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SSG Donald O’Brien has done this before. As a medic in the U.S. Army, he spent two years working in a hospital treating wounded soldiers. He has served 28 years combined in active duty for the Army and for the National Guard Reserves. However, as he nears retirement next year from his post as a supply sergeant for the National Guard unit in Carrollton, O’Brien realized that he would need to go back to class before he could continue caring for patients.
O’Brien and his classmates, Desiree Reese and Amy Wright, graduated Saturday with their EMT certifications at a small graduation ceremony at the National Guard Armory in Carrollton.
“This is their night,” President and Lead Instructor for Stars of Life Dianne Logsdon said. “This is their recognition. They deserve it.”
While this is not the first EMT class to graduate in Carroll County, it is the first ceremony held to recognize the students, she said.
“It doesn’t make any difference, 3 or 30, they’ve worked just as hard as everyone else,” Logsdon said.
The class began on June 1 and was held two nights a week for 4 1/2 hours per session. The course is both academic and skills-based, meaning the students all received classroom instruction and hands-on training out in the field.
The Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services requires all students to perform an externship or ride time for a minimum of 24 hours in an ambulance. They must have five patient contacts and be observed and evaluated by a certified EMT or paramedic.
Reese, who is currently a student at Jefferson Community and Technical College but will be transferring to Northern Kentucky University to pursue a degree in nursing, especially enjoyed her time on the ambulance. Nicknamed ‘trauma girl,’ she never turned down an opportunity to ride, said Logsdon. Because of the class, Reese has decided to go through the additional training to become a paramedic.
“I love the adrenaline rush,” Reese said. “It is a really rewarding career field and being able to do more with it makes it more rewarding.”
Wright, who joined the class to make a career change and to learn how to take care of her father, thought the class was challenging but worthwhile.
“I enjoyed doing the ride time, but I also enjoyed working with Desiree and Donald and all of us working together and learning together.”
While O’Brien has a medical background, he had to re-learn much of what he was taught. He also had to learn how to care for a much wider age range than what he had experienced in the Army.
“It’s been a good class,” O’Brien said. “It hasn’t been easy.”
While this was her first experience teaching a soldier, Logsdon said it was an honor.
“(O’Brien) shared a lot of knowledge with us that we as EMTs or paramedics here don’t get to see in the field,” Logsdon said. “He was a gentleman. He was a leader; he was a follower. You name it, he was it.”