As many of you know I began my career as a serving wench at ‘Enry Beazely’s Fish n Chips in Portland, Oregon. Mr. Beazely had a profound impact on how I view the world. He believed that we are put on this earth to serve one another, and if you are serving someone, you are doing work that MATTERS.

I took that servant heart to the credit union world 36 years ago this month! Happy CU Anniversary to me! And yesterday I decided to do something that matters to the community I live in. I attended my first training session to become a Volunteer Firefighter and EMS.

I live in the town of Cochiti Lake, New Mexico, population 569. We are situated 30 miles Southwest of Santa Fe. The Cochiti Fire Department covers the Cochiti and Santo Domingo Pueblos as well as the town of Pena Blanca situated smack dab in the middle (pop. 661).

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Cochiti Lake Volunteer Fire Department

I had just completed 3 hours of classroom training that covered the operation of the Fire Trucks and the Ambulances. No behind the wheel stuff yet.

After classroom training they fed us lunch and then the rest of the volunteers showed up to clean the fire station and equipment. I offered to clean the bathroom, seeing as I was a newbie I felt I should start at the bottom. They gladly let me. So I’m literally scrubbing the toilet when the Chief comes in and says “We just got a call, wanna go?” Heck yes!! So I climbed into the ambulance on the passenger side, buckled up, and we were off. It was a Code 3 which generally means sirens and lights on. We were going only 6 miles down the road to Pena Blanca. A 23 year old woman, 5 months pregnant had a seizure.

Did you know that an emergency vehicle does not have the right to run a stop sign or red light? The sirens, lights and horn are asking “permission” to do this. Meaning, if someone decides not to pull over, and we are stuck – we are stuck. So please, if you see an emergency vehicle, please pull over. Do the right thing. Thankfully everyone on that stretch of Cochiti Highway had the good sense to pull over.

Out of respect for the young woman I won’t go into the details of her condition and cause, but it was very raw, and humbling and a bit frightening to willingly put myself in a situation of “not knowing.” You have very little information when you go out on a call. And it’s our job to get the story, assess the need quickly, and treat the patient appropriately. In her case she had to go to the hospital, and will likely be okay. And I got to drive the ambulance back to the station.  It should be noted that I excelled at the interaction with the patient and failed miserably at backing up an ambulance into a garage. I need practice.

Yesterday, at 1:00pm my radio went off. It was a Code 1 call. All we were told was a group of kids were hiking Tent Rocks National Monument and ran out of water and a few were dehydrated. So in your mind what do you see? Kids parked in the shade, waiting for someone to bring them water so they had the energy to walk safely back down.

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Tent Rocks National Monument

What we found on arrival was an 8 year-old girl, unresponsive, being carried down the trail. She was put in the ambulance immediately. We were told there were at least 10 kids still up the trail. So I grabbed as many bottles of water I could physically carry in a duffel bag and headed up the trail with another volunteer. Thankfully we found the rest in good condition, but hot and thirsty.

We rushed the 8 year-old to the hospital, and thankfully she will be okay but here’s the story. They were a group of kids in a summer program that had parents permission to go with 5 adults to hike Tent Rocks. None of them had ever been to the park before. One of the adults told me they thought they would have a guide, and they didn’t. They also thought they were doing the loop trail (short and easy) and they missed the turn-off so they ended up hiking up the steep canyon. To their credit they almost got to the summit, but, that’s when they all ran out of water and it was oven hot up there.  Here’s the story of the 8 year-old girl. She has asthma. And did not have her inhaler.

A happy ending to the story but it could have been avoided.

What I’m learning about myself as I begin this adventure.

  1. When it comes to helping people, no matter what the situation, I am a spring into action person. I am not the “What do you want me to do?” kind of volunteer. Like I said, I’ll clean the toilet.
  2. Adrenaline is your friend. Yesterday I took a brisk walk in the morning, followed by a 40 minute work-out on the eliptical. Had a bowl of pasta for a late breakfast/early lunch. So lots of exercise, very little nutrition. I was not in the least bit tired hiking up the hill with about 20 pounds of water, in the brutal heat, I practically jogged up it. Last night I popped Advil like they were M&Ms.
  3. I don’t like to make mistakes, but I have to get over it. I tried to put the gurney in backwards, I had trouble ripping the EKG paper from the machine. I forgot to plug in the ambulance.
  4. I was born to do this. I feel like I won the lottery. Living in a small remote town is not for everyone. And if you’d asked me 10 years ago if I would ever move from Seattle to the desert of NM and drive an ambulance……no way. I can never picture myself retired, with nothing to do but read or watch television. That is when you die. I knew that I would volunteer somehow. And now I am motivated to stay in shape, and do this for as long as I physically can.
  5. Pearls go with everything. The best part about the Tent Rocks story is that without my knowing it I had pearl earrings and a pearl necklace on as I hiked up that trail. Even though I work from home I bathe and get dressed every day. And I like to look snazzy. So when the call came I changed my shirt and shoes and was out the door in 3 minutes. With my pearls on!

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Some of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life didn’t pay me a dime. In fact, I’ve been told by many clients that I don’t charge enough for my services. And it’s because I would do it for free if I could. But don’t get me wrong CU people. I can’t do my consulting/speaking for free. But being a volunteer Firefighter/EMS completely satisfies my need to give back and serve. Work that matters.

Thank you Mr. Beazely.

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