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Siren Swan Song for Senior NY EMT

NEW YORK -- After 42 years of helping save lives, Michael Duchin stepped out of his ambulance last Thursday night and into retirement.

Duchin, 62, of Dongan Hills, received a lights-and-sirens escort as he drove his ambulance, truck 5525, into the ambulance bay behind Staten Island University Hospital, Ocean Breeze, for the last time.

An EMT at the hospital since 1966, when it was called Staten Island Hospital and located in Tompkinsville, Duchin was greeted at the end of his tour - exactly 11:30 p.m. - by more than 40 applauding well-wishers, including colleagues, supervisors and longtime friends.

"I've really enjoyed helping people and it's such a nice job," Duchin said during a ceremony in the EMT crew room in the hospital. Some present playfully referred to him by his well-deserved nickname, "Old School."

In fact, Duchin, recollects that he was among the first four EMTs in all of New York City.

Duchin, who also celebrated his birthday yesterday, graduated from McKee High School.

He started his career in 1963 at the former St. Vincent's Hospital, now Richmond University Medical Center.

He did a brief stint in the U.S. Air Force, assigned to aircraft maintenance, but lost his hearing due to jet noise and was discharged.

Duchin has been with SIUH ever since.

To put the length of his career in perspective, Duchin passed on the honorary title of "senior man" to SIUH EMT Benny Gatto, who has 18 years on the job.

"Only 18 years, I shouldn't even talk to him, he's only a rookie," joked Duchin.

"I was 9 years old when he started here," said senior paramedic and Duchin's good pal, Bob Garzone.

Paramedic and buddy Jim Martin recalled how he, his mother and his father all have worked with Duchin.

"He's been on the streets for 42 years and that's just unheard of," noted SIUH EMS supervisor William Goffin.

In that career span, Duchin has helped deliver 52 babies, saved a man and baby from drowning in the waters off Stapleton in 1985 and helped rescue a father and son from an apartment fire in the 1990s.

Not to mention the countless injuries he has treated night after night.

Now, Duchin is looking forward to relaxing and traveling.

His advice for those following in his footsteps:

"Enjoy it. But retire after 20 years."

A gala in his honor will be held Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in the Staaten, West Brighton.

For more information, call Jim Martin at 917-921-1068.

Doug Auer covers police and fire news for the Advance. He may be reached at auer@siadvance.com

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