Some people stick with the same job for 30 odd years and retire, others go from job to job, never quite finding where they fit, and then there are those who not only stick with the same job for decades, but volunteer for additional duties, such as being an EMT on the ambulance crew. Myron Frydenlund and Joe Hemmer are in a club all their own, being dedicated members of the Shelby Ambulance Crew for the past 45 years. That’s right, 45 years!
Frydenlund met Hemmer after his time in the service, at the ripe old age of 25, and a lasting friendship and career ensued for both.
“I met Joe after the Army and we went to an advanced first aid class,” recalled Frydenlund. “I had thought about being an EMT when I was in the Army because of the things that happened there. We talked with Bud Criner, who was the director then, and also Joe’s dad, who was on the ambulance.”
Hemmer shared that after graduating from high school he was just at home doing nothing and his dad, Charlie Hemmer, decided that was not continuing and got Hemmer on the crew as a means to get him out of the house.
“I was 18, almost 19, when I started,” said Hemmer. “The crew Myron and I started with were Bud Criner, the director, Jerry Murray, Bill and Mary Kline, Cal Blatter, my dad, Bill Dobyns and Jim Oedewaldt.”
The decision was made and both stepped up to the plate and neither has stepped down since. Four and a half decades of uncountable late night emergency calls, going out into blizzards, blazing heat, responding to tragedies and mishaps, these two have pretty much seen it all. The good, the bad and the ugly. Being able to help people in their community has been most rewarding, while those they have lost have been some of their hardest moments.
“When people die either before or after we get them to the hospital,” said Frydenlund. “That is the hardest part of the job, the younger people are sometimes harder on us all.”
“The hardest part of the job was when I would pick up kids my own age and the car wrecks where people died,” added Hemmer.
But the success stories of helping those in their community surpasses the heartache and the two have continued to serve and observe many changes over the years.
“The most gratifying is the people you pick up that were really sick,” said Hemmer. “And then they’re doing fine, and knowing what you did helped them.”
Hemmer shared that changes over the years have been many.
“When I first started all you needed was the person’s name and address,” Hemmer recalled. “Now you need all that plus their medical history, medications, allergies. Documentation is done on I-pads now instead of paper trip sheets.”
“We now have equipment to help with CPR, heart monitors and most of our crew can start IVs and some other drugs,” said Frydenlund when asked about some of the major changes over the years.
At 45 years and counting, one might consider retiring, but for Frydenlund and Hemmer, that day is still undecided.
“I don’t know if I am stupid or I just like to help people,” Hemmer smiled. “I would miss the crew that I work with. I won’t miss the calls in the middle of the night in the winter.I probably will retire someday, or it could be when they throw dirt in my face.”
“I’m not sure when I’m retiring,” said Frydenlund. “Taking care of people and the classes we teach has been gratifying. And I would miss the people I work with in Toole and other counties.”
Taking care of people in the area and the classes the crew helps teach are still rewarding aspects of the job, which Hemmer and Frydenlund are not quite ready to give that up. The fact that the crew is lower in numbers, something many rural ambulance crews are struggling with, also keeps them going. Trying to recruit new members is a constant mission for both.
“People who want to help with their community and are single or have an understanding spouse,” said Hemmer when asked who they try to encourage to join. “It’s not for everyone, but can be very fulfilling. They need to be able to put in about 120-180 hours of training. Once you get your license, EMT or A-EMT, each have different amounts of hours required for training and for refreshers.”
Frydenlund and Hemmer encourage anyone interested in being an EMT to consider it.
A lot of time has been invested by both, between training, volunteering to teach classes and 45 years of emergency calls, all in Shelby.
“We’ve seen two hospitals, three ambulance sheds, nine ambulances, three sheriffs, and too many other responders to count that have run with us,” said Hemmer.
Some memories stand out more than others. There were hard times, moments of great achievement and everything in between. But through it all, the two have remained great friends and continue to be a couple of Shelby’s most dedicated EMTs.