It’s a week later since a South Boston man had a heart attack in the local Hardee’s.
Each member of the Halifax County Rescue Squad on duty is doing his or her tasks at the station on Hamilton Boulevard as they wait for the next call to come in.
That very man walks in, completely recovered and shakes their hands for helping him.
Those are the type of moments that make it all worthwhile for the members of the Halifax County Rescue Squad.
No matter the late night calls, sleepless nights or number of weekend shifts, when a person comes in with a heartfelt “thank you” and a hug, they know it was worth it.
Ever since the 1940s, the station has grown from an all-volunteer front to a mostly employee agency now operated by 12 field medics on four rotating shifts, according to EMS Supervisor Ray Mason.
What was once handled by men who only wanted to donate their time to help has now been bogged down by countless hours of training and low wages that deter young EMTs in training.
But that also means now county residents can be confident when they call the rescue squad that they are in good hands with most of the help being paramedics instead of EMTs, Mason said.
“You start as an EMT, and you progress,” said Mason. “Almost all of our employees are paramedics. They don’t get rattled too easily.”
He admitted when that tone goes off signaling someone is in distress, there is some excitement, but he says too much will “bite you” in this type of work.
“We’re fortunate that we have many seasoned folks here who have many years of service,” Mason added.
With the four ambulances and one crash unit complete with the jaws of life and other tools of extrication, the men and women worked 3,500 calls last year, and Mason said they are on target to complete 4,000 this year.
Each call is something different — from heart attacks, asthma attacks, and with each one also comes a story.
“Nothing beats pulling off a save,” said Mason. “When they walk in a week later and give you a hug, there is nothing like it. And, you never know what’s going to happen. Almost all of us have delivered babies. I’ve delivered two myself.”
Although these men wouldn’t trade their jobs, Mason said the truth of the matter is they’re operating “by the skin of their teeth.”
In the summer months, they hosted a fund drive by mailing out 17,000 letters to try to collect funds to offset some costs, and Mason said he wanted to thank everyone who donated.
“We didn’t get a large percentage of those who helped, but the ones who did, especially the businesses, were very gracious. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped,” said Mason.
All of the rescue squad funding comes from the Halifax County Board of Supervisors and bills, Mason explained.
The problem is actually getting the funds from the bills.
“You kind of get what you can get,” said Mason.
He said last year they only received 50 percent of what was billed, and the rest was sent to collections. Collections only retrieved $6,500.
“People just don’t have it,” said Mason.
In the meantime, he said the county is trying to work with them to find more funding, but for now, they’ll keep on running calls and hosting classes as usual.
In August, they held an active shooter class, and in the past, they’ve taught wilderness first aid, CPR and other basics to churches and other groups and individuals of any age who come to the station.
Over the years, they’ve been recognized for their outstanding community service — and a service it is indeed. uSVP