Kneehill Ambulance holds Reunion Celebration

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From its humble beginnings 39 years ago, Kneehill Ambulance Society (KAS) staff, board members, and 'friends' have witnessed the inevitable changes, the hurdles, and the resulting respect that comes from continuing to have one of the finest emergency services in the province. Many of its alumni were present for this reunion that was celebrated at the Linden Cultural Centre last Saturday afternoon, November 27. This occasion marked yet another change, the transition from Society-governed (with board members from Kneehill municipalities) to one that officially becomes, today, Wednesday, December 1, 2010 the full responsibility of the Provincial government. From the board to the staff, lamenting the inevitable was to be expected considering their years of dedication, but not one of them believes this will be anything but a seamless change-over, and that quality of service will not be hampered in any way.
Each alumni (Society board or ambulance staff) signed a guest roster and were given a commemorative pin. There were about 50 that were present to sign. A memory table displayed photos and stories, as well as uniforms and badges from the era. Garry Cunningham, long-time Emergency Medical Technician and Assistant to Director, introduced the guest speakers which included MLA, Richard Marz, Linden Mayor - Darwyn Moon, County Reeve and past Chairman of the Board - Carol Calhoun, current Chairman and Deputy Mayor of Linden - Flo Robinson. These speakers acknowledged the long history of commitment, dedication, professionalism and compassion that has defined the Service from its humble beginnings as volunteers for the Linden Ambulance Service to the present day paid staff and paramedics of the Kneehill Ambulance Society. It seemed everyone wanted to acknowledge the ideals handed down by ambulance pioneers Walt Regehr and Henry Dyck, (founders) and Martha Dyck (first dispatcher), and that in spite of its growing pains over the years, this rural service had such a positive impact on this County as well as being a model for the Province. It was appropriate that the roster of speakers would also include Walt Regehr - First Fire Chief (1968) as well as First Administrator of the Linden Ambulance (1971), Rod Wiebe - Director of the Ambulance from 1991 to 1994 and Ed Guenette - current Director of KAS. There were many stories shared about the experiences, the hurdles, the humor, the grief and the satisfaction of lives saved. An open mike time contributed to the memories as individuals (on the giving end and the receiving side) recounted their personal moments and their appreciation for all the players.
Walt reminded everyone of those humble beginnings when he spoke of the fleet of personal station wagons that were always kept gassed up in a garage as a back-up for their very first ambulance unit. He teased that, "The unit was powerless as we had to turn off the lights just to get uphill. There is lots of fancy equipment used today, but in those days," he joked, "we might not even have had a band-aid aboard." He recalled the time that having an ambulance was so new to the area that for any accident, it was usually the undertaker that was called first (for use of his vehicle) before someone would remember there was an ambulance, such as it was." There were very delicate rescue situations, before the days of metal-ripping jaws. Sometimes the rescued were so grateful they found themselves altering the course of their own career paths to enter the medical services field. As Rod Wiebe pointed out, "It is not just about the sirens and lights, as that glamor passes quickly during the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m. It is about the satisfaction that is derived from being able to do something for someone." For many of these men and women, even after they leave or retire, there will come a moment where there senses are re-alerted. For Rod it was a certain ring tone and to this day if he hears a similar ring, he has a brief second where he jumps and recalls the apprehension of moments long gone.
Ed Guenette likely summed it up best. "In the course of just 10 years we jumped from 40 calls a year to well over 1200 calls and up to 2000. "Who knew back in the day when Walt and Henry first thought to help people in this way? Who knew the number of lives that would be touched?"
For the sake of history, the official date of the incorporation was May 3, 1972, the document was signed on the 22 of March 1972 by Gordon King (County Administrator), Thomas Ferguson (Three Hills), Murray Steinbeck (Trochu), Allan Megli (Linden), Thomas J. Alexander (Three Hills), and Mack Hutton (Torrington).