Administration and Leadership, News

Off-Duty Saves in Austin, Death Benefits and an Idaho Paramedic Named Community Champion

Issue 3 and Volume 41.


It’s a parent’s worst nightmare: Your child is hurt, but you don’t know how to help. It’s in situations like these when EMS crews are truly invaluable, which is why Austin- Travis County EMS (ATCEMS) paramedic Chance Bergstrom was recently honored with a Lifesaving Award for resuscitating a 14-year-old boy.

Bergstrom was driving in the parking lot of a local shopping center when he saw a young boy collapse while walking with his parents. His mother was screaming for help, and Bergstrom knew he had to spring into action, even though he was off duty.

Bergstrom couldn’t find a pulse on the boy, so he began CPR. A police officer equipped with an AED soon arrived, and after two shocks, the boy’s heartbeat returned. It’s not just that Bergstrom was in the right place at the right time; he was at the right place, with the right training, at the right time, and had the right instinct to help.

This save follows on the heels of three other recent saves off-duty ATCEMS personnel were involved in: Just as he was about to go home after a shift, Mark Hawkins helped saved the life of a 50-year-old runner who collapsed in cardiac arrest outside the EMS station; Danielle Henson helped save a 15-year-old boy in cardiac arrest at a local swimming pool; and Craig Smith helped save a young boy who was being repeatedly submerged in a local river after falling off his inner tube.

We give a thumbs up to Bergstrom and his ATCEMS colleagues for acting quickly, even while off the clock. Their heroism shows that helping others is much more than a job description— it’s a way of life.

Denying death benefits for EMS DENYING DEATH BENEFITS

Tragedy struck Jessamine County, Ky., when one of its paramedics, 40-year-old husband and father John Mackey, EMT-P, died after being hit by a car while inspecting damage on his ambulance.

Tragedy struck again when his family realized they’d only get line of duty death benefits from the federal government, and none from Kentucky. When firefighters and police officers die while on duty, Kentucky gives their families $80,000, plus a tuition waiver to a state college. Medics, however, are left out of receiving these benefits.

“Our families depend on us and it’s incredibly scary to think about what will happen if we don’t make it home for our family,” says Keith Widmeier, BA, NRP, FP-C, EMSI, a paramedic from Kentucky. “What better way to honor those who’ve given the ultimate sacrifice in order to protect their community than by ensuring their family is cared for?”

State lawmakers are now paying attention to this disparity as the state’s medics cry out for justice. Two separate bills extending death benefits to EMS workers are making their way through the state legislature, including Senate Bill 43, the John Mackey Memorial Act.

“Unfortunately, it took a tragedy like John Mackey dying to push this bill forward. Hopefully, his legacy will carry this legislation through,” Widmeier says. Widmeier also encourages medics across the country to contact their local representatives and senators to let them know all first responders deserve equal benefits, and to show support for this type of legislation on social media.

We give a thumbs down to states that continue to refuse to give EMS the line of duty death benefits afforded to other first responders. We’ll hold out on giving Kentucky a thumbs up for now, but remain hopeful that one of the proposed bills will soon make its way into state law.

EMS community champion COMMUNITY CHAMPION

The lifesaving work of first responders often goes unnoticed. Let’s face it—no one is in this industry for the fame. And while we don’t do this job for the attention, it’s nice for the industry and outstanding individuals to get recognized every once in a while. Ada County (Idaho) Paramedics Battalion Chief Andrea Cobler is one of those individuals.

Cobler was named the best paramedic in Idaho’s Treasure Valley as part of the “Community Champions” awards held by local news station KTVB and Idaho Central Credit Union. Thousands of community members voted online for their favorite nonprofit organizations and first responders.

It’s no surprise that Cobler won this award with how much she loves her job.

“For me, it’s not hard to be passionate about EMS,” Cobler says. “Patients often describe their event as the worst day of their lives. As an EMS provider, I have the opportunity to offer them a little bit of comfort and compassion during that time. If I can add just a little bit of good to that worst day, then I have done my job. How can you not get excited about that?”

We give a thumbs up to Cobler for her continued dedication to emergency medicine and providing quality patient care. We also give a thumbs up to KTVB and Idaho Central Credit Union for giving community members the opportunity to honor EMS workers for their contribution to the communities they serve.