Training Day 2012
On April 21st 2012, the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad held their annual Training Day at Absegami High School. Training Day is a big event for the EMTs of GTAS. Hours of classroom based learning, a lengthy written test, several practical skills assessments and guest speakers from Cooper University Hospital are all part of the schedule.
The day begins with a short summary of what's in store for the EMTs and the group is quickly broken into three smaller groups which will rotate around several classrooms. Sexual Harrassment training, hands-on medical emergency and trauma simulations on two $30,000 training mannequines provided by Cooper University Hospital, and a written examination are just a part of the eight hour long day. Though training is the primary focus of every training day, this year, we at GTAS were honored to hear from two very special individuals whose lives were directly affected by the quick actions of a few special people.
Michael Simons, an assistant crew coach at Cedar Creek High School in Egg Harbor City, was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident in Galloway Township last year. "First, I apologize for anything I may have called you," he started. Simons praised the men and women who cared for him on that night. "This thank you is much deeper than just me saying thank you," Simons said. "It's from my friends, my family, Cedar Creek High School and the community at large - everyone I know."
The 28-year-old played soccer at St. Augustine Prep and rowed at Richard Stockton College, said he only recently got out of the U.S. Army and started coaching at Cedar Creek. "Cedar Creek has a brand new program, which I like," said Simons. "When I was at St. Augustine, crew was only in its second or third year there. And these kids, they're good people. I'm proud to be their coach." Though the accident cost him his leg, his story and uplifting sense of humor was an inspiration to us all, and helps to remind us just why we are first responders.
Jim Scalese, a 43-year-old father of two, was also in attendance at training day and has an incredible story to tell. Jim suffered a heart attack during a class at Richard Stockton College. His professor, Michael Gellar acted quickly and began CPR while students called 9-1-1. Shortly after, Stockton Police arrived followed closely by both Galloway Township Ambulance Squad crews who treated and transported Jim to AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center in Galloway to an awaiting ER staff.
Jim's life was saved that day thanks to the intervention of a few people who acted quickly and selflessly. "There's no doubt in my mind that he needed every one of those things to happen as they did," said Ambulance Squad Chief Chuck Uhl. “He needed immediate CPR with someone else calling 911. Stockton Police did what they needed to do until we arrived. Our guys shocked his heart back to life. And the ER team kept him alive.” Scalese said his uncle died from a heart attack at the age of 43 while on a baseball field. The field was named after him in his memory. "It's better to be alive than to have a baseball field named after you," said Scalese.
He said he's been trying to think of a way to express his appreciation during walks with his family in the morning. "How do you thank a group of people... I can't quite figure out how," he said. "I woke up this morning. I woke up this morning and it's a great day. It should make you proud; you did a great thing." Gellar, responding Stockon officers, a Stockton Dean, the Chief of the Stockton Police Department and the responding EMTs from Galloway Township Ambulance Squad were awarded with the coveted "CPR Save" pin by Chief Chuck Uhl and had the opportunity to shake the hand of the man whose life was saved that day.
On the morning of August 27th, 2011, a massive Category 1 hurricane was bearing down on Virginia and taking aim on the coast of New Jersey. Hurricane Irene had been in the news for days as it grew in intensity and wreaked havoc on the Bahamas and Puerto Rico. In all of the news reports, New Jersey laid in the middle of the projected path of the enormous storm, crossing directly over Atlantic County.
In the last day before the storm made landfall in New Jersey, the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad worked tirelessly to evacuate the residents of local nursing homes and transport them to safe locations and even transported several critical care patients to waiting Medevac helicopters to be flown to inland locations. In town, windows were boarded up and the streets seemed eerily empty for a Saturday morning but GTAS remained busy.
By evening, while investigating a call at the college, Chief Uhl found a serious situation, several thousand evacuees essentially stranded at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Stockton's "Big Blue" sports complex was filled with more than one thousand people with no food or supplies of any kind. "I need fifty ambulances," said Chief Uhl on the radio to Central dispatch. A large number of patients were oxygen dependent or required medical transportation. Over the next several hours, GTAS coordinated the safe but quick evacuation of all of the people on the campus. GTAS wasn't able to do it alone though, the help of the New Jersey EMS Task Force was necessary which called on EMS crews from as far as Pennsylvania to come and assist in the evacuation effort.
GTAS continued to take 9-1-1 calls throughout the approaching storm until the winds and rain were too heavy to continue operations. It was this that makes Chief Uhl most proud. "Remarkable is not nearly the word I can use to describe my gratitude and amazement at the performance of the Galloway Township Ambulance Squad staff during a grueling 48-hour ordeal," Uhl said. "For me, many firsts. And for this ambulance squad the fact that we handled it with professionalism and courage is a testament to the greatness of our organization." Chief Uhl honored each of the EMTs that worked those days with a pin bearing the words "Hurricane Irene".
Individual awards were given to EMTs for their accomplisments during the year. Those special EMTs were:
Tom Higgins & Carmine Van Luvender , Bedside Manner Award
Tom Higgins & Jamie Smith, Stork Award
Steve Burrows, EMT of the Quarter
Ryan Freeman, EMT of the Quarter
John Scalera, EMT of the Quarter
Steve Burrows, EMT of the Year
Mark Jeffries, Rookie of the Year
Michael Brandenberger, 25 Years of Service
Rosanne Weiss, 30 Years of Service
The day wrapped up with a guest speaker from New Jersey Transit giving a presentation on rail emergencies and safety. Afterward, we regrouped outside for our 2011 squad photo.
The Galloway Township Ambulance Squad would like to thank all those who attended Training Day including members of the Stockon Police Department, Professor Michael Gellar, Michael Simons and family, Jim Scalese and family, Galloway Township Deputy Mayor Anthony J. Coppola Jr., Dr. Rick Hong and Chris Taylor from Cooper University Hospital and the rest of the special guests.