In our series, A More Perfect Union, we aim to show that what unites us as Americans is far greater than what divides us. For many people, especially children, a ride in the back of an ambulance can be scary. But one Minnesota paramedic found the magic solution.
When an emergency call comes in, paramedic Ivan Mazurkiewicz rolls out – ready to make life-saving decisions. He's passionate about his profession, but still finds time for a little sleight of hand.
Mazurkiewicz's tricks are a regular part of the job on calls where kids are involved in order to help them stay calm, reports CBS News correspondent Jamie Yuccas.
Magic "breaks the ice," Mazurkiewicz said, adding, "Their association of an ambulance is blood and needles. It can literally turn a kid's worst day into one of the best days."
In the last five years, he's responded to more than 4,000 emergencies. Among them, Mazurkiewicz remembered the worst call of his career.
"He was screaming for his dad over and over again. And this kid was just absolute fear," Mazurkiewicz recounted. "I watched a 5-year-old boy go from screaming for his father to lifeless. For the first time in my career, I actually felt powerless."
The tragedy drove him to search for a way to better connect with kids.
That's when he realized his boyhood love for magic might hold the key. He stopped at Eagle Magic Store, the oldest shop in the country, and signed up for lessons. Now he works magic in the back of his ambulance.
"So I learned a couple coin tricks and I was terrible with it. But, you know, I didn't have to be good at it. I just had to be good enough for that kid, for one kid," Mazurkiewicz said.
Of course some calls are too critical for card tricks. But after he delivers a patient safely to the ER, he'll still take the time to distract a child from the scary task at hand.
"One time I was doing magic tricks in the ER. And I was doing it while they were starting an IV on the kid. And the kid definitely still felt the IV, but he was still interested in what I was doing more," Mazurkiewicz said.
Dr. Andrew Stevens, an emergency medicine physician, said it makes his job easier.
"Anytime we can distract children when they're hurt or ill, it just makes them so much easier to treat. And the parents feel so much more reassured," he said.
"What really matters maybe isn't the medicine, it's how you treat people. And he just reminded me of that," Stevens said.
Until his next call, the amateur magician will continue to make the fear disappear.
"All I want to do is be good at my job. And if it means me finding another way to be a better paramedic which is doing magic tricks for kids, by all means, I'm going to do that," Mazurkiewicz said.
Watch more from our A More Perfect Union series: