Monroe County EMS celebrating 40 years
Monroe County EMS has a long history of employing the community’s heroes and looks to celebrate that history this year during its 40th anniversary.
In 1978, Monroe County Ambulance Service came to life when local funeral home directors disbanded their ambulance services. Monroe County Ambulance’s humble beginnings included about 45 people volunteering to serve as emergency personnel.
“Some were (registered nurses) who had never ridden on an ambulance and some were already EMTs employed in hospital emergency rooms,” a report written by former Monroe County EMS Director Georgia Borcharding reads. “Most, however, were new to the field and eager to learn.”
At the time, Borcharding shares in the document, the ambulances carried no more than First Aid treatment and EMTs could only control bleeding, treat wounds and burns, and give manual CPR to heart attack victims.
Forty years later, not much has changed in terms of these heroes’ dedication to saving lives, though a lot of advancements have been made in terms of equipment and capabilities.
“We try to continue keeping more updated equipment as long as its within the budget,” Monroe County EMS Director Carla Heise, who started with EMS 18 years ago, explained.
Over the years, Heise has seen the service switch to electronic stretchers, add an AutoPulse Resuscitation System — a portable chest compression device with a constricting band and backboard that administers continuous CPR — and upgrade cardiac monitors.
These upgrades have also led to a change in services provided. Because of this, Heise said they have been able to save many more heart attack victims, including at least one involving a “widowmaker” — so named because it involves the main artery that runs down the front of the heart and often results in death.
“I would say those are the most notable calls because you’re saving someone’s life,” Heise said.
About 20 years ago, Monroe County EMS began carrying the opioid reversal spray Narcan. A total of 55 overdose calls went out to both Columbia EMS and Monroe County EMS in 2016.
Regardless of the changes, Monroe County EMS has been heavily involved in the community since inception. The friendly, well-meaning employees are often seen out at major community events and are more than approachable.
“We’ve always been in the public eye,” Heise said. “Giving to a community that gives to us is what we do.”
That includes the initiation of a Toys for Tots drive in 2017, hosting CPR and First Aid classes, participating in local parades, and putting on free movie nights, to name a few. The organization is able to provide activities such as the CPR class thanks to funds raised through the non-profit Monroe County EMS Association.
Though uncertain of how much the association has raised over the years, Heise said she believes it was founded within the first year of the ambulance service being in the community.
“I know it started way before my time because I think it was originally a means to pay for things like uniforms and equipment before the county was able to cover some of that,” she said. “There are also some recent things for the living quarters that came from the association like the TV, pots and pans and couches.”
For Monroe Countians, throwing in a few dollars to support the ambulance service is a small price to pay for the excellent care they receive. This support came to light in 2016 when the community rallied against a proposal to privatize the service.
“It shows the community backing us. It shows how much we mean to them,” Heise said. “We definitely can give better services than others coming in.”
Monroe County EMS will celebrate its success with a different anniversary event each month. The first of these, a community blood drive, is slated for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 27 at 901 Illinois Avenue in Waterloo.
To schedule an appointment, call The Blood Center at 866-448-3253 or go to bloodcenterIMPACT.org.
A CPR class will take place in February as the second event.
Following that is a March 27 Easter egg hunt, Munchies with the Medics in April, a 40th anniversary celebration on May 23, a movie night in June, participation in the county fair in July, an ice cream social in August, a child passenger seat check in September, providing mammograms in October, a canned food drive in November, and a toy drive in December.
The specifics for most of these events are not yet known. For the 40th anniversary celebration in May, activities will include food, snow cones, a mock crash, face painting, a petting zoo, bounce house, healthcare education and more.
Heise does not anticipate much else in the new year other than the celebratory events.
“Last year was a very good year for us and it looks good already this year,” she said. “We’re just going to be replacing some equipment and replacing or remounting some trucks.”
• Monroe County EMS has had three ambulance garage locations, including 501 W. Mill Street from 1978 to 1993, 107 E. Mill Street from 1993 to 1998, and its present location at 901 Illinois Avenue starting in 1998.
• In 2015, Monroe County EMS unionized, making all 22 current employees union employees.
• The service ran 627 calls during its first year in operation compared to 2,214 calls in 2017.
• Deanna Stumpf, an EMT from Columbia, served as the first Monroe County EMS coordinator.
• Through the assistance of a $42,000 Illinois Department of Public Health grant in 1978, the newly formed ambulance service was able to purchase and equip a total of three ambulances.
• Monroe County EMS covers a total of 339 square miles, including Waterloo, Valmeyer, Prairie du Rocher, Hecker, Maeystown and Fults.