Upcoming retirements could put Elgin Rescue on ‘life support’

By Lynell Morgan
What if you needed emergency medical help and what used to take a few minutes suddenly stretched out to twenty minutes? A half hour? An hour?
Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and First Responders in Elgin, all volunteers, have a history of providing fast and effective care to residents over the years. Fifteen members are part of Elgin Rescue as of this writing: Jan Schmitt, Duane Miller, Vicki Miller, Dean Schrage, Terry Reicks, Bob Moore, Tony Levander, Carla Bolli, Brandon Miller, Jessie Pelster, Kari Schindler, Lacy Bottorf, Maria Kinney, Melissa Heithoff and Lacy Vanis.
Three of the newer members — Lacy Bottorf, Jessie Pelster and Kari Schindler — are reminding the public that, due to a couple of factors, the Elgin team is in desperate need of volunteers. Those main factors? Retirements and availability to go on a call.
All three noted that five current members are looking at retiring in the very near future. When the five are gone, the squad will be losing a combined 178 years of service in emergency medical care. Elgin Rescue needs “new blood” to keep their care and response top-notch. They each recall why they made the decision to join four years ago.
According to Bottorf, “I’m a nurse so it just made sense.” Pelster laughs and says she “got tricked into it”, explaining that a family member asked her to take classes with him then he dropped out while she continued on and completed the training. For Schindler, long-time member Dean Schrage encouraged her to consider joining, touting the great need in our community.
The most common excuse heard when someone says they couldn’t become a member is that they wouldn’t be able to handle the blood. A registered nurse, Bottorf dismantled that objection.
“There aren’t that many calls at all that involve blood”, she said while chuckling. “The majority of calls that we go on are basic assistance or transport to the hospital calls.” Pelster and Schindler also give a laugh and knod their heads in agreement. “We hear that one a lot,” Schindler added.
Basic assistance calls can range from someone falling and needing help to get up to someone not feeling well enough to get help on their own to a possible heart attack or stroke. These calls can come at any time of the day but perhaps the biggest time of need for additional EMTs is during the work day.
“Most of us work,” said Pelster. “Plus a number of us work out of town. That leaves very few members who can respond to calls during the day.” All three agree that, as of now, approximately three members regularly go on the calls.
Schindler noted that “if we don’t have the people, that leaves someone having to wait on help to come from surrounding towns like Neligh. That adds more time before the patient gets care. It’s scary.”
When there is a medical emergency, the difference between life and death can be a matter of seconds. Needing an ambulance or medical personnel that would have to travel about ten miles – one way – could take about twenty minutes. Currently, the squad has a response time of approximately three minutes from the call to arrival at the scene (depending upon the patient’s physical location).
Training is a must however it has been adapted to be very convenient for volunteers. Elgin’s team has incorporated as much training as possible into their regular, monthly meeting time plus requirements at all levels been stream-lined along with the times to be more convenient.
Bottorf pointed out that a number of classes are available for teenagers. “There are a lot of different classes that are available for kids – even the seniors – in high school (that) they can take a college course while they’re in school so it’s not extra time out of their day.” Through community colleges, like Northeast Community College, training is available online with perhaps one day in person for hands-on training. “There are a lot of opportunities, different learning styles, different ways to get it,” she added.
Of course, training isn’t free however Elgin has a reimbursement program. According to Schindler, “you have to be stay on for one year, then we reimburse (training and passing boards fees)”.
Contemplate, pray, weigh the pros and cons, do whatever you do when you are trying to make a decision. The need is great for volunteers who can truly make a life-saving difference.
For more information, contact Kristin at Elgin City Hall (402-843-5822), Dean Schrage at Dean’s Market (402-843-5300) or speak with any of the current members.