Craig Helps Out
EMS training in rural areas served by volunteer rescue squads is a big deal. The students tend to be members of the working class, so training sessions must be conducted during evenings and on weekends. Rural communities are, of course, distant from urban resources, so getting to classes is easier--especially if you have to get up in the morning and go to work--when they are conducted in your own town.
In Virginia, certification training for emergency medical technicians must be conducted (or closely supervised) by individuals trained as EMT instructors and so certified by the Commonwealth. Instructor training is a rigorous business and those who complete it and receive instructor certification work hard to get there and are likely well-qualified. They often provide their services without charge, in keeping with the volunteer nature of rural EMS. Gifre was the right man with the right skills at the right time and Mid-County was eager to have him teach the next batch of EMTs.
Gifre's instructor certification was brand new in the mid-1990s. His first class had an initial enrollment of around 30 students, including me.
At the time the EMT course began, Gifre was attending the Fairfax County firefighters academy, so he wasn't able to lead the first class. Instead, another paramedic, Craig Rice, conducted the orientation and several subsequent sessions. Craig weirded me out at first with his strange laugh and spastic mannerisms, but I would get over it. He ended up as one of my favorite people. I am deeply grateful to consider him a friend and I miss hearing his laughter all these years since I last saw him.
The course, EMT-B, was held at the station of the Kilmarnock-Lancaster Volunteer Rescue squad, conveniently located across the parking lot from Rappahannock General Hospital, where Craig worked in the emergency department. At the first class, the energy level was high. I was surprised at the diversity of people who were there. They ranged in age from teenagers through middle-agers and a few retired people. The group included excitable sirenheads, calm accountant types, and a couple of housewives. Some had current EMS certification and were attending the class to keep up with the continuing education mandated by the Virginia Department of Health; others were just getting started, planning to ride an ambulance to paid EMS jobs in the urban centers of tidewater and central Virginia. Everyone would serve as a volunteer.