Ambulance service expanding crew

The EMT class at the Douglas County Fire District 4 station. They are, back row, Arnold Silva of Waterville, Tyler Reiman of Wenatchee, Stacey Blevins of Waterville, Tami Zanol of Orondo, Henry Wright of Waterville and Tommy VanLith of Waterville; front row, Kenny Vogel of Waterville, Cherie Beck of Waterville, Allison Podlich of Orondo and Rosa Cruz of Wenatchee. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)


By Karen Larsen
Empire Press Correspondent

Substitute instructor Stan Harrison uses a dummy to show EMT students Tommy VanLith and Henry Wright how to open a patient’s mouth before using an airway adjunct and bag valve mask. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

After several years with a severe shortage of emergency medical technicians, Waterville Ambulance will soon be doubling its crew.

Six students are currently studying to receive EMT certification and are planning to serve with the ambulance service. They are part of a group of 10 that are taking a 160-hour class at the Douglas County Fire District 4 station in Orondo. The class is taught by Dan Craig, with Stan Harrison filling in when Craig is not available. It began at the end of April and students will finish around the end of September.

Two other students in the class plan to serve with Fire District 4.

Interim Waterville Ambulance Manager Cynthia Lowe said that the increase in numbers will be a great help in scheduling and will enable the service to respond to the majority of calls in Waterville.

“Due to low staffing it has been hard to cover all of the Waterville calls. This group will really help with that,” Lowe said.

Jim Oatey, Douglas County Fire District No. 4 chief, said that the district currently has 10 EMTs, so there isn’t a shortage, but new EMTs are always welcome.

“We can always use more,” Oatey said.

He added that the district currently answers about 100 aid calls each year. Oatey called EMTs the “lifeblood of rural health care” as they are the ones that can get to the scene of an injury, accident or other emergency quickly and stabilize the patient, greatly increasing survival rates.

Arnold Silva is one of the members of the class. He moved to Waterville last September and saw an appeal for EMTs in the city newsletter.

He was looking for a way to get involved in his new community and asked himself, “Why not?”

As an employee of Chelan County Regional Justice Center, Silva knew that he could emotionally handle the job of EMT.

“I knew nothing would scare me. I thought this might be a good challenge,” Silva said.

EMT student Allison Podlich of Orondo watches a dummy’s chest as she practices operating a bag valve mask. (Empire Press photo/Karen Larsen)

Silva not only signed up for the class, but he also recruited his friend and co-worker Tommy VanLith.

Another member of the class, Stacey Blevins, is a caregiver at Amber Waves Boarding Home. She had been an Emergency Medical Responder (EMR), which is a level below EMT in Texas. When she heard about the EMT class from her boss Cherie Beck, who is also taking the class, she jumped on it.

“I definitely miss it,” she said of emergency medical work.

Blevins is excited about being part of the Waterville Ambulance EMT team.

Tami Zanol of Orondo said that around the first of the year she and her husband Jeff, who is assistant chief of Fire District 4, talked about some way for her to branch out into a new endeavor.

When they found out that the EMT class would be starting at the end of April, Tami Zanol decided to sign up.

“I was at that point in my life where I just needed a change. This was something totally different and I jumped into it and love it,” Zanol said.

Zanol said that what she especially enjoys about this work is that she can help people.

Allison Podlich has been serving as a volunteer firefighter with Fire District 4 for three years. She has been waiting until her children, now ages 4 and 2, were old enough for her to train as an EMT. Podlich is a massage therapist and feels that being ready for EMT work is just another aspect of her interest in health.

“I want to be prepared to help my friends and neighbors out here in Orondo,” Podlich said.

The EMT students will need to pass skills testing. Then the instructors will turn their paperwork in to the state and the students can schedule to take the national certification test.

Craig is a senior EMT instructor and has taught EMT certification for 20 years. He was manager of Waterville Ambulance for 15 years and has worked for Ballard Ambulance for the last 25 years. He hopes to help local volunteer agencies keep up their personnel levels.