Eustis paramedic: 50 years of learning
June 24, 2014
"She was a very small person, but suddenly became very violent and combative with the paramedics, which was a reaction of her illness."
Barry Johnson, a paramedic assigned to Fort Eustis Emergency Medical Services, recalled responding to an emergency situation involving a young female Soldier.
"[She] had been ordered to drink water to remain hydrated, and drank so much that she became water intoxicated, which flushes out many chemicals in your body," he said. "She came pretty close to not making it, but we were able to get her the care she needed and she made a successful recovery."
That instance has stuck in Johnson's mind as one of the more significant in his career. Through his experiences as a 50-year paramedic, Johnson has been able to share his knowledge and skills by serving as a teacher and role model to other paramedics and colleagues.
"He embodies everything EMS is suppose to be - care and concern for everyone," said Michael Holloway, a paramedic assigned to Fort Eustis EMS. "He strives to take care of people and has such dedication to this field, and even though he's been doing this for so long, he's really only just getting started."
Johnson first found his passion for the medical field after joining the U.S. Navy in 1962. Initially serving as part of a navigation team for three years, he later transitioned to a medical career field, where he served as a hospital corpsman for 19 years.
"The job itself is very rewarding," he said. "I am able to help people by getting those who need emergency care to the right place for that care."
After retiring from the Navy in 1984, Johnson still felt a strong desire to serve in a helping capacity through the medical field. A few years after retirement, he entered the next chapter of his career, serving with the Fort Eustis EMS.
Johnson has been a paramedic with the Fort Eustis EMS team since 1989, where he originally worked at the post's emergency room. Over the years, Fort Eustis' medical facilities transitioned from emergency care capabilities to the clinic it is today, where now the EMS responds to emergency situations and transports patients to local hospitals for emergency care.
Dawn Smith, an emergency medical technician intermediate assigned to Fort Eustis EMS, has been working with Johnson for 8 of her 11 years at Fort Eustis.
"After working with him almost on a daily basis during my time here, I've learned so much about him, and we've grown as colleagues each time we are on calls together," said Smith. "He has been an excellent teacher, and he always has a tidbit of information that I haven't heard before."
Johnson's knowledge of the medical field has garnered him the title of "second in command" when Rafael Ramos, Fort Eustis EMS supervisor, is out of the office.
"[He's in charge when I'm gone] because of his experience, dedication and ability to handle people," said Ramos. "I feel comfortable that when I leave, everything will be just fine when I get back."
Ensuring the EMS team operations run smoothly is just one aspect of his character Johnson is respected for. Although Smith has learned many things from Johnson, she said one of his most admirable traits is his humility.
"After all his experiences from so many years, he still acknowledges he has things to learn," said Smith. "He has true care and compassion for not only his patients, but his colleagues as well."
Whether taking care of coworkers or responding to an emergency call, Holloway said no matter the situation, Johnson is a role model to everyone.
"He's what we want to be when we 'grow up,'" said Holloway. "He's been doing this for 50 years, and not many people can say they've done anything in that amount of time to the extent he has. Everyone should aspire to accomplish something like that."
Johnson said while many people may find working in any career for 50 years would make for a long overdue retirement, he still sees a long future ahead.
"I enjoy what I do, and I very much like coming to work. When you stay at home, either you drive your wife, or yourself, crazy," said Johnson, with a smile. "I like the challenge of my job, of figuring out what's wrong and how to help people, and I plan on doing it for as long as I can."