by Lisa Tome
A local musician is now a huge fan of the local first responders.
Ricky Holbrook, who performs with the band Howsmyhat, and who has sang locally for 38 years was saved by county medics, volunteers from the Community Fire Company of Rising Sun, and patrons at American Legion Post 194 when he collapsed at the legion on June 11, 2018.
"I was playing shuffleboard. I had just won a game. I don't remember. Two days later, I kept lapsing in memory and my memory was impaired. I went into A-fib. They shocked me 17 times, they gave me 10 Epi Pens," said Holbrook. He had open heart surgery in 2017 and has scarring under his heart. I dropped dead. I get emotional. I don't get stage fright and I'm never at a loss for words, but this," said Holbrook.
He is now committed to doing all he can to thank first responders, who worked tirelessly to save him. "I don't know how anybody can thank someone for saving their life. It was the grace of God and the first responders, and the people at the legion when I hit the floor," he said. "I'll play every event they've got. They have me free forever. If I can make a difference for them I will because they made a difference for me."
"They didn't give up on me. Don't give up on anybody, you're doing an outstanding job," said Holbrook. "You're superheroes without capes, that's a fact. I can never repay you for my life. Anything I've got, you can have it. I don't have much, but you've got it."
Those who saved Holbrook and others involved with "extraordinary calls" were commended at a ceremony held October 9 at the Cecil County Administration Building. The event is held annually in appreciation and recognition of EMS personnel from Cecil's Department of Emergency Services, volunteer fire companies, and police departments.
Timothy Karschner used photos to describe how much first responders mean to him. He showed oversized pictures of moments in his life he would have missed if his life wasn't saved. He showed his wife, children and grandchildren, his dog, a trip to a ballgame, and more. On March 2, 2018, during traffic gridlock, due to road closures and high winds, EMS personnel saved Karschner.
"It takes a special group of people to save someone's life. I was literally dead when they arrived," he said. "I was lifeless. I was dead. I had no pulse, no heartbeat. The person on the phone knew what they were doing. My wife did CPR for 15 minutes."
"I'm truly blessed to be alive. Brad (Dixon from DES) got my heart started. My wife and neighbors thought I was dead. I tried to look people up and thank them...I wouldn't have seen my 60th birthday without them. I'm so happy to be alive. I've had a good life for these seven months. I wouldn't be here without these people."
Larry Simmons was a proud member of the audience hearing Karschner's speech. Simmons' son, David, was one of the first responders recognized for saving Karschner. "For 26 years he's been very active in helping people. I'm glad he has the fortitude to do it. I wouldn't be able to handle it and I'm proud to be here," said Larry Simmons.
On September 26, 2017, Chris Kendall, 54, collapsed with sudden death syndrome at his Elkton area home. Kendall wrote a note of thanks expressing his deepest gratitude for those who saved his life. He thanked responders for giving him a second chance.
Those who saved the life of a woman who was struck by a box truck on I-95 in January were commended for helping her live. DES officials read notes from the woman who was saved who now calls herself a "living, walking miracle."
A group of dispatchers were commended for working when technology failed on February 5, 2018. That group "went back to pen and paper technology." Another group of dispatchers, those who worked March 2, 2018, during winds of massive propor- tion, were commended for answering 1,342 calls, 1,000 greater than is typical. Another group of dispatchers was commended for answering 28 calls for service in 18 minutes on September 11, 2018.
Angela Puskarich was named the Department of Emergency Services Telecommunicator of the Year. She was commended numerous times over the course of the evening, most notably for spending five hours on the phone with one man who was trapped in a tree during a flood. He was eventually rescued. She also received five commendations within her department.
The event also marked 30 years since the inception of the Cecil County Emergency Medical Services and 40 years of the 911 system in Cecil County. Gerald Widdoes, who is the current chief deputy with the Cecil County Sheriff's Office, explained how that got started. Widdoes and former Department of Emergency Services Director Frank Muller, were the county's first two deputy/medics. "It was born from necessity, especially in the daytime (when volunteers were at work). That's how it started and it just got busier and busier," said Widdoes. In the late 1980s, the EMS department started with two personnel working 12 hour shifts covering medical services from Conowingo to Earleville. That evolved into the county medic program.