JEMS Editor-in-Chief, A.J. Heightman joined this year’s American Ambulance Association (AAA) Stars of Life on Tuesday, a day that started with an early morning breakfast in advance of visits to Capitol Hill with AAA representatives and agency officials to meet with their U.S. senators and representatives and ended with a cocktail hour, banquet and awards reception.
During breakfast and over cocktails and at dinner, A.J. enjoyed meeting several of the Stars, hearing their stories personally and learning why they’re being recognized.
The annual banquet and awards reception held at the Empire Ballroom of the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., opened with the U.S. Military Honor Guard and the singing of the national anthem. AAA president Mark Postma then took the stage and surprised A.J. by bringing him up and asking about the resuscitation he was recently involved in during February’s EMS Today Conference Committee meeting in Charlotte, N.C.
As A.J. finished recounting the tale, Northwell Health EMS’s Jonathan Washko joined them onstage, revealing to the crowd that he was the patient saved that night and presenting A.J. with an honorary Star of Life, which he humbly accepted and shares with the entire team who responded that night, including Jeremy Mothershed from Havre deGrace, Md.; Christian Griffin from Baltimore County Fire Dept.; Wayne Zygowicz from Littleton (Colo.) Fire Dept.; and the EMTs and paramedics of the Charlotte Fire Department and Medic, the Mecklenburg County, N.C., EMS agency.
The banquet took on a more somber and serious mood as Postma recognized that two of the Stars of Life were being awarded posthumously to providers who were killed in the line of duty. The first was to Yadra Arroyo, an EMT with the New York City Fire Department who was critically injured after an individual seized control of her ambulance and struck her while responding to a medical call in the Bronx. The second was to Michael Collums, an EMT with MedStat EMS in West Point, Miss., who was killed after his ambulance collided with another vehicle while responding to an emergency patient. Members of the Arroyo and Collums families were in attendance and accepted the medals and plaques as everyone in the crowd stood and acknowledged the sacrifice of fallen colleagues.
The remaining Stars of Life were then recognized and awarded their plaques, supported by representatives from their service and friends, partners and family members. It was an honor to be in the presence of these remarkable and dedicated individuals who represent the best of the best from our industry.
To learn more about the Stars, visit here.
Video interviews with many of this year’s stars are featured on AAA’s Facebook page.