Need for younger people to step up
When medical assistance is needed and the ambulance to the closest hospital is miles and precious minutes away, the emergency medical service volunteers can make a difference between life and death.
In many cases, these highly trained volunteers are the first to arrive at the scene of an accident or a medical emergency. In many cases, those they help are unable in the time of trauma to thank them. But that doesn't mean the community doesn't notice their vital contributions.
Buena Vista County EMS Services held an appreciation night recently to honor the time and commitment each of about 45 volunteers from throughout the county who provide first-responder emergency care.
Two special awards were also presented. Ranco Fertiservice was recognized as the "Friend of EMS," for allowing five of its employees, who are on the team of seven EMTs in Sioux Rapids, to serve and drop their work when an emergency call comes in. There are of course many other businesses that have employees on EMT squads - and they should all be commended, officials note.
Tim Speers, of Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, was given the title of "EMS Provider of the Year."
Tim Speers has been a dedicated paramedic at BVRMC for 17 years. He loves the job.
But he started out working on car bodies, not human ones.
Working as a mechanic in Ames, he recalls that a customer who was leaving the business one day had a heart attack in his car. He and other employees tried to help and Speers watched the paramedics called to the scene. The man died.
It was two weeks later that a motorist crashed near the business, from an apparent heart attack. It seemed almost as if someone was trying to tell him something. Speers decided to take training to become a first responder so he could assist in any other emergencies.
The medic side seemed to take over and he continued taking classes. Soon he was an EMT, then a paramedic and today he is a paramedic specialist and serves as the director of that department at the local hospital.
He was applauded for going above and beyond his duty, in education, and serving as a medical examiner for the county.
"I like the ambulance runs and all the excitement at the scenes," he says.
Known for his compassion, he likes the fact that his role allows him to work with both medical personnel and the law enforcement officers on the front lines.
There are emotional and difficult moment, but that is part of the job. Helping people in life and death situations makes it all worthwhile.
Today's ambulances, he said, are "traveling emergency rooms." The quick actions of the professionals have saved many, many lives.
"We're like family. They're all good people," he said.
He graciously accepts the recognition bestowed upon him by the BV County EMS but is quick to say that the volunteers - those first responders and EMTs in the county - "are the ones who really deserve a pat on the back."
Carol Schulz has been an EMT in Marathon for 20 years.
"It's so rewarding. There is a great satisfaction of helping people when they need it," she said.
There have been many changes in the regulations throughout the years and the training has become more intense. But that is fine with her. She is happy to take advatnage of continuing education opportunities required each year of the EMTs.
Starr Abbas, Marathon, has been a first responder for the community for several years and claims the desire to help "gets in your blood."
Anita Bailey, the EMS System Development Coordinator for the Iowa Department of Public Health, Bureau of EMS, was the special speaker at the appreciation night.
"You are being honored for your commitment to excellence. Being an EMS is a lot of work. I see a lot of strength when I look out at all of you. I thank you for making the sacrifice and I thank your families for loaning you to us and the communities and I thank the employers who allow people time off for service."
There are, as in anything, negative aspects of being an EMS, but she feels the positive points outweigh the negatives.
"The best people that walk the face of the earth are EMS members."
There are many challenges being faced by EMS today.
The volunteer numbers are decreasing, it is difficult to recruit, the budgets are stagnant or decreasing and their are many personal liability and safety issues any EMS member faces.
Training can be time-consuming.
"Once you volunteer, it's your job," she told the group. She added that the EMS members seem to take more pride in their communities as well.
"Pat yourself on the back. Pat your fellow EMS on the back."
Dale Larson, who was nominated for EMS Provider of the Year, has been with BVRMC for 14 years as a paramedic.
"The EMTs and first responders make my job easier. They do 90 percent of the care before we get there. They get there a whole faster than we do. If they weren't around, people would die."
Accepting the award for Ranco was Dan Pyle, not only astaffer there, but an EMT as well. "We've always been a fierce supporter of the EMTs and it shows," he said.
BV County EMS member Kirk Reetz, said the EMS organization was formed in 1960 but was phased out for many years. In the last five years, a dedicated group of EMS members have been helping in the reorganization.
"We all have a common bond," he said of the volunteers throughout the county. "This organization draws us all together and lets us bounce ideas off each other and makes sure everyone gets part of the state funds."
The funds are minimal but help to pay for some of the required training; pooling it together allows for bigger and better training opportunities for the first responders and EMTs throughout BV.
The funds also will pay all expenses for initial training of community volunteers.
"Forty years is the average age of an EMS volunteer," he said, adding that the EMS group would like to see younger people step up.