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Calls for ambulance run about one a week

“It’s not all blood,” said Carol Kilene about her volunteer service for the Berthold Ambulance. “People are so afraid and they tell me, ‘I just can’t handle blood,’ but 95 percent of our runs are not blood. They’re for someone who is sick or needs a ride to the hospital or has fallen and broken a bone or they just don’t feel good.”

8/17/11 (Wed)


“It’s not all blood,” said Carol Kilene about her volunteer service for the Berthold Ambulance. “People are so afraid and they tell me, ‘I just can’t handle blood,’ but 95 percent of our runs are not blood. They’re for someone who is sick or needs a ride to the hospital or has fallen and broken a bone or they just don’t feel good.”


Kilene and Berthold Ambulance president Tammy Carico, along with squad leader Clayton Fegley, serve as the three EMTs for the Berthold Ambulance Service.


The only three EMTs, which means at least one of them has to be available to respond to any given call at any given time. In order to maintain the local service, which responds to calls in a 366 square mile area from Blaisdell to Des Lacs, more EMTs are needed, and they’re needed now.


Currently, the EMTs are assisted by two First Responders and a handful of drivers. “The firefighters help us out a lot with the driving and lifting,” said Kilene.


The squad responds to an average of 30 to 40 calls each year, according to Fegley. “This year, though, by March 1st we already had 22,” he said. “Last year, we had 21 all year, but with new drivers up here on the snowy roads, we had more rollovers. Generally, our calls run about one a week.”


The three EMTs divide the hours each week among themselves, with at least one EMT going out with each call. For a 24-hour, seven-day-per-week service, those hours add up quickly.


With several new families in Berthold and a segment of the longtime population now aging, the Berthold Ambulance Service is asking community residents to strongly consider joining the squad and earning the EMT certification. “Anyone can do it, but you have to want to,” Kilene said. “If we get enough other people [to certify as EMTs], we wouldn’t have to be on call all the time. There’s power in numbers, and the more people we get, the less call time we all have to take.”


“I would encourage it if you’re looking at a career in the medical field,” said Carico. “It’s a great first step.”


“I’d say you’ve got to be a calm and collected person to do this,” added Fegley.


Kilene is the most experienced EMT on the Berthold Ambulance, with 15 years of training and response runs. She joined the squad shortly after moving to Berthold. “I wanted to be helpful in the community,” she said about her decision to volunteer. “And, there was my need to help people. It feels good, the gratification you get from helping someone, making a difference. I didn’t grow up here, but when I was asked I didn’t even hesitate.”


Kilene is employed in the offices of Farmers Union Oil-Berthold, and she praised her boss Andy Fjeldahl for his support of the ambulance service, including her sudden departure during a work day if called.


From Kilene’s perspective, every call makes a difference, such as the recent ambulance run made for a stroke patient. “When she saw me, she smiled,” said Kilene. “She knew me and she felt better and that made me feel good I could help her relax.”


Carico has clocked 11 years as an EMT in Berthold and has maintained the position despite the distance she drives to work with developmentally disabled individuals at TriCity Care in Stanley. She laughed as she described joining the ambulance squad after being told by a friend that she would take the EMT class. “But I’ve always been interested in helping the community,” she said.


“The best part about it is that you help somebody. There was one call I went on when the next morning he actually called my house and said thank you. You hear a lot of thank yous.”


Kilene nodded her agreement. “Knowing that you made a difference is a big, big thing,” she said. “You get lots of ‘I love you,’ lots of ‘Thank you,’ lots of ‘What would we do without you?’”


The two women exchanged a glance and started in on the same story, a vehicle accident that occurred near the junction of highways 2 and 28. “We got that letter from that one mother,” Carico started.


“That was scary,” Kilene said. “We had to call in the helicopter from Trinity Hospital. I have the utmost respect for those pilots. It was just quick response on everyone’s part. He’s walking around today and he feels connected to us in many ways. It’s amazing to know we had a small part in helping him.”


She and Carico agreed some runs did not have such happy endings. “It’s an adrenaline rush when you get that call, but I’ve had quite a few that haven’t been pleasant,” Carico said.


“Yes, it’s scary, but your need to help someone takes over the fear,” Kilene added. “Inevitably, you’re going to have some bad calls. But we have good support and there’s help available to help you get through it.”


She continued, “In the small communities, the ambulance is a major, major thing. It’s very important to maintain the service and without help, I don’t know how long it’s going to be able to hang on.”


Kilene and Carico acknowledged the EMT training class, which will begin in Minot on September 12th, takes time and effort to complete (see related story), but they both finished the course successfully while working full-time. Now, their children understand more about what their mothers actually do when called into action.


“Both of us started with infants at home, and this was still doable,” Kilene said, adding she had great neighbors who would watch the children whenever Kilene had to leave for an ambulance run.


“If I’m home, the kids know if the phone rings I could walk out the door,” Carico said. As her children have grown, they have learned what those absences mean. “But now we’re also in the process of developing a support system of people who want to support the ambulance, who would help with daycare or housework while volunteers are taking the class or trying to study for exams or even for ambulance runs.”


With a new tax district set up by voters to help fund the ambulance service, money isn’t an issue, according to Fegley. In fact, the EMT class fees are paid by the Berthold Ambulance and the organization is looking at other ways to compensate their volunteers.


“But we need help desperately,” Kilene said. “We need the volunteers. If we can’t hang on to our ambulance, then we have to wait for Minot [ambulance] to come.”


“And that can take close to 30 to 45 minutes,” Carico pointed out.


“In a critical situation, that’s too long. It’s too long,” Kilene continued. “We learn about early intervention. Time can make a big difference. People think Minot is only 23 miles away, but if I get sick, I want somebody to come fast.”


With the next EMT session scheduled to start in September, Berthold Ambulance volunteers are asking their friends and neighbors to make the commitment soon to join the squad.


They promise the efforts and time are worthwhile.


“You walk into a call and say, ‘Hi, my name is --- and I’m an EMT and I’m going to stay with you till help comes.’ They just relax,” Kilene said.


“I can say for sure there are people alive because we showed up,” said Fegley.


Berthold area residents interested in joining the ambulance service are asked to call Fegley at 701-453-3621 by August 22nd.


“If they have any questions at all, they can contact any of us,” said Kilene. “We’ll tell them what they want to know.”