AUBURN — Wrapping up his 34 years as an emergency medic, Jerry Schwartz was voted Paramedic of the Year for DeKalb EMS, now Parkview EMS.
Schwartz’s peers selected him for the honor in May during national EMS Week.
Looking back on his career, Schwartz said, “I enjoyed it. I got enough thanks to keep me going. I just enjoyed helping the people. I like helping people through some of their worst days.”
Some 40 years ago, he said, “I wanted to do more for the community, so I got on the volunteer fire department. I thought EMS looked like a good thing, so I started on the ambulance.” He took an emergency medical technician course in 1980 and began working on Grabill’s ambulance as a volunteer.
Next, Schwartz studied in one of the earliest paramedic courses and signed on from 1982-1985 with Noble County EMS
After more time off for schooling, Schwartz came to DeKalb EMS at Auburn in 1988.
He stayed 31 years, he said, because he found satisfaction from seeing some of his patients regain better health.
“I like helping people. I had something different all the time. Things kept changing,” Schwartz said.
Over the years, he said, “It’s gone from treating people with bare hands to getting all kinds of personal protection devices on.”
One of the biggest changes, he found, has been the increasing weight of his patients.
“Heavy people, when I started, were 250 pounds. Rarely, you got a 300-pounder. Now, the average is 250-300 pounds, and we have some that are 500-plus,” he said.
Emergency medics face challenges in lifting and moving heavier people.
“It’s harder on your back, it’s harder on your legs,” Schwartz said. “The fire department will help us get them up and on the cot, but we still have to get them in the ambulance and move them at the hospital or take them back to nursing homes or the next hospital. It’s just a lot of wear and tear on your body.”
Emergency medics receive training in proper lifting techniques, “but there’s still times when you have to get them out between the toilet and the bathtub, or the toilet and the wall, or the bed and the wall,” Schwartz said. Advances in lifting sheets and stretchers have helped.
Medical treatment of patients has become more based in research to find “what gets the patient out of the hospital” he said.
“A lot of times we’ll bring the patient into the hospital, we don’t know their outcome,” he said. Lately, paramedics are receiving more feedback on the outcomes of trauma patients, “So we can tell what our care did, showing that we did good.”
He added, “Knowing that somebody is very critical, and by the time we get them to the hospital, with fluids, with oxygen, with care, that they have improved and they have a better outcome,” can be rewarding, along with restoring heartbeats to patients.
Although he officially has retired, Schwartz still is working part-time with billing and ambulance runs.
After more than 30 years of helping people in through life-or-death situations, he said, “I’m trying to decide what else I would like to do.”