Whitehall good Samaritan retires

If you are cynical and think there are no Good Samaritans, stop by a fire house or rescue squad.

Ruth Scribner, 68, one of Whitehall’s Good Samaritans, is stepping down after years as head of the Skenesborough Emergency Squad.

The problem is most of the EMS workers that she has either trained and/or inspired do not want to let the current president and veteran board chairperson go.

“I’m still going to go to her for her knowledge,” Amy Michaud, an EMS member said. “Ruth was the one who got me to join the squad and take the EMT class and join EMS.”

Michaud described Scribner as being an authority in rescue work:

“She is a good person to go to. If you don’t know, you ask her. She has taught me the ins and outs. Over the years, Ruth has gained more experience than most to know if the call is going to go south,” Michaud said, meaning the call is going to turn from mildly serious to critical.

Captain Brandon Sparks said he, too, would be seeking Mrs. Scribner’s advice, especially about office operations.

“Basically, Ruth does all of the administrative work, the paperwork. There’s a lot of knowledge leaving with Ruth, that’s for sure.”

And it is not just knowledge of paperwork, Sparks said. Scribner is also a certified CPR instructor, recently teaching cardio-pulmonary resuscitation to students of rescue work in West Glens Falls.

He said Scribner was also one of the six to eight Washington County Coroners positioned throughout the county, and that she was deeply involved in the Whitehall Food Pantry. Captain Sparks explained Mrs. Scribner personified the type of person that gets involved in charitable work, especially rescue work.

“You have to have a special place in your heart to help people and help your community,” Sparks said.

Asked to describe what special ability Scribner brought to a rescue run, Sparks described coolness under pressure as a particular asset.

“If a patient is ill and worked up and in a panic,” Sparks said, “her soft-spoken-ness is very good at calming that patient down. ‘You’re going to be okay, you’re going to be all right,’ she’ll tell them.”

Sparks said the squad of 20 would miss sorely Scribner and her husband, Vernon, who is also a rescue squad member and plans to retire in December. Sparks explained that since most people work during the day, the squad has only five members who can answer distress calls during the day: the Scribners, Mrs. Michaud, Laura Card and Judge Julie Egan.

“These people,” Sparks said, “are big call takers, because they are able to drive during the day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.  We have a paid paramedic on call, and the Scribners drive the patient and the paramedic.”

The three other daytime rescue squad workers are also available, but Sparks said Scribner handled from between 10 to 20 calls per day.

“She and Vernon are our main people,” Sparks said. He added that their retirement would lower membership to 18. Should any Whitehall resident wish to fill these two critical vacancies, Sparks said they could email him at brandonsparks22@yahoo.com

Interviewed at the squad offices, Scribner said that even after she does retire, she will continue to answer any questions any active squad member has, but that her days of riding on rescue runs are over.  But what if she is directly called out to ride on a rescue run?

“I don’t have to answer the phone,” she laughed. “I have caller I.D.”

Besides, Scribner confided that she expects to fill in any extra time with an extra special person.

“I have a great granddaughter, Tessa,” Scribner said. “I plan on spending more time with her.  She’s three-and-a-half.  All the other grandchildren were boys. Tessa is a girl!”

Scribner recalled several memorable cases that she handled over the years, from tragic to triumphant, joyous to almost comic.

A tragic case involved a “boy special to us, Vernon and I,” Scribner said. “He had an accident, and he didn’t make it. That hurt.”

Another case four years ago began ominously but ended triumphantly.

“A man was Priority One. That means they are near dead,” Scribner said, adding that Skenesborough Rescue was able to rendezvous with Paul Zinn, a critical care technician from Granville, and working together, rescue workers from both squads were able to save the man’s life from a near-fatal heart attack.

The man later rewarded the rescue squad workers for their work.

“He gave us all pins,” Scribner said, “They were the pins that say, ‘You saved a life.’”

The most joyous calls she handled involved infants:

“I did deliver two babies,” she said. “Both were boys. They were five months apart.”

The comic call actually came sometime after the emergency was over. A child of a man who had taken a spill did not know Scribner, but he knew who she was and what she had done:

“‘You’re the maple syrup lady,’ the little boy told me, ‘and you came to our house when our Daddy fell,” Scribner recalled.

Scribner believes that rescue workers, or anyone involved in directly helping their fellow man, are made, not born. The veteran rescue worker, a member of Skenesborough Rescue Squad for more than 20 years, insisted that people had to be taught to help others; in other words, people learn to have a good heart.  In her case, that lesson came from her mother.

“My mother,” Scribner recalled, “was a widow. My father died on my third birthday.

And we were taught to help other people.”

She has in turn passed those lessons on to others.

“Ruth didn’t just become a first rate EMT, she went beyond that to train a generation of EMTs throughout the county. Her efforts will affect emergency services in the entire North Country for decades to come,” Julie Eagan said.

Scribner insisted that people have to be taught to help other people. If she is right, her retirement from the Skenesborough Rescue Squad means that the squad needs students willing to learn how to become Good Samaritans.

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