A 12 year old who accidentally shot himself in the face would likely be dead if not for the paramedic work of a team at Fitch-Rona EMS and the Barneveld Area Rescue Squad.
For those efforts in response to a call last year, the crews received the 2019 Wisconsin EMSC Pediatric Champions of the Year award. The three-person Fitch-Rona EMS team that responded was made of up Jeremy Owen, Jesus Villagomez and Kristy Schnabel.
Deputy chief Jeff Dostalek told the Star it was a “nice recognition of the job we do,” and credited a team that had a high variance in experience – from a full-time paramedic in Schnabel, a part-timer in Owen who also works for another ambulance company and Villagomez, an intern.
“We had this wide range of somebody that’s really experienced to somebody that’s really in the process of just starting their career,” he said. “To have them work really well together, I thought that was pretty amazing. That’s a testament to Fitch-Rona really being a good training center and being a place where people can come here and learn from experienced people.”
The training they undergo, even the “little, mundane” stuff, Dostalek said, is key to being able to function in a high stress situation like the one the responders faced that day.
“You just hope that the stuff you’ve put together in your career all comes back at one time to help you,” he said. “Experience saved this young man’s life.”
The Common Council celebrated the recognition at its May 14 meeting, where pediatric trauma program manager Ben Ethan presented the award.
“In the 15 years that I’ve done this, probably one of the most horrific cases I’ve seen,” Ethan said. “This child not only survived his injuries, but he was awake. Not only did the EMS crew have to provide medical care, but this kid was awake and was then a scared, injured child that needed emotional support as well.”
Their work allowed the staff at the American Family Children’s Hospital – more than 100 who worked with the child within the first 24 hours, Ethan said – to perform their jobs and save the child.
“The uniform theme that we heard was that none of this would’ve been possible had EMS not done what they did,” Ethan said. “I can say unequivocally, without any hesitation, that the actions of the men and women that responded to the care of this child absolutely saved his life.”
Dostalek said the recognition “means a lot” for the department.
“It’s an honor for our crew to be part of that,” he said.