Remembering first responders year-round

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By Doug Ponder

A lot of people shared their thoughts on social media on Monday, September 11 as they remembered the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Events were held in our region and throughout the country to remember the 2,996 people that were killed during the attacks and the over 6,000 other people that were injured. A high percentage of the number that lost their lives or suffered injuries were first responders.

The definition of a first responder is simply someone who is designated or trained to respond to an emergency such as an accident, natural disaster and even terrorist attacks. They are police officers, firefighters, EMS workers, etc.

A lot of people shared on their social media sites about how it is hard for them to believe how someone could sacrifice their lives and “go the extra mile” for others like First Responders do. Actually, it doesn’t shock me at all.

On a personal level, I have a lot of experiences with first responders going above and beyond their duty. One specific experience always comes to my mind when I think about the sacrifices they make to care for others and ensure the safety of others.

My grandmother passed away on March 19, 2012. She had suffered from a lot of illnesses, including lung cancer. She spent her last days in a hospital. To make things even worse, my uncle, which was my grandmother’s son, passed away almost a year before that on March 18, 2011 in a vehicle accident. My family had taken a lot of hard hits in that one year.

One day while my grandmother was in the hospital, some of my other family members found my grandfather unresponsive at their house. We had all been checking on him and noticed he wasn’t acting himself and seemed more tired, but we just thought he was extremely tired and that he wasn’t acting like himself because of a lot of emotional distress with my grandmother because we all knew she only had a matter of days left here on this earth at that time.

During this time, I was the editor of my hometown newspaper, The Mount Vernon Signal. I had a handheld scanner with all the police and EMS frequencies for Rockcastle County because I use to be a volunteer firefighter for the Brodhead Fire Department and I also used it for work at the newspaper.

I heard the call for EMS over the scanner and heard the dispatcher give out my grandparent’s address. The call was for an unresponsive male. I immediately knew it was my grandfather and started heading to their house.

I will never forget what happened next. Moments after the dispatcher paged out EMS, John Dyehouse, who is now the chief of the Brodhead Fire Department, immediately asked the dispatcher to repeat the address and repeat the reason for the call as he recognized it to be my grandparent’s address.

It just so happened that they were on the scene of a large meth lab bust about five minutes away from my grandparent’s house. Meth labs were common in Rockcastle County during that time and they always called the fire department to the scene with the police in case something “blew up” or a hazmat situation developed.

Anyway, it just so happened that the meth lab was under control and the Brodhead Fire Department was fixing to clear the scene. So, when Dyehouse heard the call for EMS to my grandparent’s house, he told the dispatcher that they were enroute because he would arrive about ten or fifteen minutes before EMS as they had to travel a longer distance.

Dyehouse works as a firefighter/paramedic with the Lexington Fire Department and volunteers with the Brodhead Fire Department. They beat me to my grandparent’s house. When they arrived, Dyehouse began working on my grandfather and when I got there he was responding, but was still very lethargic. Dyehouse was able to do a lot of preliminary things for my grandfather before EMS arrived. He was also able to identify symptoms and other things wrong with my grandfather so EMS was aware of everything that was going on before they even pulled into my grandparent’s driveway. In the meantime, I also found the other firefighters there consoling my family while Dyehouse was working on my grandfather.

Thanks to Dyehouse and the other first responders with EMS that made it later, my grandfather ended up being okay. He was suffering from congestive heart failure and a laundry list of other problems, but they got him lined out at the hospital and he is still with us today.

Truth is, none of the firefighters with the Brodhead Fire Department had to do anything as it was an EMS call and not a fire department call, but they knew everything that my family was dealing with and they went out of their way to help.

Working at both newspapers, I see similar stories all the time about first responders in both Rockcastle and LaRue Counties. They all put their lives in danger and make sacrifices in a wide variety of different ways to help others and serve their communities. I could write a book on them, but this personal example is one that I always hold close to my heart.

I always try to remind people that our firefighters do more than put out fires, police officers do more than arrest people and EMS workers do more than just drive people to the hospital. They sacrifice so much of their personal time, their family time and sometimes their lives to go out of their way to help people in the communities they serve.

Talk to them, get to know them and observe them working out in the community. And always remember them and pray for them, on every day of the year and not just one day out of the year.