Emergency responders earn credits at EMS Symposium


ALAMOSA—Teamwork, service and continuing education credits – all good reasons to return once again to the Emergency Medical Services  Symposium at Trinidad State in Alamosa on February 17-19.  

“We always come back to see our EMS family and take good classes,” said Lisa Werts. “This is a great team, an amazing group of people. Jon Montoya, who is the regional coordinator for RETAC (Regional Emergency & Trauma Advisory Committee) will call anybody to help anyone. He has a good reputation throughout the state. And Deb Haverfield is pretty humble, but she’s amazing. She is as committed as Jon and she gives everybody a chance. Without them EMS in the Valley would not be the same.”

Trinidad State partnered once again with RETAC to sponsor the event.

Rodney King, the San Luis Valley RETAC chairman expressed his appreciation.

Recently elected State Representative Donald Valdez stopped in to visit with the participants.

With daily fly-ins, Flight for Life or REACH Air Medical air ambulances provided a look at fully stocked medical emergency helicopters. A representative from Grand Junction displayed a fully-stocked North Star ground ambulance.

The teamwork and service attitude seemed to pervade the symposium. Christi Krattli, an EMT who works with the Monte Vista ambulance, said, “We all love Jon.  He listens to people, cares about everybody. With him, everyone counts.”  

She added, “EMS is what I’m meant to do. It’s the only job I’ve ever looked forward to.”

Twenty-year-old Melanie Kukuk grew up in the small rural community of Creede. A tight-knit community where everyone knows each other, she would often be visiting others, when she heard emergency calls come in and watched the quick departures.  She wanted to help too. Four years ago, when the West Fork fire broke out near South Fork, she was only 16. She felt helpless. Don Dustin, a retiree who moved to Creede from Boulder 13 years ago, became an Emergency Medical Technician because he “didn’t have anything meaningful to do.” He encouraged Kukuk to try emergency medicine. After she took the EMT class, she had to wait five months, until she turned 18, to take the exam and get certified. She now serves on the South Fork Fire Department and became red-card certified last spring which enables her to fight wild land fires.  

“It’s a whole different story than structure fires,” she said.  

She also serves with the Mineral County Ambulance Service. She will begin EMT intermediate classes next fall at Trinidad State. “I like helping people,” she added. “I like making a difference. There is the family aspect of this work.  I feel close to everyone and everyone is treated with respect. I want to inspire other young people to give this a try.”

Dustin figures he has had close to 500 people complete the CPR and First Aid classes he teaches in Creede. “I have a captive audience here. Any kind of forest permit requires CPR and First Aid training.”

He added, “Deb Haverfield ‘makes me’ teach a class every year at the symposium!”

Trinidad State EMS student, Nelson Vialpando, wants to help others. Anxious to participate, he volunteered to help with the symposium. He hopes to find a job in a hospital and go on to become a paramedic.

The unwavering support and tireless efforts of Trinidad State Nursing Director LoriRae Hamilton, were instrumental in making the symposium a success.    

Participants came from Holyoke, Walsh, La Veta, Pueblo, Grand Junction and the San Luis Valley.  

Riley Frazee, the EMS Director in tiny Walsh, Colorado came with three others. “I always wanted to be in emergency services,” said Frazee. “We are required to get 72 hours of training every two years and I can pick up 24 of them here in one weekend.”

A friend asked Michael Filippi to join the fire department. He had an opportunity to do some training and loved it. Now the transport director with South Fork Fire Rescue, Filippi needed continuing education credits for recertification.

“I absolutely love taking care of people and helping them in their worst moments,” Filippi said.

The first annual Dusty Crophopper Big Heart award went to Sheriff’s Deputies Rick Martinez, Chris Flores, and Dusty Claunch who responded to a medical emergency together and saved a life. Each year the award will go to a first responder who embodies the traits and character of Dusty Claunch, a well-liked, service-minded Trinidad State EMS graduate.  

“If he knew you, and you needed something, Dusty would be there,” said Haverfield.  In honor of Dusty, his family members accepted his award. An emergency responder, Claunch also served as sheriff’s deputy and deputy coroner. He died in a crop dusting accident last August.

Hamilton and Haverfield would like to thank RETAC for partnering with them once again, symposium sponsors Flight for Life and North Star ambulances, all the instructors who committed to the long weekend, Jon Montoya and Jim Felmlee who helped with door prizes, Jeanne-Marie Bakehouse from the Colorado Department of Public Health who gave the state level EMS report and the participants who make this huge effort worthwhile.

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