The call comes in and they’re never sure what they’ll find when they get there, but they do know that they’re going to help someone at a time of great need. That’s why they got into this profession – to help others. Lincoln County Emergency Service recently named this year’s “of the year” recipients – rookie, emergency medical technician and paramedic.
While she isn’t quite a rookie with almost two years under her belt, Majhetzy “Sky” Angeles Diaz received this year’s Rookie of the Year Award. Diaz is from Pineville and attended Charlotte Piedmont Community College for her EMT training.
“I’ve always liked things in the medical field, I just didn’t know where I wanted to go,” she said. “I started a nursing program and kind of thought it was boring. It was in a controlled area in a hospital. On an ambulance, you get to experience something new on every call.”
A friend told her about an EMT class that was going to start and she had a free semester, so she enrolled.
“I really liked it and decided to go the EMS route,” she said. “At first, I was looking for a part-time job which is why I took this job, but now I’m full-time. I love the system that they have here and the supervisors. Everyone is very caring. I like the freedom that they give us within the range of our capabilities.”
Diaz starts paramedic training in August.
“I’m still new so there’s calls that I haven’t gone on yet. If we get a call that I haven’t been on, I freeze up a little bit,” she said. “It’s good to have a partner that’s been doing it for a while to help you adjust and reposition so you’re good to go.”
A seasoned paramedic always travels with emergency medical technicians.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year is this year’s EMT of the year. Jennifer Tipton is from Alexander County and has been with Lincoln County EMS for almost two years as well. At first, Tipton looked at getting an education as an emergency medical technician as something that she could do in a hurry to get a job and start working.
“I always loved helping people” she said. “I worked as a hospice CNA for a while. Once I got a job here and started working, I fell in love with it.”
Tipton got her EMT education at Catawba Valley Community College. She’s enrolled in paramedic school now and will be done in December. Paramedic school is a two-year commitment.
“Even if it’s just the smallest thing or biggest thing, when you get there, these people are looking at you for help,” she said. “You’re all they have. Even with the smallest thing, you can see the joy you bring. Sometimes an elderly person has fallen, and they need a lift assist. You help them and they’re so grateful. Sometimes you go out and they just need you to check their vitals.”
Of course, there’s those hard calls which can sometimes be challenging to get over. Images, Tipton said, that will stay with you forever, calls you won’t forget, outcomes that you may not have wanted to happen and then there’s the second guessing. Cardiac calls can be particularly difficult because sometimes the person can’t be revived.
“Knowing you hold someone’s life in your hands is sometimes scary,” she said. “You have to make life or death decisions every day. A lot of our calls are just basic calls, but on some, you have to be able to make decisions quickly.”
This year’s Paramedic of the Year is Jonathan Thomas who has been with Lincoln County EMS for five and a half years. He started out as an EMT.
“I worked in the hospital for a couple of years and felt kind of trapped by the four walls,” he said. “A friend of mine was taking an EMT class, and I thought it sounded interesting, so I took it too. I rode on a couple of shifts for the clinical, had a great time and kept on going.”
Thomas said that his job is fun every day, some days are just not quite as fun.
“I love interact with the people in the community,” he said. “Living a small town, you see people out and about that you’ve seen at their worst. You get to see them back to normal. I think that’s what I like best about it. I don’t think we’re heroes or anything. We’re just average people.”
As a paramedic, Thomas takes part in training new EMTs. He loves it when they have that “a ha” moment and it all clicks.
“All they know is classroom and textbook and when you put them beside a real person and say alright it’s your turn to take care of them,” he said. “They have this scared look and then they come into their own.”
Thomas also teaches paramedic training at Gaston College part-time.
Even with all his experience, Thomas still admits to being scared once or twice a day.
“You hear that call go out and you think of all the things that it could be,” he said. “You think ascending from this to a horrible thing. It can be scary, but having experience and confidence in yourself, you know that you can handle it.”