CHESTER, Vt. – Since 1988 Daniel Cook has been a loyal part of the Chester community. He, along with other members of the Ambulance and Highway service, has willingly sacrificed time and time again for this town. Dan has been in Chester EMS for 28 years and part of the Highway for 26 years. Born in Brattleboro, Dan moved to Chester in the 2nd grade with his family. By 28 he chose to join Chester Ambulance Service, realizing it was time to make a difference.
Below is an interview with Dan about his experiences:
What did you do before EMS?
“I met my wife in Rutland when I was a young adult and so I moved to Brandon to be closer to her. We married and had my first daughter, then moved back to Chester in 1984. I worked at the LaValley Building Supply.”
Why did you join EMS?
“I decided I wanted to make more of a difference and help, but I didn’t want to be a firefighter. At the time the ambulance service in town was not doing well. It had been through a few different set backs and the current coordinator was hired to try and make things better. There were very few members at the time so the first step the service did was host an emergency care attendant (ECA) course. An ECA then is now what is considered the same level as what an emergency medical responder (EMR) is today. An EMR is the lowest level certification in EMS and it is the first stepping-stone for any who choose a career in EMS.”
When did it seem like all the chaos began in your career?
“In late 1992 I had everything happen at once. I had three major things happen in a short period of time and it threw me for a loop. The first was when my grandfather who lived in the Senior Circle went into cardiac arrest. When it was toned out I immediately recognized the address and responded without the ambulance. I conducted CPR on him for a few minutes alone before the ambulance crew showed up and removed me from the situation. He didn’t make it and I figured after some time I could recover until a few weeks later something else terrible happened that many EMS personnel never want to see: a Sudden Infant Death, (SID). To be honest I have blocked most of it from my memory, it was a terrible situation, the baby only being a few months old and the poor child didn’t make it. What made me lose it all was finally experiencing the affects from going through a divorce with my first wife. By 1993 I had resigned and later that year was influenced to re-join the service. By 1995 the town manager at the time asked me to re-take the service back over as coordinator.”
Why do you think it’s important that Chester have its own ambulance service and not refer to Golden Cross?
“It’s very simple. I like to call it, ‘local friendly faces.’ When I walk into a house for someone who called 911, and the person recognizes you, there is such a great sign of relief on their face. It is a local service, people know each other and it helps when the townsfolk know who is on the ambulance service and why. We care and we want to help whenever and wherever we can.”
What would you like to say to the people of Chester and the region reading this?
“It’s because of the people that I have continued so long in EMS. When I can make a difference and help somebody in a time of need, and then have those people come up to me at a later date and thank me, it’s incredible. It hits home, and I am grateful that I can help.”
With all your skills you could easily leave Chester and move to a larger service and get paid more?
“It goes back to local, friendly faces. If I was in the city I don’t think I would enjoy it as much because most people you go to you don’t know. Here I help the locals and most I know personally. I want to be here where it matter to me.”
What are the calls that get you the most? The ones that affect you and give you a new perspective on life?
“Besides my grandfather, it’s the pediatric calls. The kids that have no control over their well-being (not necessarily at home abuse). These kids are just so vulnerable and easily self-injured or sick too often. You just feel so helpless. Even though you are trained and do all you can, there is just those times where there is no more you can do. You can’t snap your fingers and make it better. It makes me realize that life is special and that you have to value every person in your life who loves you.”