It’s all about saving the people
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | Nov. 17, 2016
There are moments in Larry Blanchard’s career he will never forget.
Some are traumatizing, while others, like the dramatic rescue of a newborn, remind him exactly why his line of work is so important.
“I started as a volunteer,” recalls Blanchard, who has been with Haliburton County Paramedic Service for 32 years.
Before he moved to Calgary for eight years, he was a volunteer firefighter with the Dysart department. He was eager for a volunteer position to open up upon his return to his hometown of Haliburton.
“Pat Kennedy [the former EMS director] tracked me down and said, ‘Why don’t you volunteer for the ambulance?’ I said, ‘I don’t know whether I want to do that.’ He said, ‘Come on, it will be alright.’”
Although Blanchard was running an electrical business at the time, he decided to take the plunge and became a part-time, volunteer paramedic on Jan. 1, 1985.
A few months later, an interesting letter showed up in his mailbox.
“I get this bill in the mail for $250 and was told I have to report to school on nights and weekends down in Peterborough,” he says. “I go, ‘what’s this all about?’”
Bob English, the chief at the time, forgot to inform Blanchard he signed him up for a two-year ambulance and emergency care program at Fleming College.
“Once I went to school and I started it, I really enjoyed it,” he says, adding he graduated top of his class.
Then a full-time position opened in Minden and Blanchard dropped his electrical business without hesitation. He stayed there for 20 years.
“I liked it down there,” says the 62-year-old, describing the many changes in management over the years. “We’ve had all kinds of bosses ... Minden ran us for a while, then the county had us for a little bit, then the Ministry of Health had us, and we were uploaded back to the county again.”
For Blanchard, it all comes down to serving the people of Haliburton.
“I really enjoyed helping people.”
One call in particular that stands out was when he and a fellow paramedic resuscitated a baby who died at birth. They worked on the child for many hours.
Two years ago, he was fortunate enough to meet that boy, who is now 15 years old.
“You know your whole career was worthwhile because of that one thing,” he says.
But along with the good comes the bad. He believes there are calls that haunt every paramedic.
“I think we all have PTSD [Post-traumatic stress disorder] to some level or another.”
Ten years ago, he left the frontline to avoid permanent injury to his shoulders and became the deputy chief of quality assurance and education.
The role has allowed him to educate new paramedics and ensure they are aware of their legal responsibilities.
“Our biggest part of our job now has become this big legal quagmire. It’s important to know what kind of problems you can get into.”
But on Nov. 30, Blanchard will enter his office in Haliburton for the last time.
“Sometimes you just get a feeling it’s time to go,” he says, referring to his impending retirement. “I thought I had more time left in me, but sometimes you understand there’s other things to do in life.”
Blanchard plans on building his retirement home in Minden next spring and is starting with the garage this fall. His wife, Lorrie, continues to work as the treasurer and CAO for the Township of Minden Hills.
He is interested in hobby farming and intends on working somewhere a couple of days a week.
“I’m looking for something to fill my time—and I’ll probably volunteer at something as well.”
He is going to miss his coworkers the most, which includes a team of 50 full and part-time paramedics as well as management staff.
“I’m going to miss watching them develop as paramedics, there’s no doubt about that,” he says.
The County of Haliburton is in the process of finding Blanchard’s successor. He will help that person settle in before he leaves.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.