With studying, balancing a job and scraping up money to pay for college, most students often find themselves a bit stressed out. Add saving lives to that and you’ve got the 10 students volunteering at the Whitewater Rescue Squad.
Daniel Erickson, a senior majoring in finance, has spent almost three years on the Whitewater Rescue Squad. Erickson had been part of two fire departments previously and wanted to volunteer as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) in Whitewater.
“When someone calls 911, it’s probably their worst day,” Erickson said. “We want to at least make them feel comfortable and confident in our abilities.”
Becoming a volunteer for the Whitewater Rescue Squad also gave Erickson the opportunity to pay most of his tuition thanks to alumnus David Kachel.
Kachel created the Kachel Family Foundation scholarship in 2001 for students who volunteer at the Whitewater Rescue Squad. Six $2,500 scholarships are available every semester to full-time student volunteers.
This scholarship is funded by the Kachel Family Foundation to help maintain staffing levels at the rescue squad.
Joe Gangler, a sophomore elementary education major, came to UW-Whitewater specifically for the scholarship program. Spring 2012 is his fourth semester winning the award.
Gangler and the other scholarship winners spend at least 25 hours a week, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., at the rescue squad. They respond to 911 calls from parts of Walworth, Jefferson and Rock counties.
The rescue squad currently receives about 28 calls a week, and the number is growing every year.
It is senior Biology major Gonzalo Madrigal’s second semester winning the scholarship.
“The most rewarding part of working with the rescue squad is getting to help people,” Madrigal said.
Erickson, Gangler, and Madrigal are all IV Technicians and are able to give IV fluids and other medications to patients when needed.
Although the rescue squad is often able to help a person in need, there are some calls which result in the death of a patient.
Gangler said he once responded to a car accident which resulted in one person being in critical condition and one fatality.
Madrigal said it is these kinds of events that really put your job in perspective.
“It makes you wonder if there’s something different you could have done,” Madrigal said.
If a volunteer responds to a call where someone has died, the rescue squad may bring in a professional to talk with the volunteers and help reason what happened.
Many calls require quick decision-making or dealing with an emotional family, which Gangler said can be the most difficult part of a rescue. Because of the difficult situations, the volunteers are trained how to think under stress.
“If you’re not providing a high level of care, you really shouldn’t be doing this job, because that’s the only reason we’re here,” Gangler said.
St. Patrick’s Day brought a high call volume for the rescue squad. They responded to numerous calls concerning alcohol poisoning and injuries from fights.
“It’s really rare to have a volunteer squad covering a university,” Gangler said. “We get a lot of calls most volunteers squads would not get.”
Because the rescue squad covers a university as well as permanent residents from three counties, Gangler says they never run the same call twice. It also means there is a high call volume for a volunteer rescue squad.
“If the scholarship program didn’t exist, the city would have a hard time covering the call volume,” Gangler said, “especially in the last couple years.”
The other winners of the scholarship are Junior Adam Olijnyk, Sophomore Deanna Migacz and Sophomore Michelle Olson.