Spirit Medical Transport, LLC, Responds To Hurricane Ida

by | Oct 15, 2021 | Darke County News, Features, Greenville, Health

Among those who returned from the deployment included: front row, from left, Carie Pope, Sheri Widener and Jenniffer Rush; and back row, Nathan Resor, Wanda Schroeder, Alberto Benitez, Dusty Brunner, Tyler Pratt, Geoff Grow, Scott Miller, Vincent Kroterfield and Jeremy Miller. | Courtesy Photo

Spirit crew returns from deployment

As a network provider under American Medical Response’s (AMR) contract with FEMA, Spirit Medical Transport, LLC, responded to the request to aid with the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

And, the first group recently returned from the deployment.

Spirit President/CEO Brian K. Hathway said Spirit sent crews in ambulances and paratransit vans along with additional medical supplies to Kentucky and Mississippi and some to Kentucky for COVID Relief.

“As first responders, we provide care to those in need, so being able to help provide assistance to residents and communities being impacted by this disaster is an honor,” said Hathaway. “While we are deploying resources to some of the hardest hit areas, this will not affect our ability to continue providing timely medical care for the areas we serve across west central Ohio and eastern Indiana.”

He went on, “It’s a privilege for our family of professionals to be a part of these deployments whenever the need arises. We have a group of dedicated employees who remain ready should the call for a deployment occur. It’s gratifying to see the support their friends and family show as they head off on these missions. As our crews set out on this deployment and their families gathered to pray over them, a beautiful rainbow glistened over the station as our convoy of ambulances and paratransit vehicles departed for Hurricane Ida aid.”

He shared that employees from all the stations the company has across Ohio and Indiana are represented on this deployment. Spirit has stations in Greenville, Celina, Houston, Houston, Sidney, Van Wert and Liberty, Ind. At the height of Hurricane Ida, we have nine units and 14 people on deployment. This included five ambulances and four paratransit (wheelchair van) vehicles.”

According to him, Spirit still has five ambulances on deployment between the states of Louisiana and Kentucky.

The first crews deployed for Louisiana on Aug. 28, the second for Mississippi and Louisiana on Aug. 30.

“The crews sent to Mississippi were diverted after the storm to Kentucky on a new mission of COVID relief,” Hathaway added. “Since being deployed, everyone has been able to return home and others have been deployed to take their spot. For the foreseeable future, our EMS crews will remain deployed to Louisiana and now Kentucky. We will keep our resources on the grounds as long as they are needed. We are blessed to be able to bring resource relief our brothers and sisters in EMS working on the front lines in Kentucky and Louisiana.”

While 10 people remain deployed between the five ambulances, the staff back at home have remained committed to ensuring our patients here at home haven’t been impacted by the deployment. For many on the deployment team, this has meant working an extra shift or two each week.

Aside from using full-time Spirit staff to assist with the deployment, Spirit has also called upon the assistance of its special event staff to deploy.

Special event staff are part-time, as needed personnel who normally help staff events such as Eldora, Country Concert, the Darke County Fair and other contracted venues. The special event staff work other part-time and full-time jobs in EMS and live throughout Ohio and Indiana.”

Between the Hurricane and COVID relief efforts, these two deployments have been the longest Spirit has ever had to have resources deployed, he noted.

Those who served talk of experience:

Returning from the recent deployment were Spirit Medical Transfer EMS personnel:

  • Jeremy Miller, Union City, Ind. (Strike Team Leader)
  • Jerome Dotson of Ansonia
  • Carie Pope of Greenville
  • Jennifer Rush of St. Mary’s
  • Tyler Pratt, formerly of Rossburg and now of Huber Heights
  • Alberto Benitez of Piqua
  • Sheri Widener of Rossburg
  • Nathan Resor of Arcanum
  • Nathan Remencus of Palestine
  • Dusty Bruner of Ansonia
  • Greg Miller of Union City

As well as  the paratransit drivers

  • Vincent Kroterfield of Van Wert
  • Wanda Schroeder of Arcanum
  • Geoff Grow of Union City
  • Scott Miller.

Those responding to a questionnaire about their venture responded to the following questions:

 

To where were you deployed?

Jeremy Miller said, “Initially we were deployed to Mississippi to help with Hurricane Ida aftermath, then we were reassigned to Kentucky to help hospitals that were at capacity due to COVID 19.”

Pope added, “On Aug. 30 we left at 6:30 a.m. headed to Jackson, Miss., to be staged to help with Hurricane Ida. We staged in the fairgrounds parking lot until Sept. 3. While staged at the fairgrounds, we sat in the parking lot around our trucks. Our sleeping quarters was housed in an indoor equine center.  On Sept 3, we were given a new task order and were sent to Lexington, Ky.”

Brunner stated, ” Originally Mississippi for Hurricane Ida then, after four days, moved to Lexington, for Covid Relief. while Sheri Widener indicated she was in Jackson and Lexington.

Greg Miller and Scott Miller both said they were Gonzales, La.

 

What dates were you gone?

Jeremy Miller, who was gone Aug. 30 to Sept. 26, also noted that it was 29 days and 683 hours.

Pope, Brunner and Widener were gone the same amount of time, while Dotson said he was gone Aug. 28 to Oct. 1, or 34 days.

Greg Miller said he spent just over three weeks there and Scott Miller served 14 days.

 

What did you do on deployment? What were your responsibilities there?

“In Mississippi,” Jeremy Miller said, “we staged waiting for the local EMS agencies to request help then we were reassigned to Kentucky where  we helped move patients to other facilities to open beds in hospitals that were at 90 percent capacity. These transports varied from discharges to moving patients to higher level of care hospitals.”

“While in Kentucky, we were transporting patients from hospitals to other locations due to the hospitals in the state being at high capacity,” Pope responded. “Most times these patients were being transported two to four hours away to facilities that could accommodate their needs. My truck went as far west as Louisville, as far East as Ohio. West Virginia border, as far south as Somerset, Key., and as far North as Forest Park, Cincinnati. Our responsibilities as a crew were to help get the patients to facilities that could accommodate their needs.”

Brunner noted, “In Mississippi we stayed at a Staging point waiting for orders to be utilized for Hurricane Relief. When we were moved to Kentucky, we were utilized to assist Kentucky transport crews with doing inter-facility transports, moving patients between hospitals and doing discharges to open beds within the hospitals that had no space for additional patients. We worked minimum 12-hour shifts everyday while in Kentucky doing transports. We were based in Lexington but were used all over the state and did transports to Ohio and Tennessee if there was no place closer to receive the patient.”

Greg Miller said, “Immediately following Hurricane Ida, we assisted with evacuation of hospitals and nursing homes. That process took almost a week. After that mission was complete, we waited for a couple days while the nursing homes got back up and running, then we helped get patients back to their original locations.”

“We did interfacility transports,” Widener said. “We took people from facility to facility and facility to home.”

“We were an ALS Bariatric Ambulance, Dotson wrote. “So for the most part, we would only be sent to transport any patient that were over 400 pounds and could not be transported safely and comfortably in a standard medic. We were primarily responsible for the State of Louisiana.”

Scott Miller said he drove a van for wheel chairs.

 

What did you learn about yourself and the whole situation in general while serving on this deployment?

“We did the same work we do here just helping an overloaded system, and we’re available 24/7,” said Jeremy Miller. “I’m not sure I learned anything new about myself, more realization on how lucky I am to go home to my wife and kids after a shift.”

“As you know, I have been a funeral director for 20 years,” responded Pope, “Two years ago, I came onboard with Spirit Medical Transport as the HR assistant. Within those two years, I have worked up to employee relations director and most recently obtained my EMT certification on Aug 13. Then, on Aug 30, I was deployed as a newly certified EMT. Being on the truck in Kentucky was my very first experience as an EMT and working with patients. I have come to realize I am a person who truly desires to help people, whatever their needs may be. I have realized working in the funeral home and working on the ambulance are very much similar. While being gone from home for four weeks was definitely challenging, I also truly enjoyed the whole experience.”

Brunner added, “I learned that systemically EMS and hospitals are short-handed; it’s not localized to any one area. The hospitals were supplemented with personnel from other areas doing kind of the same as we were, and received help from National Guard to staff ERs and other areas in need within the hospital.”

“I’m thankful to be able to use the talents, abilities, and time that God has blessed me with to help others in their time of need,” said Greg Miller. “Concerning the whole situation in general, it was very frustrating to not see any news coverage of this destructive storm. It seemed as though the only thing anybody cared about outside of our ‘world’ was COVID and getting vaccinated. The lives of people in actual need were not even an issue that most Americans heard anything about.”

Sheri Widener said, “I learned that when disaster/pandemic strikes it takes a lot of people to help. It was amazing to see all of the ambulances with all of the people willing to help. Being gone almost a month also makes you realize how much family truly means also. I missed my family so much while I was gone.”

Dotson replied, “The deployment itself was very educational on multiple fronts, a personal front of having interaction with people from a lot of different areas I had never met before, and learning sometimes a different vocabulary, to a professional front of seeing such a large operation and learning about a side of this job I hadn’t been exposed to in my career.”

Scott Miller said he learned a lot about patience. “We sat around a lot,” he remarked.

 

Did you miss home?

They all missed home but a few expanded on that.

Jeremy Miller stated, “I face-timed my wife and kids every day and missed them very much. My wife is a saint, being pregnant with our sixth child and taking care of them with no help from me made me realize how strong of a woman she is.”

“The first two weeks went by so fast that I really didn’t miss home,” Pope said. “After about 10 days into the deployment, they extended our task order and asked if we could stay another two weeks. The last two weeks seemed a little longer than the first two weeks.”

Greg Miller stated, “I did miss home, but really enjoyed the opportunity to help others who couldn’t help themselves.”

“Absolutely,” said Dotson. “It was a struggle…having a young family and my only connection being a screen once or twice a day, even less than that the few days after the hurricane hit because we were out of power and cell service, so communications were few and far between for a few days.”

 

Have you ever been on other deployments?”

“I have been on deployment to Florida for Hurricane Dorian in 2019 and to DC in January of ’21,” Jeremy Miller said.

And, Greg Miller said, “Yes, I’ve been on several. Anything from COVID deployments to other hurricane deployments in other capacities besides EMS.”

Pope said this was her first deployment, as she just got certified as EMT two weeks prior. Brunne, Widener and Dotson said this was their first deployment; and Scott Miller wrote, “It was a one-time experience.”

 

Are you glad to be home?

Of course, they are happy to be back, with some of them expanding on that answer.

“It was a great experience and great stories to tell the grandkids some day but missed my family and serving my own community.”

Pope: “I am glad to be home, as my office job didn’t get done while I was gone, so I am playing catch up

Greg Miller: It is nice to see family and friends again!”

 

Would you do it again?

Jeremy Miller responded, “Absolutely I will, as long as we have the resources to keep Spirit Medical Transport serving our
own community I plan to represent Spirit and our community in others’ time of need.”

Pope said, “In a heartbeat!”

Brunner: “Yes, once my paramedic class is completed near the end of April.”

Greg Miller: “Absolutely!! In a heartbeat!”

Sheri Widener: “I think I would.”

Jerome Dotson: “I would absolutely like to and am looking forward to the next experience!”

 

How did your family respond to this venture?

Jeremy Miller answered, “My family has been through this before; never for as long as this one lasted. They all missed me being there but they were all behind me and knew I was gone for good reason.”

Pope stated, “My kids struggled, my fiance’ struggled but was supportive and my parents struggled as well. However, they all knew I really wanted this experience, and all were very supportive. We are still trying to get back to our life before deployment as it’s a big life change when a link is missing from your family.”

Brunner: “They were supportive and glad when I returned back home.”

“They were very supportive,” replied Greg Miller. “Our family has an extensive history with hurricane relief work, so they all understand the needs of those impacted by destruction.”

Widener: “My family missed me a lot but were happy that I was helping.”

Jerome Dotson: “They were all very understanding and supportive. It was a struggle but they were all understanding when we kept getting our deployment extended.”

 

Do you want to say anything in closing?

Jeremy Miller: “There are many people on this deployment team that we have put together at Spirit Medical Transport. A lot of them were unable to deploy for whatever reason, but, as part of this team, they all stepped up back here at home and picked up extra shifts and made sure that our own communities were served.  I just want to tell them all thank you because without them doing this we would not be able to send help elsewhere when asked.”

“We had four trucks with a total of eight crew members,” Pope stated. “It’s tough to get eight people together and everyone get along and work efficiently in an area we were not familiar with. We really had a great team and new friendships were made. You start to become family when you spend four weeks together.”

Greg Miller stated, “I would like to ask those in our community to search out needs both locally and distant, because every one of us was given the desire and the ability to help in some way. Sometimes the needs aren’t apparent because today’s media chooses to focus on issues that suit them politically. This current mindset has really taken a toll on relief efforts, simply because people don’t know where needs are. I would just like to encourage all people to stay current on what’s really going on around us, and to reach out to help every chance you can!”

Dotson added, “Well, I would really like to just say a few things about the people of Louisiana. The first time we were out after the hurricane hit, our task force was traveling through a rural residential neighborhood, and it was just amazing the amount of people at their homes that were outside cleaning up debris and down tree limbs, who stopped what they were doing, walked up to the edge of the road, waved their arms yelling ‘THANK YOU!!!’  We met so many people who saw us and just walked up and said ‘thank you for coming where are y’all from.’ I had the privilege of meeting so many different people from so many different states. My initial partner and I arrived the day before the hurricane and we’re bunkered down at our complex and rode out the hurricane, then the day after everybody got to work. It was quite an experience seeing so many people coming together to just be there to help.”

“Spirit does a great with this kind of work very caring and professional,” Scott Miller stated.

Another team member, Wanda Schroeder, had this to say about the whole thing: “This was my second deployment. I was deployed to Louisiana Aug. 30 – Sept 9. I transported people from New Orleans to Shreveport, La. I saw natural disasters; it makes you think how much things change. Sixteen years ago was Kratine…they were trying to get back on their feet. I would go on another deployment when they need me.”

Greg Miller, left, and Jerome Dotson were also month those returning from the recent deployment.
Among those who returned from the deployment included: front row, from left, Carie Pope, Sheri Widener and Jenniffer Rush; and back row, Nathan Resor, Wanda Schroeder, Alberto Benitez, Dusty Brunner, Tyler Pratt, Geoff Grow, Scott Miller, Vincent Kroterfield and Jeremy Miller.

I am a Darke County native living in the Ansonia area with my son. I have been in journalism 50+ years and enjoy what I do.

Contact Darke County Now Media Correspondent Linda Moody @ lmoody@darkecountynow.com or 937-337-1955.

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