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Mass. Paramedic Organizes Concert to Provide Heating Oil to the Needy

LOWELL, Mass. -- James Fetterolf and his fellow paramedics were trying to lift a man in a diabetic coma one wintry day several years ago when he felt something burning his hand, which was wedged between the patient's body and the bed.

He quickly peeled off layers of sheets and discovered a hot plate.

The kitchen gadget, hot enough to cook pancakes on, was the man's only defense against the dropping temperature, Fetterolf said. With no money to buy heating oil, the man wrapped himself up with blankets and plugged in the hot plate.

It's a stark reality of life that Fetterolf sees often while responding to medical calls in Lowell, Lawrence and Haverhill, Mass., as a paramedic for Trinity EMS.

As oil prices skyrocketed this winter, Fetterolf started seeing more seniors wrapping their feet with plastic shopping bags.

He decided to do something about it. He organized "Music for Oil," a concert to raise money for fuel assistance.

"If you have an idea, you can make it true," says Fetterolf, a Pepperell resident.

He and his band, The Rescue Annies, are ready to rock 'n' roll at Lawrence Library in Pepperell on Saturday at 7:30 p.m., to help local seniors who need fuel assistance.

The band -- named after Annie, the dummy that is used to train people in CPR -- will play some of the 40 songs that Fetterolf has written about the world of paramedics.

While listening to "Cathlab Runnin'," an up-tempo song about heart attacks, and "Sweet Senility," a rockabilly-style song about the upside of life with Alzheimer's disease, those in attendance will have a chance to enjoy the tunes Fetterolf created to laugh off things that scare him, while at the same time celebrating the lives of the patients he sees.

The 39-year-old Pennsylvania native worked many years as a product manager for a digital video-editing software company in California. He moved to Groton in 1999 to work for a high-tech company in the area, but he felt something was missing in life. He said he became an EMT to "face fear" about catastrophic events involving death, such as drowning, choking and heart attacks.

One month into his part-time EMT job with Patriot Ambulance of Lawrence, he was laid off from his full-time job amid the post-Sept. 11 dot-com crisis. He and his wife moved to Pepperell, and he became a full-time EMT after receiving additional training at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester.

The more training he received, the less he became fearful of life-or-death situations.

He also began to see happiness and humor in his patients' lives. He would bring in his favorite guitar to work to sing about it. He never thought his fellow paramedics would like the songs.

Fetterolf teamed up with Mike Loce, his teacher at Music Academy of Chelmsford, and other academy musicians to create his first music CD, Shocks, Meds & Rock-n-roll.

Band members include Gavin Paddock, an instructor at Music Academy; Cam Tanguay, an employee at the school; Jeff Williams, a recording engineer who owns Blue Leopard Audio in Dracut; Williams' acquaintance, Wendy Mittelstadt, and Williams' daughter, Casey Williams. Fetterolf's sons, TJ, 10, and Andrew, 7, provided some vocals on the CD.

The CD's intro is a simulated dispatch call for a drowning incident on the Merrimack River, recorded by Doug Habecker, a dispatcher for Trinity EMS.

The CD has four songs, including "Bone Bank 401K," a humorous take on osteoporosis. The CD also comes with a glossary of medical terms.

Sharon Mercurio, director of the Pepperell Council on Aging, said Fetterolf's initiative couldn't be more timely. She has received about 30 new applications for federal and state fuel assistance, but she believes there are many who don't meet the income threshold and are afraid to ask for help.

Joe Diamond, executive director of the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, said the amount of federal assistance per household has remained the same for the past 20 years. Because of that, the assistance covers only between one-third and one-half of the demand.

The Rescue Annies will donate half the proceeds from the sales of their $10 CD at the concert to Pepperell Aid from Community to Home, or PACH, a nonprofit agency formed by churches and residents in Pepperell and the Council on Aging. The organization will distribute the money to those needing fuel assistance. The concert will also include T-shirt sales and raffles.

Fetterolf, who is studying at St. Joseph School of Nursing in Nashua to become a registered nurse, said he believes in giving back to the community. If the fundraiser proves successful, he is interested in doing the same in Chelmsford and Lowell, where some band members work.

Those interested in making donations to Pepperell Aid from Community to Home should contact Mercurio at (978) 433-0326. For more information about The Rescue Annies, visit www.therescueannies.com and www.myspace.com/therescueanniesmusic.

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