You don’t enter a job like Primary Care Paramedic or First Responder for recognition. This was true of both Darren Russell, an Advanced Care Paramedic from Prince Albert and Allison Irvine, a First Responder from Shellbrook. They were recognized by the province with 2020 Saskatchewan Protective Services Medals at the midtown base of Parkland Ambulance on Monday.
The medal is presented each year for 25 years or more of service in the EMS field in Saskatchewan each year.
Irvine was humbled and overwhelmed to be recognized.
“I still find it surreal. Today I didn’t realize I am the first First Responder to ever receive this medal so I have no words to describe it just very humbled, I share this with every first responder in the province and especially with my team back home,” Irvine said.
Russell explained that it was an honour to work for Parkland Ambulance and in Saskatchewan.
“It’s an honour to be presented this award I have never been in this profession for this award,” he said.
“I don’t do it for the medal or for the recognition,” Russell added.
The ceremony was a joint effort between the Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan (PSCS) and Parkland Ambulance Care.
Last Fall’s ceremonies, normally held by the Government of Saskatchewan, were cancelled due to restrictions related to public gatherings due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Irvine, who is also a member of the Shellbrook Fire Department, has been a first responder for 27 years.
“In 1993 when I joined the fire department it was a particularly bad year for accidents and we never really had anybody trained to do the medical side. And then I read in the Shellbook Chronicle about this program that Parkland Ambulance had about first responders and volunteers being trained to assist prior to the ambulances arrival,” Irvine said.
She said she took the challenge after discussing it with her parents, her father was also chief of the department at the time.
“ I was the smallest one on the department at the time, this is something I could do. So I went ahead and took the training and here I am 27 years later,” Irvine said.
The support of her family, Parkland Ambulance and her faith have kept her in the job,
“It is just really rewarding, a lot of times the words thank you are enough but as a first responder sometimes we don’t always know what the outcome is with our patients bur hearing those words is more than enough, it’s very satisfying and I have a good team of first responders that I work with as well. They got me here and we work as a team,” Irvine said.
“Just knowing that there is somebody there that can support somebody in need, I have good supports like my family, my faith, my first responder partners. It’s a passion that I have and as long as I can still feel and help people in their time of need that’s all of the motivation I need,”
She explained that she doesn’t really think of all of the lives she has saved in her 27 years of service.
“I played a role in their recovery but I have never had that aha moment where because of what I did I saved this person’s life. I have never thought of it that way,” she said.
“Just knowing that I can be there and being from a small town sometimes having a familiar face when there is an emergency happening it can help them calm down and I heard on one occasion when we did a call ‘Allison’s here can I hang up the phone’ so then the dispatchers talked to me and whatnot. It is just sometimes having that friendly face come through the door kind of helps the family right away so they start to feel comforted.”
“I was on the fire department one year so I have been a volunteer firefighter 28 years.”
Russell explained that he got into the profession because he enjoys helping people. Russell has also recently returned to work after having both hips replaced.
“That was scary because I didn’t think I could come back. It was impressive they have never done it before in Prince Albert so they didn’t really know what was going to happen with that. And I feel great now, I try to keep in shape and keep active and I guess that’s the best thing for me,” Russell said.
Russell works out of both the east and west bases in Prince Albert and has worked in the community for the whole 25 years.
“Every day is a new day and you think you have seen it all but you don’t see it all. To work for the company that I am working for and in Saskatchewan is a dream come true,” he said.
He explained that being a is his calling and his passion in life. Russell added that it can be tough mentally but you have to be able to put that aside and move on.
“I do the best that I can for whoever I can,”
He explained that he would like to be able to work another 25 years.
“There is going to be a time where i am going to have to step back and let the younger guys and girls come in and take over,”
Prince Albert Carlton MLA Joe Hargrave brought greeting from the province, Steven Skoworodko, president of the Paramedic Services Chiefs of Saskatchewan and Chief Trevor Dutchak of Parkland Ambulance presented the medals. Dutchak and Skoworodko each paid tribute to both Russell and Irvine in their speeches.
Also on hand for the presentation were Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne and Prince Albert Northcote MLA Alana Ross was also on hand.