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Paynesville Press - August 24, 2005

Two long-time members retire from ambulance corps

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

After serving the community as ambulance corps members for more than a decade each, Alice McColley and Chuck Schmidt retired this spring from the Paynesville Area Ambulance. McColley served as an EMT for 15 years, and Schmidt, a paramedic, served for 13 years on the corps.

When they look back, what they will both remember most, they agreed, will be the people...both the ones they worked with and the ones they helped over the years. "You make such good friends," said McColley. "They're all such good people," she continued.

"I will miss the camaraderie," agreed Schmidt.

During their years on the ambulance, Schmidt and McColley witnessed near-constant change in the way they did their jobs, everything from medical terminology to the way CPR was done and what medications paramedics and EMTs were allowed to administer changed, said Schmidt. Even the shape of backboards changed, said McColley.

As technology evolved, so did the scope of their jobs, so they spent a lot of time training, said McColley, who felt fortunate to have a good training officer.

Over the years, McColley and Schmidt responded to countless emergency scenes, some requiring little more than vitals checks while others were full-fledged emergencies that required heroic efforts to save a life.

Living and working in a small community, it was sometimes difficult knowing that the person he was responding to could be a friend or family member, said Schmidt. But, according to McColley, time didn't permit much worry. When a call went out, they went on autopilot and focused on the emergency and exactly what needed to be done, she said. Being well-trained made that possible, she added.

Some calls were sadder than others, said Schmidt. The worst involved children. "Kids aren't supposed to be hurt or sick," he said.

Others were sad and funny at the same time, he added. "When you get to a house, and the patient has his bag packed and is waiting at the door, it's kind of weird," said Schmidt.

Serving the community on the ambulance corps was rewarding, they agreed. Schmidt believed he was doing the right thing every time someone said "Thank you," and he was rewarded every time he saw a former patient walking down the street. "It's good to give backŠ to make a difference," said McColley. "If you're able to do something like this, you should."

Even though it was an important part of their lives, McColley and Schmidt both felt it was time to start the next phase of their lives.

Schmidt, who is married to Mary Ann and has six children, also left his job at PAHCS to start a business with his brother. Working for the hospital, which operates the Paynesville Area Ambulance, made it easier to do daytime call-outs, the hardest time for an all-volunteer ambulance corps to fill. (Ambulance corps members are paid only for their call-out time, not their on-call time.)

McColley, who is married to Marvin, thought it was time to spend more time with her family, which includes three children and six grandchildren. Being on-call nights and weekends, she missed a lot of family life, including birthday parties and special occasions, she said. Now, it's time to concentrate on her family and preparing for her daughter's wedding in October.

But both miss being a part of the ambulance corps, they said. "When I hear a siren, I wonder if it's police, fire, or ambulance," said Schmidt, a sentiment mirrored by McColley, who sometimes longs to be part of the corps again.

Whenever members of the community hear the sirens of a Paynesville Area Ambulance, they should consider how fortunate they are to have such a dedicated group of people in the community, according to McColley. "I can't stress enough how lucky the community is to have such an organization," she said.

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