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Essex heroes are candidates for Governor’s Awards

Posted on Friday, July 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

T.C. Davis, from left to right, Andrew Wilkins, EMS Chief “Jimmy” Brann, Lt. Teresa Whitlock, J.D. Johnson and Elizabeth Haile.

T.C. Davis, from left to right, Andrew Wilkins, EMS Chief “Jimmy” Brann, Lt. Teresa Whitlock, J.D. Johnson and Elizabeth Haile.

When you need them most, they are there to assist in any way.

When not on call, they are constantly striving to give back to the community, whether it’s through providing CPR classes or showing local children they are always there to help.

It is for their drive to serve the public and save lives that the career staff and volunteers of Essex County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are candidates for the 2013 Governor’s EMS Awards.

Established in Sept. 2011, the Essex County EMS recently captured the 2013 award for Outstanding EMS Agency in the Peninsulas region of Virginia.

According to the awards script from the Peninsulas EMS council, the Essex County agency, albeit relatively new, “hit the ground running” by quickly demonstrating its “proficiency in providing critical emergency medical services to a diverse population” while also recognizing the need for preventive education programs in the community.

Through their emergency work, the young agency has already been crucial in saving the lives of Essex County citizens.

Essex EMT James “J.D.” Johnson, a federal government employee who has worked in both fire and rescue for over 10 years, told the story of one Tappahannock gentleman who had suffered a cardiac arrest.

“He had ST elevation, which is a bad sign for us,” said Johnson, who added that his coworker, 22-year-old Thomas “T.C.” Davis, saved the gentleman’s life.

“We got the gentleman stable, so we flew him out of here,” said Johnson. “An hour later he was on the table in Henrico County having surgery.”

Three weeks passed before the gentleman came back, stood before Davis and thanked him for saving his life.

“That means a lot to us,” said Johnson. “It’s one of those things that if you can’t find pride in this group, then you really are lost.”

In addition to emergency situations, Essex County EMS has provided CPR and prevention classes to teachers and faculty of Essex County schools, as well to local private schools, nursing homes, Three River Health District volunteers and the public.

Davis said their educational efforts helped define both their physical and emotional support to the community.

“EMS is a whole lot more than starting IVs and checking blood pressure,” said Davis. “You’re a professional negotiator as well.”

Essex County EMS Chief Jimmy Brann noted that his organization has held talks on health-related issues such as diabetes, as well as the signs and symptoms of heart attacks and strokes.

“We’ve probably trained about 100 people this past year in CPR and first aid,” said Brann, who also cited his agency’s involvement in local school programs.

“We go and talk to kids, show them what a heart monitor is and what a backboard is,” said Brann. “We tell them a little more about what we do, and we’re there to help them and not to be scared.”

He added that the talks with the students have appeared to help as far as lessening anxiety when the rescue squads have actually tended to those children.

“We’ve already gone to the school, so they get to know us there before they really get to know us on call,” noted Brann.

Johnson lit up with joy in describing the organization’s work with the students.

“There’s nothing like seeing a kid smiling and grinning at you when they look up at you, because they know you’re there to help,” said Johnson.

Brann said the regional award proved that Essex County citizens were getting excellent service from not only career staff, but from EMTs of the Tappahannock Volunteer Rescue Squad (TVRS) as well.

“It’s very rewarding to have people in the community come up to you while you’re getting your lunch or you’re being seen in town and they’re thanking you for the wonderful care they’ve received,” said Brann.

“It’s been nothing but support from the community, the board of supervisors and the county administrator,” he added. “Our system would not be what it is if not for all of that support.”

Davis said the award showed that their hard work as a newly developed organization has already paid off.

“Working together as a team is a big thing for us, but adding something to show our teamwork and our accomplishments makes it all worthwhile,” said Davis.

At the EMS station in Tappahannock, Johnson, Davis, Lieutenant Teresa Whitlock, Andrew Wilkins and volunteer EMT Ronnie Belfield relaxed and laughed with each other as they awaited their next call.

Johnson had brought along his stepdaughter Elizabeth Haile, who wanted to see what her stepdad saw and did on a daily basis.

“He helps a lot of people,” she said. “I look up to that, because ever since I was little, I always wanted to become a nurse and help others.”

As they waited, the members in the station made it clear that they were a close-knit team.

“It’s just a really good group of not just fellow employees, but a lot of friends,” said Johnson. “We can count on each other and we can back each other up.”

Wilkins, also a volunteer firefighter for Callao and the son of Northumberland County Sheriff Chuck Wilkins, said he and Whitlock work so strongly together that they able to communicate through body language alone.

“When we get in the back with a patient, we don’t have to talk,” said Wilkins.  “She knows what I need to do, and I know what she wants done, and you just do it.”

Wilkins also pointed out that the members of the TVRS were a “huge asset” to the paid EMS staff in Essex County.

“They come in and help us when we need additional staffing,” said Wilkins. “If we need a standby crew to go to anything in the county, 95 percent of the time they’re the ones who are going to be doing it.”

Johnson also noted the strong working relationship between Essex EMS and TEVD.

“They’ll step up to the plate is something needs to go down,” Johnson said of the fire department. “They’re always willing to step in there and throw that hand in there.”

Davis agreed.

“There are very few places where you will see all the departments actually working together,” said Davis. “And it’s flawless.”

Brann stressed he had never been so proud as he was of the professionalism displayed by Essex County’s paid and volunteer EMS providers.

“It is just awesome the way everything blends and people work together to provide that service,” Brann added. “We have a broad range of experience and talent.”

Greater Tappahannock Dist. Supervisor and Chairman E. Stanley Langford emphasized the board of supervisors’ pride in the achievement of the Essex County EMS, especially given its rise within such a short period.

“For the agency to win the regional award and to move forward as a nominee on the state level, we’re behind them all the way,” said Langford. “We appreciate everything they’ve done and that’s every individual who is part of that agency, not just any one person who makes the operation happen.

“Whether it’s a child who falls off a bicycle, or it’s someone who gets a bee sting or is in an automobile accident, or whether he or she is having a heart attack, the county wants to assure that there will be someone there to provide that service when they dial 911,” Langford added. “We’re very proud of the fact that Chief Brann and Captain Byrd on the volunteer side are able to make this work for all citizens.”

Other career staff members who helped Essex County EMS attain its regional accomplishment and look towards the Governor’s Awards in November include Devin Basye, Kevin Bowen, Tommy Corcoran, Kathy and Leo Jeter, Corey and Andrea Beazley, Kyle Durham, John Heller, Martell Kelly, Chris Slimp, Cameron Williams, Justin Bullis, Doug Jones, Wes Packett, Jeff Bartlett, Steve Tilson, Timmy Edwards, Robert Coggsdale, Kurt Gran, Geoffrey Langford, Jennifer Shelton, Chris Buchanan, Taylor Haynie and Jonathon Sydnor.

The members of the TVRS have also been recognized for the regional honor and nominated for the state award. They are: Belfield, Captain Blake Byrd, Sarah Baker, Anna and Lee Blackwell, Josh Eddy, Eric Fallin, Travis Goodwyn, Samantha Hart, C.J. Jeter, Ashley Kehm, Laurie Loving, Ellen Smith, Kimberly Thomas, Richard Thomas, Samantha Umphlette, David Whiting, Tiffany Haley, Mathew McIlwain and Ashley Coleman.

The Governor’s Awards will be presented Nov. 9 at the Marriott in downtown Norfolk.