Jim Hessler, EMD
If you compare Jim Hessler to a list of everything Minnesotan, you’re likely to place a check mark in front of each box.
Hessler was born and raised and has worked his career in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and St. Paul, USA). He received his bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Minnesota, became certified to teach, and taught health at a school in west St. Paul.
He took the St. Paul firefighters test on recommendation from a friend. He passed, coming in at the top of the class, and switched careers. Long shifts and consecutive days off complemented a second job at the dispatch center. Fast-forward 37 years. Hessler retired as a captain from the St. Paul Fire Department and continues to work in emergency dispatch at the Allina Health EMS communications center in St. Paul.
“I’m a homeboy,” Hessler said. “I always have been.”
Hessler was hired before there was a three-digit number to call and when the company, Smith-Martin Ambulance, paid employees by the run. Crews called dispatch, transport was recorded on paper, and dispatch did the patient billing.
“It’s nothing like it is now,” Hessler said.
Hessler says he’s the resident “dinosaur” at the Allina secondary PSAP, second in tenure to center Director Chuck Kaufman, who’s been there 40 years. The longevity, however, carries more pluses than his humor portends. People know him; they trust him; they consider him the kind of guy who goes the extra mile.
Hessler has also had the rare opportunity (among 911 dispatchers) to meet a patient, demonstrating the distance he goes to help save a life. He answered a call from Monticello, about 40 miles northwest of the Twin Cities, involving a woman who had suddenly passed out in her home. Hessler gave CPR instructions to the caller (the woman’s husband), alerted response, and response coordinated a medical aid flight from CentraCare Hospital (Monticello) to Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis (home to the Minneapolis Heart Institute).
“The [EMS] team was being honored for saving her life and the husband points to me and says, ‘If it wasn’t for you, she wouldn’t be here today,’” said Hessler, who received a Lifesaver Award at the event. “That made me feel good inside.”
Chuck Kaufman, Director
Chuck Kaufman likes to tell the story about his start in EMS.
And the people he tells, generally tell someone else. It’s that good.
Kaufman was in high school and his family lived in west St. Paul. He wanted a part-time job, and his dad suggested applying at Smith-Martin Ambulance in west St. Paul. He drove over on a Saturday and wrote his name and address on an index card handed to him as an application for ambulance washer. He was hired on the spot.
“I asked when they wanted me to start, and they said ‘right now,’” Kaufman said.
He put on a pair of scrubs, and, to this day, 40 years later, he has yet to fill out another job application. He didn’t stay long washing ambulances. He no longer wears scrubs.
Kaufman eventually trained as an EMT and was among the original group to certify through the National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) when, in 1978, Minneapolis was the site of the first NREMT-Paramedic exam. He was an EMT for 10 years, transferring to dispatch at a time when access to 911 was less than 50 percent nationwide. He answered calls and dispatched for 15 years, managed the center for three years, and in 2002, he was named director.
It’s almost an understatement when Kaufman says he’s seen “quite a few” changes.
The former privately owned ambulance service sending response to the airport and Twin City suburb of Bloomington swelled into one of the region’s largest ambulance services, under the auspices of Allina Health Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The service transports patients to the facility of their choice, including those outside the Allina Health network.
Kaufman directs a staff of 32 EMDs, of which 14 EMDs are on duty at any given time. The Medical Priority Dispatch System™ (MPDS®) was implemented in 1992, and the center became an ACE in 2014.
Kaufman only filled out one application during his long career, but he has moved his place of work twice. In 1987, the communication center moved to a former livery stable kitty-corner and across the street. Black-and-white framed photos on the second floor provide a walk through history of the ambulance service, dating back to 1920 and the Martin Livery Stable company that led, nearly a century later, to Allina EMS.
Drew Boxrud, EMD, Trainer
Most would remember the day, to the hour, when a life was saved or brought into the world due to personal actions—unless you are a link in EMS. That’s exactly the case with EMD Drew Boxrud.
In the five years Boxrud’s been with Allina Health EMS Communications, he’s provided PAIs for childbirth five times, and he met a survivor of sudden cardiac arrest at a reception held in honor of the EMS chain responding to the call.
But dates? Media attention?
“We have awesome calls, and we have awful calls,” he said. “We’re here to help.”
In other words, a running count is hardly necessary.
The babies, however, are among the best calls, and he received his first “baby on the way” call while in training five years ago. Two babies were so close to birth that he did little more than send response. Three callers required childbirth and delivery PAIs from “Listen carefully and do exactly as I say” to “Congratulations.”
The five births went without press notice, and that’s OK with Boxrud.
The call receiving the biggest and only news splash so far in his career recognized the dispatchers and paramedics assisting Dan Rosemark when his wife, Mary, suddenly became ill at their home on the morning of Feb. 17, 2012.
According to newspaper accounts, Mary told Dan she was not feeling well, and, in moments, she could not respond to his voice or gentle shaking. Dan called 911, started CPR following MPDS PAIs, and gave chest compressions for the next five minutes until Coon Rapids (Minn.) Police Officer Pat Morris arrived on scene and took over. In rapid succession, she was given an AED shock, transported to the hospital, and diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism. She was transferred to Abbott Northwestern Hospital.
Three days later, Mary was removed from the heart bypass machine. On Feb. 29, she was fully alert. She had no signs of lasting damage.
On April 3, 2012, the Rosemarks presented the Allina Heart Safe Communities Lifesaver Award to the EMS team involved, including EMDs Boxrud and Kelly Ryan.
Boxrud said dispatch is a matter of dispatchers prioritizing and accepting what they can do.
“We can’t save everyone,” he said. “We help people as much as we can.”