By Lindsay Briscoe
Ear Falls Emergency Medical Service (EMS) employee Ursula DeKeyser, along with five other regional paramedics, has been awarded with a Governor General award for exemplary service of over twenty years in the area.
“It took a little bit to sink in and then it was kind of nice because I’ve always done this…It’s just been part of living in Ear Falls all my life. All of a sudden this award came up so it’s a little overwhelming,” said DeKeyser in an interview Monday.
When DeKeyser mentioned it to her daughter over the phone, there was a squeal of delight on the other end. That’s when she realized the award was a pretty big deal.
The national award has gone to EMS staff across the country since its inception in 1994 but, up until this year, it’s been mostly managers in the region who have received it. Northwest EMS Director Andrew Tickner says it was about time the board recognized the people on the front lines. That’s where DeKeyser came in.
After all, being a paramedic anywhere, but particularly in a small town, can be tough, she says.
“I know that most of the calls that bring back memories for me are the ones where I knew the people,” she said. “Picking up your neighbour who’s having a heart attack – that’s hard. Living in Ear Falls for 35 years you tend to know everybody. That’s a different kind of stressor.”
She says she’s gotten through the tough times by learning how to build up a thick skin in order to get the job done efficiently while at the same time practicing compassion. She says it’s important, especially during long rides to the hospital, to treat the person in the back of the ambulance not like “page 38 of the manual,” but a human being.
“It’s amazing to me when you just sit and talk and all of a sudden you notice that their blood pressure has come down and their breathing has relaxed. That is so important when it comes to paramedics,” she concluded.
The Governor General award for exemplary service recognizes paramedics who have served for at least twenty years. Including ten years as a volunteer paramedic, DeKeyser has served for thirty.