SMALL TOWNS: Volunteer EMS Group saving lives in Kewaunee County
CASCO, Wis. (WBAY) - As our population continues to age, the need for emergency medical responders is on the rise.
But in rural communities, that can be a challenge, especially with many volunteer fire departments struggling to recruit.
This week in Small Towns, we travel to Casco, where residents are in good hands when they need help.
On the second Wednesday of every month, the parking lot at the Casco Village Hall and Fire Department is full.
Training is underway for members of the Casco-Lincoln Area EMS Group.
Tonight’s topic is farm accidents.
All members are volunteer and passionate about the opportunity to assist others when they need it the most.
“A lot of these people would like to be on a rescue team but we live in the country, so we don’t live anywhere we can participate or stay within a rescue squad area, but this is the next best thing we can do to help out,” says Brad LeGreve, Casco-Lincoln Area EMS Group President.
Help out is an understatement.
“If not for them our son would not be with us anymore,” explains Casco resident Kevin Lampe.
Four years ago, an emergency at Lampe’s home involving his son Michael.
“He was just a few months old, he was hospitalized with a respiratory infection, we had come back home, we thought he was kind of out of the woods and he was on oxygen and he just stopped breathing so we called 911, I was literally still on the phone with the 911 operator when one of the first responders was already at our home,” says Lampe.
“When I heard the address I knew it was them so I went flying out the door and they literally live right behind me so that’s why I got there so quickly,” explains Tammy Skarban, Casco-Lincoln Area EMS Group Treasurer.
By the time paramedics arrived, Skarban had Michael breathing.
“When you’re there you’re just in mode and you just go and do what you need to do, and then afterwards it all hits you and comes flying at you, so quite the experience, I cried a lot,” recalls Skarban.
Founded in 2010 to fill a first responder void in the community, the Casco-Lincoln Area EMS Group has averaged between 20 and 25 members.
They’ve become extremely close.
“We know their families, we know where they live, it is, this is a big family, it really is,” says LeGreve.
“We have a group of us that anytime we go on a call and it’s a bad call, any of us that go on that call, we get together and just kind of vent and discuss things and tell everybody that we did a great job, we’re all to be ok,” adds Skarban.
Fundraisers, like a major one this weekend in Euren, pay for a new members’ training at NWTC and all the life-saving equipment they carry when contacted by Kewaunee County Dispatch.
The group responds to around 100 calls each year.
“Vehicle accidents to a lot of them could be patient just falling to elderly issues to diabetes issues, we’ve had child birth already, we’ve had farm accidents to rollovers to just assisting fires,” says LeGreve.
“My very first call the day that I got my license was at 3 o’clock in the morning and it was for a seven month old pulseless non-breather and I was like, oh my gosh here we go, but that child is 12 years old now,” says Skarban with a smile.
Each member in the group wears a pager and is assigned a seven mile radius around their home.
That’s how they arrive at an emergency so fast.
“Faster than I realized they could even get here, I thought they were going to take a long time to get there, no it was right away they were there,” says Carol Cravillion from Casco.
Volunteers saved Cravillion from a stroke.
They also brought her son back from a heart attack.
“They saved his life, he’s ok, he’s living, I’m so happy for that,” says Cravillion holding back tears.
“When you need them they’re there, and they were at my house fast, they take good care of you until the ambulance gets there,” adds Casco resident Pat Yagodinski.
While there is no pay for their selfless sacrifice, group members say the reward is truly priceless.
And those they’ve encountered over the years are beyond grateful.
“They know who we are and they know where we live so they can rush right away to get to us right away, and that makes a lot of difference,” says Cravillion.
“It was somebody from our local community, of 600 people, that was there,” says Lampe.
“It’s very rewarding that they appreciate what we do for them too,” adds Skarban.
Like many rural fire departments, the Casco-Lincoln Area First Responders Group is also now facing membership challenges, so recruiting is becoming more of a priority as current members are determined to ensure their community is served and more lives are saved.
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