When Ireland Army Health Clinic transitioned from a hospital to a clinic many people assumed such changes meant the area would no longer have an ambulance service. But the EMTs and paramedics that work in IRAHC Ambulance Services (EMS) want the local community to know otherwise.

EMS appreciation week is May 22-26 and the IRAHC AS EMS will hold an open house May 26 from noon to 2 p.m., so the public can get to know them better.

Freddie George, the lead paramedic who will also be at the open house, said it would include a tour of the ambulances, the unit's public areas and they will demonstrate what they go do when they arrive on a scene and why they follow the procedures they have.

And visitors will learn that those procedures aren't just about knowing CPR. George said training to be an EMT takes about six months to learn the treatments and procedures necessary to preserve life and reduce morbidity and mortality of their patients.

Paramedic training is an additional two years, where students learn advanced procedures and treatments. He added that once initial training is complete, an EMT is required to attend 48 hours of training every two years and a paramedic is required to attend 72 hours of training every two years.

George has been a paramedic for 29 years, and with the Fort Knox EMS for 23 years.
"I first became an EMT to help my community, (and later became a paramedic)" George said. "I still continue to work as a paramedic because I believe that my gift from God is that of helping others in their time of medical need."

And using that gift from God has required a good deal of faith.

"One of the greatest quotes for any first responder be it police, fire or EMS comes from Detroit Firefighter Dave Parnell, 'I wish my mind would forget what my eyes have seen,'" George explained. "This is why having strong beliefs and faith are so important to EMTs and paramedics."

He said the difference between an EMT and paramedic is that an EMT is the first line care provider in a medical emergency, providing immediate basic life-saving skills. A paramedic continues where the EMT skill level ends. Paramedics provide advanced procedures such as intubation--insertion of a breathing tube--IV access, cardiac monitoring and medication administration.

"EMT's and paramedics, in my opinion, are like cookies and milk-- one simply does not work without the other," added Dawn Wise, another of the unit's paramedics the public might meet at the open house.

Wise said that after 26 years as a paramedic she doesn't think there is anything she would find more satisfying to do for a career. And at the end of a shift, she knows she did everything she could to help someone in need.

"I just can't imagine not being a paramedic--I love what I do, the good and the bad," she said.
And sometimes, the bad can be really bad. Wise doesn't have to think about her worst day--she knows the date by heart--Dec. 11, 2008.

"I was working at Meade County EMS, and responded to an MVA (Motor Vehicle Accident) and when we arrived on the scene, my daughter Chelsea, was in one of the vehicles," she remembered. "She was on her way to school, and the roads had a slight bit of frost on them. She lost control of her car in a curve and collided with a full size truck."

Her daughter had been killed instantly. Wise said it was then that she realized being a paramedic is a blessing and a curse.

"I know now that I was put there for a reason," she stated. "It took me a while to come to terms with it, but I have something most parents don't: the moment she came into the world, and the moment she left."

But, Wise and George said there are good days to the job. Those involve spending time with co-workers, who are more like family, celebrating holidays and birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and other joyous events. And when they aren't on emergency runs they spend duty time keeping up-to-date on the latest pre-hospital treatments to better help their patients.

They spend time with family when not at work--George with his granddaughters who he said he adores, and Wise with her three grown sons and her husband with whom she enjoys traveling, golfing and fishing. But, both remind us that paramedics work every day, all year--there is no time when an EMS office is "closed."

"So when most folks are home on Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthday parties, and family events we may be working for 24 hours away from home," Wise noted. "It's fulfilling, as much as it is stressful. But being a paramedic has made me stronger. And makes me appreciate all that I have been blessed within my life."

EMS appreciation week is May 22-26 and the Fort Knox Ambulance Service will hold an open house May 26 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Ireland Army Health Clinic Ambulance Service office, outside near the pharmacy. The open house will include a tour of the ambulances, the unit's public areas and they will demonstrate what they go do when they arrive on a scene and why they follow the procedures they have.