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Dan has been a full-time staff paramedic at Elizabeth Fire Department since 2004 and a volunteer with them a year prior to that. He has also worked both part and full time for Rural Metro Ambulance as an EMT-basic and paramedic since 1999 and continues shifts there as he is able, but this story does not stop here.
We met up with Dan on a beautiful July morning at Platte Canyon FPD where he was just beginning a paramedic shift there. He began with Platte Canyon Fire in January of 2009. He also teaches occasionally at the Swedish EMS program. His answer to "Why so many jobs?" is immediately answered with "because I love being a paramedic and being with the people I work with."
Dan received his firefighter I training at the Metro Fire Academy in 1997 following a year of volunteering at Sheridan Fire. He obtained his initial EMT education at Arapahoe Community College and completed his paramedic training at Swedish in 2003. He later obtained his FF II.
Dan began his career wanting to be a firefighter. This
door was opened through the medical side and he has never looked back. "I struggled in EMT school and worked hard in P school. Had it not been for mentors like Tony Palato (Cunningham FPD), I don't know if I would have made it. He taught me how to have confidence and I now try to teach that to others. Common sense is a critical piece of being a good paramedic or EMT. The teaching and patience of mentors is what rounds out good patient caregivers. I try to do the same for anyone I work with who I can help. I try to make sure that my EMT partners are as proficient as they can be because it helps the patient."
Dan believes that schools rarely prepare students for bad outcomes. He believes that is where good mentors or "coaches" come in. Training never ends and one should never make assumptions about their patient. Each patient is entitled to the best that the provider can deliver.
Dan replayed his worst experience when he was a passenger in an ambulance accident that resulted in a patient fatality. "I make everyday count now. I don't apologize for my new-found sympathy to accompany empathy. Each day is special. I encourage others to seek help through difficult times, including counseling and programs like EAP. I had a difficult experience and that process helped me heal."
Dan's wife Emily works at the Littleton Housing Authority helping others as well. They and their son enjoy their downtime out in the great outdoors. They are fond of hiking and any activities that they can share as a family.
From Jonathon Greenwald, B.A., EMT-P, Chair, EMS Department, Arapahoe Community College:"Daniel a great EMS success story. As mentioned above he did struggle in the Basic EMT class (as many do) but unlike most he committed and recommitted himself to his training and ended up becoming a great EMT. He worked hard, got a job, and continued to work diligently. He was inspired to go further. Daniel went on to paramedic school at HealthOne EMS. Dennis Edgerly stated, ‘Dan was dedicated, committed and totally engaged in his training. He was a fine student.'
Through thick and thin Daniel persevered. He had the misfortune of being in two serious ambulance accidents and yet he hung in there. Daniel continued to make EMS his life's career choice.
I have watched him grow and blossom into a great EMS provider; one who others should look up to and emulate."
Andy's contagious smile and engaging personality is familiar to everyone in our neighborhood. A self-described "Joe Schmoe," this EMT Supervisor at Columbine Ambulance Service is easily recognized as "Andy." No one ducks into a stairwell when Andy approaches. His friendly wit is always welcome and brightens many a day.
With aspirations to be a wonderful husband and loving father, and proud to claim Nebraska as his first home, Andy moved to this area at age sixteen and shortly thereafter graduated from Heritage High School in Littleton. Andy is reluctant to shine in any spotlight stating that he became an EMT at ACC because he enjoys helping people and wanted to create a pathway into the fire service and "lo and behold, I found a connection."
When asked how Andy sees himself, he responds, "I see myself as a husband and a father; you could come into my house and search for hours and you would find no clue as to what I do for a living. I am not defined by my career; however, on the EMS side, professionally speaking, I see myself as fully committed. I am committed to the job and to the people we serve. I am not comfortable talking about myself. I don't know what else to say...I am somebody committed to doing the job right and to helping the people we hire and trying to teach them the way I have been taught by great people over the years. I have been fortunate to work with a lot of stellar people - the people that have trained me are now chiefs and officers. I try to pass along what they have taught me."
When asked how he maintains such a positive and humorous attitude, he replied, "I owe it to the people
around me - my family and the people around me to be in a good mood and to be friendly and nice - I am talking beyond just the job - I've always thought that I owe it to people to be friendly and pleasant to be around. You'd have a tough time finding people who would say that I am not funny; what's better than laughter? I haven't found it."
He went on to share, "Grounding in the home keeps me going. I have been blessed with a sound family including my mother and father, two brothers, a wife and three children. When they are your ultimate focus, everything else is easy."
How does Andy spend his time when not on the long hours at work? "I am with my wife and children and that is it. I don't do a whole lot of other things. My time is spent primarily with my family raising children."
Regarding challenging situations faced in EMS: "I've never been bothered on calls; I have never taken calls home with me and never had to run on a family member. My toughest stressful job-related stuff is employee issues...like having to fire someone who did not make the mark as a paramedic. I don't like having to send someone home...home without a job to a wife and kids - taking away a person's employment hits me hard since my sole purpose is to provide for my wife and kids."
When asked to talk about other challenges he has faced in EMS, he recounts the following experience: "I am three months into my job as an EMT and I have no clue what I am doing. I don't know where I'm going and I don't know how to do a medical procedure. We have things in the rig that I don't know what they are for. We were called to an MVA with a car wrapped around a tree and the patient was hanging out over the car and looked as if they were impaled on top of the fence. I feel like a layperson and I don't know what I am doing. We walk over and the patient wakes up and starts screaming and moving around. I just checked out for the rest of the call. A firefighter hands me a blue duffle bag and I don't know what it is. I walk around for ten minutes and didn't know what to do with the bag. I finally laid it down and walked away. The patient is extricated and intubated, boarded, IVs...the paramedic pushed me out of the back of the rig and told me we can go now. I don't even remember how we got to the hospital...but we did. We used to have to give our code three routes over the radio. I got hysterical on the biophone and my voice got really high and I was speaking fast. The owners of the ambulance company then were standing out on the corner as we drove by and waved to me to make sure that I was okay."
Andy is quick to cite his role models: "My father comes first, clearly. He is my role model for most all of my ventures in life. Professionally, Kevin Zeiler was a role model in my early years. He taught me and took me under his wings. As far as other role models, I don't necessarily work with these people or know them well personally but there are people I follow and admire. I know their work and I follow them; they may not even know who I am and I am not stalking them but what they do is very good work. I greatly admire professionally, to name only a few, Todd Parson and Jodi Peterson. I also admire Millard Powell; he is a role model as a human being."
With so many of his calls involving geriatric patients and interfacility transfers, Andy explains: "If my company suffers, then clearly I suffer. I understand if we in the field don't do well and don't treat people well and provide customer service then the company suffers and then my family suffers. I love these calls...I love working with the elderly. I don't find these cases to be boring. I think they are interesting and I always learn something."
When asked for pieces of wisdom and philosophy, he responds: "One of the reasons people don't last in this field is if they have a lack of consistency. If you are consistent with how you deal with people and the protocols and work relationships, then there is no reason why you can't sustain a long career.
He elaborates: "I am not a different person on Tuesday and a different person on Wednesday. I deal with everyone and everything the same. I see a lot of people who first get into this business and they are very motivated to study. Once they are over the fear hump of what they are potentially responsible for in this job, then they get lazy with the reading and the studying and they rely on ‘you name it, I've done it.' Just because you've done it in the past once or twice doesn't mean that you are going to remember it today."
He ends our conversation with these comments, "Even if you vary even slightly in the margins, the whole thing can go completely out of control...this holds true with work and relationships....you have to stay consistent....always...or six years later, it's over."
Thank you, Andy, for spending time with us and unselfishly sharing your thoughts. We asked a friend and EMS colleague to comment about you and below are the words shared with us by Brian McCoy, a paramedic, firefighter and SWAT medic with South Metro Fire Rescue Authority.
He sent us this thoughtful note: "Working with Andy as your partner is the best of both worlds because you know you can depend on him and you know no matter what happens it will turn out to be a fun day. Any time Andy comes up in conversation I smile to myself because he is the kind of person that is fun to be around. Behind his comical nature is a deep caring for people and dedication to our profession. Andy has taught me a lot about EMS and about life over the 13 years I have known him. He teaches without trying to be a teacher. He can show you how important it is to connect with your patients. He demonstrates how staying calm during difficult calls is key to a good outcome. Time and again he has proven that humor is often the best medicine for our patients and for us. He also has shown me that at the end of your shift it is your family not the job that matters most. Though he is too humble to admit it he is one of the most experienced EMT's in the metro area. To me Andy embodies the word partner."
A story about love.
Trumbull, South Platte, Dome Rock, Buffalo Creek, Ferndale, Oxyoke, Pine and Twin Cedars are all historic communities within the North Fork Volunteer Fire Department's response area. Once known as Rio Chato and later the Rio Jesus Maria, the beautiful South Platte River bifurcates into the north and south branches in this area and then joins at the South Platte Hotel to flow on through Colorado and into Nebraska where it joins the North Platte to become the famous Platte River. Eventually the Platte flows into the Missouri River and on into the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico.
NFVFD Fire Chief (since 1996) Curt Rogers and EMS Captain Aimee King-Rogers have known each other since middle school in Conifer, CO. "We fought then as kids do. Later at West Jefferson High school, we took turns carpooling with carloads of kids who did not want to ride the school bus two hours each way from home. We didn't start dating until late 1986 and weren't married until 1993 - in a gazebo on land where our current home is located. College and other life events took place first."
Curt and Aimee now lead the 30-member North Fork VFD in Buffalo Creek. They have been with that department in various capacities since 1981 when they were Explorers. Aimee states that she carried her first water pack up a hill at age eight. Her dad was the fire chief then and both she and Curt learned to drive fire trucks before cars. Curt's grandmother was an EMT with this same department and his father was a Captain.
In this beautiful and remote outpost, there is no immediate support available. An ambulance transport takes 1-2 hours each way "on a good day." Parts of the district require nearly double that time for transports. There have been the usual calls - the chest pains, the cardiac arrests, respiratory problems - and the not-so-usual calls including swift water rescues, critical trauma events and others that most emergency providers have never witnessed.
Curt and Aimee lost their cabin and all that they owned in the Buffalo Creek forest fire of 1996. Shortly thereafter, two floods followed where local lives were lost. Curt and Aimee rebuilt their home in 1997 and share, "thanks in so many ways to the community. Everyone jumps in to help."
They call their two boys, Justin and Cody, their "flood babies." Aimee recalls that on Cody's due date, she was on a long hike to rescue a gunshot wound patient. On Justin's due date, she was working a chest pain call that was ultimately a cardiac arrest in the Dome Rock area of their district. A few days later, Justin was born.
Aimee shares, "Up here there is little choice. We do what we have to do and we do it for our community. We know 90% of our patients. Many of them have known us since we were kids. We have to care for patients who are members of our own department, some of whom we have sadly lost. We then have to comfort their families. We have transported our grandfather who never came home as well as other family members." They note, too, that they usually can anticipate what problems they are going to encounters because they know most of their patients' histories and medications and that "their (the patients) expectations of us are high because they know us."That same community made and presented them a love quilt after the 1996 fire. They fondly recall this kind gesture of support.
"We have had to change our home voice mail message in the past to ‘please call 911' because everyone knows us and often calls our home when there is an emergency."
Following the Buffalo Creek fire in 1996 there was the Hi Meadow Fire of 2000 and closely after that the Hayman Fire of 2002.
There are three stations in the North Fork VFD district located in Pine, Buffalo Creek, and Trumbull. Chief Curt is on duty or call most of the time but they also have a loyal crew members who provide medical care from the EMTs and paramedics, many of whom work full time in other departments including Pridemark Paramedics and West Metro Fire. Another crew member is the Coordinator of the EMS program at Red Rocks Community College (RRCC).
RRCC is also where Aimee earned her PA in 2007. Since then she has worked full time as a Physician's Assistant with the emergency physicians of the EPPH group exclusively serving Porter, Littleton and Parker Adventist Hospital Emergency Departments.
NFVFD is, understandably, a proud department. When asked the secret to the department's success, Curt and Aimee replied that "we try to maintain a purposefully laid-back environment and to provide education to make them all comfortable with their often difficult jobs - that community thing again."
When asked what they loved most about their professions, they immediately replied "our community."
The casket and mourners were gone and the cavernous church sanctuary was silent.
Used tissues littered the floor in the front row where Brian Kopp's family had been seated. On the floor in front of the stage, the firefighter's boots and suit lay neatly folded, his last name visible in bright yellow letters. The suit was dirty and worn from years of battling fires and dealing with medical emergencies. It represented the core of Kopp's identity - a man of action who lived to help others.
Family and friends praised the 38-year-old father from Larkspur for his achievements as a pilot, house designer and skilled carpenter. They said he never boasted.
"If you asked him what he did, he would simply tell you he was a fireman," his brother, Kenneth Kopp, a commander in the Navy, said during the service, conveying a message from the firefighter's wife, Jennifer.
Kopp died Dec. 27 in an avalanche during a snowmobiling trip in Grand County. Before being smothered by the snow slide, he had tried to help another snowmobiler, Mark Goetz, 19, who also died. Kopp's reputation for helping others was the foundation of a formal firefighter tribute at his funeral Friday at Church of the Rock.
More than 900 people attended the service, including scores of men in blue who lined the sanctuary walls. Kopp had served eight years at South Metro Fire Rescue and was preparing to become a lieutenant.
His close friend, Chuck Goetz, served as a pallbearer.
It was Goetz's second funeral of the week. On Wednesday, Goetz buried his son, Mark. Chuck Goetz was caught in the same slide on Gravel Mountain but survived. Chuck Goetz and Kopp were avid snowmobilers. Photos of them on their "sleds" were shown during the service. The screen also projected images of Kopp windsurfing, hunting and jumping on a trampoline.
Kenneth Kopp reveled at the projects his brother worked on, including restoring an airplane and an antique piano, and studying toward an advanced pilot rating.
"Brian was a man who simply loved doing things, clearly marching to the beat of his own drum," Kopp said. "When I asked him when he was going to finish those projects . . . he said . . . 'Why would I want to do that? I enjoy working on them too much.' "
Kopp called his brother a "quiet hero - the best kind" who would have been embarrassed by the crowd at the funeral.
Friend and fellow firefighter paramedic Mike Porter said Kopp adored his family and was "full of compassion" and didn't like sitting around.
"On days when the calls were few and we didn't get out much, it drove him crazy," Porter said. "He wanted to be running calls all the time." -kimm@RockyMountainNews.com
We thoroughly enjoyed our "Who's Who" interview with Lt. John Mason, EMS Coordinator for Franktown Fire Protection District.
When we asked John how he got involved with EMS, he explained, "I stumbled into EMS...I got tired of school...had a friend who was doing this...and here I am 31 years later still doing it!"
Now that is quite a stumble!!
John started school initially to be a high school history teacher but he thought it sounded interesting to take a break and go into EMS. He always had an interest in medicine and was fascinated with it. He spent a lot of time on a farm learning about veterinary medicine and lived in north central "Missourah" until he was 13. He then moved to Aurora, Colorado but always went back to grandparents' farm until he was 18 years old.
John attended Cherry Creek High School and graduated in 1976. He shared that he was also in school with another well-known person in EMS: Eric Levings! Some other EMS legends that he talked about during our interview included H.B. Roberts, Bob Lovelace, Jim Miller, John Glenn and Norris Croom.
John is the proud father of two teenagers who are in high school. He shares that his daughter, a junior, is interested in being a nurse practitioner and has expressed this interest for over three years.
John's history in EMS began when he attended EMT-Basic school at Aurora Presbyterian in November 1978. He was then hired at Ambulance Service Company (ASCo) in July 10, 1978 and worked on the wheelchair car for 6 months. He worked downtown for "quite a while" and "picked the brains" of medics Kevin Schmidt and Steven Weatherby. He elaborated that Weatherby "took the time and believed in passing on the information that you have." He also shared that Doug Ireland and Jeff Klingman were their partners, respectively.
John then attended paramedic school through Swedish and graduated in December 1981. He explains, "I was in the last dungeon class before they changed locations."
John continued with ASCo after becoming a paramedic. He moved around to different coverage areas and ended up in Douglas County where he worked until 1997. He elaborated that in 1994 AMR bought ACSO and in 1995 bought A-1 and Reed. He was then working for AMR in 1997 and went to SWAC until mid-2001.
Looking for a change of scenery, John then moved to Helena, Montana to work for St. Peter's Hospital hospital-based ambulance service. He said this was a great experience as it offered follow through with patient care and the chance to provide care in the ED. He appreciated the willingness to help others, learned good ideas and enjoyed trading thoughts and unique techniques. After this respite he then came back to CO in 2003 and has been with Franktown Fire since May 2003.In addition to the focus with Franktown Fire, John also worked the International Golf Tournament at Castle Pines for 21 years. He was in charge of the EMS Medical Committee for 20 of these years. He also worked at other golf tournaments and, additionally, provided CPR classes for golf marshals.
When we asked John about his current perspective of EMS, he shared, "It's more of a challenge - I have to challenge myself more than I used to. Because of my position I keep up to date on all the research. I am at the point now where I try to pass on the knowledge to the crews to keep them from stepping into the same traps that I fell in. And, I learn just as much from the guys just coming out of school."
When asked for other comments and insight that he has gained over the many years of his extensive EMS career, John shared the following with us: "I got into it [EMS] more to help people out and now it is more of a challenge to help the younger generation. The young kids coming out of school have lost the compassion and have not been taught to talk to people; they know how to use the tools but they don't know how to talk to people. I wish it was something that we could get back. It frustrates me. When we do trainings I try to emphasize this. If they try using 'small talk' during the patient scenarios I encourage the mock patient to share more information. This helps reinforce the need to talk to one's patient to really find out what's going on. I'm trying to instill this...some who have been in the field get this...most don't."
His parting thought to us was this: "One day I WILL beat Sanko in golf. Eighteen years ago when I was playing a lot we would have been about even."
Thank you, John, for all that you have contributed to EMS over the last three decades. We appreciate you and are fortunate to have you in Colorado!
Keeping people safe has always been a focus for Stuart Mills. From his days serving in the U.S. Navy — first as a propulsion boiler technician at sea and then as a naval station police officer at Pearl Harbor — to today as the EMS division chief for the Larkspur Fire Protection District, Mills has dedicated his career to serving and protecting.
“I enjoy working with people and helping them,” Mills says. “Often my role puts me in a position where I can help people when they are most vulnerable. I thrive on trying to make those circumstances more manageable and playing a part in minimizing their potential for future negative outcomes.”
After growing up in Texas and Tehran, Iran, where his father worked in the natural gas industry, Mills completed high school in Monument, Colo., and then spent a decade in the Navy. After his military service, he was unsure of his next long-term career goal until he came across an ad for a part-time firefighter for the Woodmoor/Monument Fire Protection District (now known as Tri-Lakes/Monument Fire Protection District). He got the position, and then went on to earn his paramedic certification and join the staff full time in 1995. On a whim, he “put his name in the hat” for the EMS division chief position at the Larkspur Fire Protection District in 1998 and has been there ever since.
“It’s the greatest job in the world,” Mills says. He was first tasked with starting an ambulance transport service from scratch, which he got off the ground in two months. Always on call, Mills handles everything from responding to emergencies to grant writing to ensuring EMTs and paramedics receive their continuing education hours.
When Mills joined the department, he was one of four full-time staff members with 25-30 volunteers. Today, the district’s team consists of 19 full-time staff, eight part-time firefighter/EMTs, and 38 volunteers.
“Watching our department grow and increase its capabilities to provide the current high quality of services our community deserves has been a fun and rewarding experience,” Mills says.
Public service is part of Littleton Fire Rescue Chief John Mullin’s genetic code. The son of a firefighter and brother of a police officer and firefighter, Mullin began his career, after graduating from Northern Colorado University, as a special education teacher. However, a teacher strike shortly after he started had him quickly looking at other opportunities.
“I was blessed to be called by Littleton Fire Rescue in 1974 and have never looked back,” Mullin says. “Every day has been different, and I have truly enjoyed the journey. I consider my colleagues my second family.”
Always interested in his father’s line of work, Mullin had submitted applications to police and fire departments at the same time as teaching applications because education jobs were sparse at the time, he says. He landed a role with Arapahoe High School shortly before the strike and received the call from Littleton Fire Rescue, where he has spent the majority of his 40-year career.
“It was really destiny,” Mullin says.
Mullin started with Littleton as a firefighter/paramedic and climbed the ranks to battalion chief before leaving in 1998 to become chief of the Woodlands Fire Department in Texas. Mullin spent six years in that role, during which time he also earned his Master of Science degree in fire and emergency management from Oklahoma State University and his master’s in business administration from the University of Phoenix. While he saw a future in Texas, a fortuitous opportunity in 2004 brought Mullin back to Colorado as Littleton Fire Rescue chief.
“I always knew that I wanted to be a chief,” Mullin says. “Texas was a great first opportunity in the role, but returning to Littleton truly brought my career full circle.”
Mullin believes that “it’s always a good time to be in public safety” and now more than ever, the industry needs smart, flexible people to anticipate and address the ever-changing landscape. Mullin has appreciated the opportunity to continually learn and grow with his colleagues and stresses the need for all EMS providers to focus on continuing education.
“Anyone in this line of work really needs to stay on top of things, as there are always new challenges coming our way,” Mullin says.
While Mullin may be hanging up his hat as Littleton Fire Rescue chief soon, his legacy for public service will live on in his daughter, who is an assistant principal in Denver. Public service, after all, runs deep in the Mullin family.
"A dinosaur paramedic with a boatload of experience"
Our interview with West Metro Fire/Rescue EMS Captain Kevin Schmidt included the humorous and self-effacing response above when he was asked, "Professionally, who are you?" Fortunately for the Denver metropolitan area, Kevin has worked as a paramedic in the world of emergency medical services for well over 20 years...in fact, he took the FIRST Colorado state paramedic examination. That is, once it started to be offered!
How did Captain Kevin become interested in the world of emergency medicine?
He was a junior ski patrolman at Keystone Resort while he was in high school. During this time he was awarded the Ralph Edwards National Award - a ski patrol award given to only the best in the USA. He then attended initial EMT-B training in the fall of 1973 (along with Tim Floyd who used to work at Littleton Fire Rescue) and they both graduated in 1974. He took this class through the Arapahoe Medical Foundation which was coordinated through Swedish.
After Kevin graduated from John F. Kennedy High School in Denver, he needed a summer job. He applied at all the ambulance companies in town and landed at Ambulance Service Company. He worked there in the summer and was a professional ski patrolman in the winter of 1974 - 1975. He then came back to Ambulance Service Company and got his paramedic certification in 1977 at Swedish.
He continued his employment at AmServ and then went to DG in 1979 and worked there under the expert tutelage of Bob Marlin, Chief Paramedic. Kevin worked at DG for nine years with a year of overlap when he began employment with Lakewood Fire Department in 1987. Lakewood Fire had six stations back then. The merge with Bancroft Fire happened in the 1990s and then they became West Metro Fire / Rescue, the name by which they are currently known today.
What else does Kevin do?
He is involved with USAR - Colorado Task Force 1 and was deployed to NYC for 9/11. He, along with the rest of the team, was deployed for Hurricanes Rita, Gustav and Ike. He currently holds a Plans Team Manager position with the Urban Search and Rescue Team and has been involved since the early 1990s.
He is also has training in Public Safety SCUBA and Dive Rescue I and is an instructor for both programs.
What are some challenging (to say the least) situations Kevin has faced in EMS?
He shared with us that when he was a brand-new paramedic at DG he worked a cardiac arrest in his home. The patient was his father. He explained to us, "I worked my dad as a cardiac arrest, four days after Christmas...and worked him all the way to the hospital in a DG ambulance. He lived for 11 days after that - it gave my mom some time to think things through..."
As if that wasn't gut-wrenching enough to hear, he also shared that John Rumpf ("another DG medic") was renting out a room from a mother of one of his friends. He explained that John was a DG medic at the time and that they were often partners on the ambulance. "We got sent to the house where John was renting a room. We were called on a GSW, not knowing if it was John or not. My friend's mother ended up being the patient who was shot...and my childhood house was only a few doors away...we responded not knowing who we were running on..."
Moving on to a lighter note, Captain Kevin has probably attended more EMS CE classes offered through our EMS department than anyone we know!! We asked him, "What drives you to attend so many EMS CEs - clearly above and beyond state and national registry hour requirements?"
He explained, "EMS is an evolving field...I remember when CPR was the back pressure-arm lift...and having gone to so many CEs an instructor will sometimes give their viewpoint on a particular medical condition that a previous instructor also presented...but the difference in how it was presented will be the key that unlocks the understanding of the process."
He further elaborated that "I go stay current, maintain national registry and in my position as a SaM (Safety and Medical Officer) I needed to stay ahead of the paramedics so that I would have knowledge of what was going on out there."
"Who are your role models, Kevin?"
"You always look up to your parents." He also pointed out that Dr. Cleve Trimble made an impact on him. He elaborated, "the thing that sticks with me is that he was a well-known ED physician in the 1970s at Swedish, and it wasn't beneath him to pick up a mop and clean up the floor after a messy trauma case...that carries over when you go pick up an elderly patient who has defecated on themselves...there should be nothing that is beneath you...you provide EMS care. It's what you do."
Finally, a few other pieces of wisdom and philosophy from Captain Kevin - which help to explain why he was selected to be featured in Who's Who in EMS:
"Having worked for private, municipal and fire-based services gives me a perspective on all three. They all have their egos. They all have their unique perspectives on patient care that each entity can learn from each other...things like cost containment, dynamic dispersals and peak staffing. Egos aside, everyone can learn from the other entities to improve and make patient care better."
"You look at patient care and try to provide the best care possible...the small things that EMS doesn't think about has a big impact on patients and their families. We lose patients but how you go about it has a huge impact on the family. Like the cardiac arrest that walked out the other day...the huge impact on the wife and the kids is bigger than that one life that you saved.
"You learn something from every patient you have worked with. For example, the Glenn Fishman rule...‘ma'am would you please bring me the kitchen trash can....and he would throw the paper wrappings from intubation and needle wrappers away before we left the scene." Or, I think about a medic like Steve Weatherby who could run a cardiac arrest from a Lazy-Boy chair...things you pick up from the old, seasoned paramedics that you just carry over!""We all make mistakes all the time in patient care. Some are more consequential than others. It is easy to learn from others' mistakes than to make them yourself. M and Ms are critical to hear about other people's decision points and how things occur so that you don't have to make the same mistakes on the patients that you care for..."
Bob Marlin, WMFR EMS Coordinator: "Kevin's talent for providing quality prehospital emergency medical care became quickly evident to us when he came to work with us at Denver General back in the days of the Knife and Gun Club. His skills and clinical judgment were second to none and he delivered his care with alacrity. His first allegiance was always to his patients and he cared not whose feathers he might ruffle. It would be fair to say that some of the progress we made as a system was due to Kevin's special ability to ‘push the envelope.' Although at times this may have caused me some angst, he did it with nothing but good intention, for both patient care and for system development.""Kevin left Denver General to take the next step in his career as a firefighter with Lakewood Fire Department, which later merged with Bancroft Fire Department and is now known as West Metro Fire Rescue. Not surprisingly, he has become a fine officer and served for many years as one of our most talented Safety and Medical (SaM) officers. He has since been promoted to Captain and currently serves as our EMS Captain. Ironically, now I can cause him some angst because he is my supervisor! Among many other things (and with all due respect to the folks at High Plains), he has made a significant contribution to our local EMS community with his work in helping to develop electronic reporting. His broad understanding of this still-emerging resource is staggering!""In closing, there are several other things that I could mention in listing Kevin's strengths, attributes and contributions. But what I would choose most to offer is what I have come to view as the greatest compliment to a fellow paramedic: if one of my family was life-threatened and needed prehospital emergency medical care, Kevin is on my short list of paramedics who I would hope to show up!"
Heidi has been with SMFRA since March of 1998 and is currently a paramedic firefighter and acting lieutenant. She has recently floated to several different stations with the changes and merger of South Metro Fire Rescue with Parker Fire Department.
We recently caught up with Heidi at Station 44 where she was busy with projects and preparing to leave in two days for Moab, Utah to compete in the Adventures Xtreme Moab adventure race consisting of kayak, mountain bike, trek, rappel and navigation disciplines.
Spending her younger years between Berkeley, CA, and Silverton, CO, she had an exciting variety of experiences. Her grandparents lived in Loveland, CO and became her inspiration for ultimately moving to this area.
Before moving to Colorado, Heidi obtained her BS in Exercise Science at Arizona State University, then an MA in Sports Medicine at San Jose State University. Some highlights in those years included being an Athletic Trainer
at the Taiwan Olympic Training Center at Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Heidi says that she learned how privileged we are as Americans as she traveled internationally to train and to see the many different sights.
She completed her initial EMT training with Phoenix Fire / Mesa Community College in 1986. While in sports medicine in the late 1990s, she began her transition into EMS while riding along with San Jose Fire Rescue.
She completed FF1 at North Washington District Fire Academy in 1997 and was selected for a firefighter position at Castlewood Fire in 1998. She went on to complete EMT training at St. Anthony's and later paramedic school at Swedish in 2001.
She is an advocate for the elderly and enjoys treating and working with them.
Heidi is very pleased to be a member of the Honor Guard at South Metro Fire Rescue Authority. She cites her proudest moment:
"Representing SMFRA at the FDNY 9/11 Memorial in 2002 was one of the most honored experiences of my career. Marching in the rain, representing our fallen brothers in such a terrible tragedy, was humbling. Participating with the thousands of firefighters from across the country and other parts of the world reminded me of what a large family that I am a part of."
Heidi admits to having two cats; the limit to avoid being known as the "crazy cat lady."
Heidi considers being a paramedic a privilege. When asked to illustrate a trait to share with others, she states that she is very proud of being a public servant. "We take people's children out of their homes and they trust us completely..."
Barb Foster, EMS Education Coordinator at SMFRA says of Heidi, "I know of few that could be considered a role model for young women in the fire service. I believe Heidi to be one of them. She is intelligent, bright, funny, dedicated and compassionate, working hard to achieve her goals. She is a paramedic firefighter, coordinator for the Honor Guard and the Safety Committee, and is an acting officer. She earns her ‘stripes' and does not accept less than the best for her patients and her crew."
Pamela Struthers’ passion for EMS stems from her desire to help her community. Wanting to make a difference, Struthers has done it all, from firefighter, EMT, and paramedic to educator and community volunteer. Her dedication to the field hasn’t gone unnoticed. Nominated by her peers, Struthers was awarded the Francis Mildred Roth Women in EMS Award at the Colorado State EMS Conference in November. The award recognizes one woman each year who has made a significant contribution to EMS in Colorado. Struthers fits the bill.
“My passion for EMS has totally changed my career,” says Struthers, currently an EMS educator for Centura Health who spent 30 years as an RN at Children’s Hospital Colorado before pursuing a career in EMS. “I feel fortunate to have gone down this path.”
As a professional nurse, Struthers saw the need for EMS in her rural community located in Elbert County. Realizing that there was little she could do in EMS as a nurse, she pursued her FF1 certification and started volunteering at the local fire department. In 2003, she became an EMT and in 2007, she became a paramedic after 1½ years of studying and participating in an intensive two-week bridge program offered to RNs in Omaha, Neb.
“I saw that my community was really in need of someone with more advanced life-support training,” Struthers says. After Struthers received her NREMT-P, she joined the Elizabeth Fire Protection District as a volunteer firefighter and paramedic. She transitioned to an educator role in 2011, now serving as an EMS educator for Centura Health South Denver EMS.
Volunteering throughout the community has always been a priority for Struthers so naturally, she has incorporated her EMS skills into giving back, offering FREE CPR classes to community members.
“I observed a dispatcher encouraging bystanders to administer CPR to a person who had collapsed from a cardiac event,” Struthers says. “No one acted because they all said they weren’t qualified and were afraid to do anything. I put myself in their shoes and understood, but then I decided I could do something about it.”
Struthers began offering FREE CPR classes two years ago and has trained more than 200 people.
Committed to education and community outreach, Struthers has spoken at numerous conferences, and she has served as a volunteer the past four years for Mile-High RETAC, a partnership of people and agencies committed to offering quality emergency medical and trauma care for patients in Denver and the surrounding counties. Through Mile-High RETAC, she is currently working on a new CPR initiative for laypeople.
When asked what advice she has for others in the EMS field, Struthers says, “If you have a desire to do it, pursue it. Work hard to follow through and support whatever you set your sights on.” Struthers also believes that anyone in EMS needs a sense of humor and a belief in a higher power, whatever that may be, to be successful in the field.
A native of Illinois, Struthers moved to Colorado in 1981. A mother of two daughters — one a nurse at Children’s Hospital Colorado and the other in residency at the University of Colorado School of Medicine — Struthers and her husband are expecting their third grandchild in February. While she is an avid horse rider and loves to read, Struthers admits that the majority of her focus is on EMS work.
“The field just fascinates me and allows me to continue to grow as a professional and person. It’s been a challenge, but also a real honor to work in the field,” Struthers says.
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