GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. — This week marks the 46th annual National EMS Week and Life EMS of West Michigan is celebrating their nearly 600 workers.
This year's theme is “Ready for Today; Prepared for Tomorrow” a timely message amid the current COVID-19 pandemic, and while the celebrations may look slightly different this year they’re still making things special.
EMS week dates back to 1974 and it was started by President Gerald Ford to celebrate the work EMS practitioners do for our nations communities.
Every year as part of the national recognition Life EMS recognizes a ‘Star of Life’ through the American Ambulance Association, whom they send to Washington, DC to be recognized. This year that’s not possible but they’re doing what they can to celebrate their recipient Mark De Graaf locally and virtually.
“Well, Mark’s the epitome of providing both skill and compassion and very seasoned paramedics have done a great job and takes care of people in a very respectful way. Basically epitomizes all of the things that make life MSE ambulance, different from how we take care of people,” says Mark Meijer, Founder and President of Life EMS Ambulance.
De Graaf has been making a difference at Life EMS since 1993.
“You know, just being able to help people in a time of need and it's very rewarding. I always enjoyed helping people and As a young boy, I worked a lot around my neighborhood helping elderly people, mowing lawns, shoveling and things like that. I guess that carried over into my desire as a career to be a paramedic,” says Mark De Graaf, Paramedic.
Another part of the team to recognize this week that we don’t always think about but plays a critical role are the maintenance technicians who maintain more than 80 ambulances and more than 50 wheelchair vans and buses.
“We bring the ambulances in every 3500 miles for a complete check over oil change. Check the brakes, all the lights, sirens, doors, tires, do a complete check over the vehicle to make sure they're running up to top notch,” says Jim Vander Ploeg, Director of Fleet Readiness.
The technicians are also involved in some of the COVID processes and use some ultraviolet technology to kill all of the viruses each night.
So as a thank you, throughout the week associates will receive “grab and go” meals from local vendors and a chance to win gift cards through several games.
Meijer tells us they’ve done everything they can to lower cost and luckily haven’t had to lay anyone off. He also says they’ve had a dramatic drop in call volume due to the pandemic, but want to remind people they’re here to help and encourage people to call if they need help.