Paramedics respond to residents’ calls |

Paramedics respond to residents’ calls

by Merrie Leininger

When Douglas County residents have an emergency, they have a small but efficient group of men to rely on.

Recently, when a woman called 911 because she was going into labor, paramedics not only delivered her baby, but also revived the newborn, who had turned blue from lack of air.

Capt. Bobby Wartgow, Paramedic Andy Pennucci and EMT Matt Hill responded to the call. Of varying experience, the group worked together to help both mom and baby.

Wartgow said the paramedics found out quickly they would not have time to get the mother to the hospital and would have to deliver the baby themselves.

Wartgow, who is the father of four and has been a paramedic for 18 years, has seen it all, but Hill and Pennucci had never delivered a baby. Wartgow said the first-timers did well under the circumstances.

“Most (babies) deliver themselves, but she was having problems for a bit. She was in full respiratory arrest for a couple of minutes,” Wartgow said. “Primarily, we just observe in an OB unit and train on a mannequin, so it is very different when this happens for the first time, and this was kind of a tough one. We had to start advanced life support procedures right away.”

Pennucci, who has been a paramedic for two years and is also a reserve sheriff’s deputy, said he didn’t let the pressure of the situation boggle him.

“We had a job to do and we just did it. It doesn’t do any good if you get all riled up about it,” he said.

n Surprise! Although what they find at work may range from delivering a baby to fighting fires, the paramedics seem to like that about their jobs.

Hill, an EMT intermediate, joined the district as a volunteer with Douglas County Engine Co. in 1995 and was hired full-time July 1.

“Every day, it’s something new. It’s interesting the personalities you meet and dealing with the different incidents. You never know what to expect when you walk into somebody’s house,” Hill said.”I’ve worked in other positions where you just sit around. This is much more liking to my personality. You just know when you take the job, at anytime you will have to respond, and you try to prepare yourself mentally.”

The paramedics are the only paid, non-administrative emergency and fire personnel in the Valley. Although they actually respond to medical calls the majority of the time, they are usually the first to respond to fires also, because volunteer firefighters all have other jobs.

“Whenever there’s a fire in the Valley, we go. Because we are always on duty, we get out faster,” Hill said.

The paramedics work a 24-hour shift and sleep at the station on County Road. Then they have a day off. After working that schedule for about a week, they get four days off in a row. Usually, they work about 10 days a month.

Paramedics train for six months in the classroom, then an additional six months in the field before they are bumped up from the EMT designation. Paramedics are certified to do more things, such as administer drugs, than EMTs, and are paid more. EMTs start at $25,000 a year and paramedics start at $30,000.

Right now, there are 23 paramedics and EMTs employed by East Fork, but the department is going to hire three more soon to staff the new substation in the Ranchos. When the new fire station is built there in the spring, room for the full-time paramedics will be included.

n Positive way. All that time with a group of guys can turn them into a sort of family – one of the bonuses of the job, Hill said.

However, the best thing about the job is knowing they touched someone’s life in a positive way, Hill and Pennucci both said.

“The best thing is that you get to make a difference at times. I’ve never been the one to work for the highest dollar. I like just doing my job and making a difference,” Hill said.

“It’s always enjoyable knowing you helped put the pieces back together for somebody. It’s a good feeling that I helped bring a baby into the world,” Pennucci said.