our special series "life re-imagined today." jane pauley has been working with aarp, produced and sponsored a series of stories with with us. good to see you.

>> look at me with the whole club here. hi. so he went into accounting because he was good at numbers, and he did very well in his profession. when he heard his life calling, the numbers were 911. here's jerry leaner and has life re-imagined.

>> 911 -- [ sirens ]

>> jerry leaner chose a tough job.

>> relax, take it easy. we'll be at the hospital in five minutes.

>> he's an emergency medical technician . and at 65, twice as old as his buddies -- do they rib you about it?

>> all the time. are you kidding?

>> ten years ago, jerry was all business. a partner at a global accounting firm.

>> i went to a baseball game, and my youngest son hit a home run. and i said, i don't ever want to miss another one of these again. his written my notice of retirement, and it took me a long time to send it. and finally, my son said, "just press that button."

>> had you already decided what you were going to do next?

>> no.

>> but he made an inventory of his personal priorities.

>> giving back. freedom of my time. working with the community of people. never wearing a coat and tie ever.

>> that was a start. then one day, the battalion chief happened to be in his neighborhood.

>> and we got into a discussion, and he said, "maybe you should try ems. "it went together.

>> being a volunteer emt was harder than he thought.

>> i didn't quite even know what i was getting into to tell you the truth. i quit a couple of times. i was bounced out once. i was bounced out once.

>> because?

>> i really wasn't prepared for the rigor that they put you through to do this job. [ siren ]

>> this is a second language for me.

>> medic 701 responding --

>> working code --

>> 40-year-old female with tachycardia --

>> the younger guys, this is their first language, they're better at it than i am. i work hard at it.

>> that's humbling.

>> yeah. it is humbling. tell me about it.

>> there was 18 months of training. [ siren ]

>> plus another year to drive the ambulance.

>> a big, heavy unit. it weighs 2,000 pounds.

>> not many volunteers do that. i notice the sign says silver spring volunteer. but these are professionals in here. you're the volunteer.

>> i'm the volunteer.

>> they don't treat you like a volunteer. they treat you like a pro.

>> that's it.

>> not that you'd notice the distinction.

>> firehouse people are a community. they live together. they eat together. they have joy in their life that's very different than any kind of joy i ever felt while i was practicing accountsing. washington and dennis direct -- . t hits you a -- it hits you all three places, mind, body, soul.

>> that's the payoff.

>> i love the firehouse. it's that community that was important to me.

>> once a year, he does everyone's taxes. what do you charge?

>> i don't. i don't.

>> jerry knows he can't do this forever.

>> if my skills are starting to decline, then it's time to move on.

>> when that time comes, he'll have to re-imagine his life again. now he knows the drill.

>> i think you have to sort of pick and choose out of your daily life what it is that excites you. at some point it will all come together, and you'll say, wow, this is it.

>> jerry only works about 30 hours a week, but two 15-hour shifts. the reality check, obviously it's physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging work, and it is unpaid. but he made good money in his first career, so he can afford to be an emt just for the love of it. at noon today, i hope you'll join me for my first live webcast. go to

>> does he wish he had done this at a younger age?

>> oh, i don't -- i don't think so. but you know, i think what he didn't get in his first career is this wonderful sense of -- of community, and when he talks about that word he almost teared up. the joy of having that. it's kind of like the joy of being a member of your community.

>> nice segue there, jane.

>> cool story. nice to imagine or daydream about what you might do if you could totally switch gears and change careers.

>> that's what we're all about, susannah.

>> all of your stories are great, thank you.

>>> ahead, we'll take a severe turn and get a lesson