Charlotte County Fire/EMS honors those who do more than their job


It was a western setting with straw bales, country music and barbecue for the Charlotte County Emergency Medical Service's 17th annual awards banquet at Carmalita Recreation Center in Punta Gorda.

The three hospitals in Charlotte County take turns sponsoring the banquet. This year it was sponsored by Fawcett Memorial Hospital. Bon Secours-St. Joseph Hospital and Charlotte Regional Hospital were also represented by staff members.

Awards were presented by Dennis Didio, Chief of Charlotte County Fire and EMS.

The Phoenix award is listed by the date of the save. The person in charge receives a plaque and the others on the crew receive framed certificates. They all receive a Phoenix pin. The Phoenix award is presented to the EMT or paramedic who brought a patient back to life.

Phoenix award recipients for the year are: July 15, 2002 --Paramedic Angela Dunaway, Lt. Kenneth Coblentz, Firemedic Ray Marchsteiner, Firemedic Sadler, FF/EMT Josh Hirshy and FF/EMT James Wilcox. May 30, 2002 -- Firemedic Jason Castelli, FF/EMT Patrick Judy, FF/EMT Todd Schwalbe and FF/EMT Jack Gurney. Jan. 26, 2003 -- Paramedic Angela Dunaway, Battalion Chief Frank Paolella, Lt. Kenneth Coblentz, Firemedic Chad McCullum, FF/EMT Randy Brown and FF/EMT Jim Westerman.

The Stork awards go to an EMT or Paramedic who delivers a baby. This year, there was only one stork award and the crew was Lt. Mead, Paramedic Isaacs, Firemedic Dickenson, FF/EMT Sasher and FF/EMT McLeod. Lilias Hochsprung and the baby girl born Jan. 18, 2003 were present at the banquet.

The Recognition award was given to Don Romer and Edward Diaz.

Three years ago, they volunteered for a new program being developed by Dee Hawkins. They spent this time training and perfecting the program into the success it is today. The program is the Lil' Bits child Passenger Safety program. They became so skilled in child passenger safety that this year they were invited to take part in a national study in which only a handful of people in the country were asked to participate.

The Certificate of Commendation was presented to the crews of Engine 1, Rescue 1 and Battalion 2. Called to the scene of a vehicle upside down in a canal with possibly a victim inside, and a man on top trying to hold down a very combative female, they took to two small boats and within minutes had the patient immobilized and in the rescue vehicle. "This was an extremely stressful call and they handled it with great professionalism," said Didio. "The leadership shown on scene was commendable and the crew functioned in a manner that should be an example to all." The crew consisted of Battalion Chief Kevin Lechleidner, Lt. Lou Adamo, Firemedic Matthew McElroy, Firemedic Michael Kilduff, FF/EMT Andrew Mitchell and FF/EMT Michael Harper Jr.

The Citizen of the Year award was presented to Dottie Barnes, Phillip Leahy, Brian and Vickie Gangnier. When Rescue 14 responded to a call at Fiddlers Green Condominium Complex, they found a victim of an alligator attack. The alligator had come up on the elderly woman and bit off her right arm, just above the elbow. The bystanders were applying pressure and ice to the arm and holding the woman's legs up. According to Paramedic Russell Rucker, who nominated the four for the award, "The neighbors who were there the day of the attack went above and beyond to come to the aid of their neighbor."

The climax of the evening were the awards for dispatcher, officer, paramedic and firefighter/EMT of the year. The persons receiving these awards were selected by their peers, voted on by personnel and recorded by the office and the awards will be entered in the permanent records of the winners.

The Dispatcher of the Year was Jeff Rathburn. Firefighter/EMT of the Year award went to Matt Averbeck. Lt. Louis Adamo was the recipient of the Officer of the Year award and John Hagerty was chosen as Paramedic of the Year. Public service in Charlotte County is very interdependent. Ambitrans backs up the ambulance service in the event of a disaster and the state forestry department works under the fire department in the same context.

The awards banquet is one of the events during EMS week. EMS week, sponsored by the American College of Emergency Physicians, is an annual event that recognizes the high level of training and commitment shared by paramedics and emergency medical technicians across the country.

Nationally, EMS Week is supported by the American College of Emergency Physicians, the National Association of State EMS Directors, the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians and the National Council of State EMS Training Coordinators.

Locally, EMS Week is sponsored by the Charlotte County Board of County Commissioners, Fawcett Memorial Hospital, Bon Secours-St. Joseph Hospital, Charlotte Regional Medical Center and Englewood Community Hospital.

You can e-mail Carol Garner at garner@sun-herald.com


By CAROL GARNER

Port Charlotte Herald Editor