Sophomore Hannah Mishriky, a member of Saint Michael’s Rescue, looked down upon a lifeless body at the scene of a two-car accident. The sirens of the ambulance blared as the lights painted the scene in flashes of red. The patient had gone into cardiac arrest and wasn’t breathing. Mishriky began compressions and felt the ribs of the patient break under her hands. It was her first “code,” which means her first time dealing with a patient in cardiac arrest.
“We got a pulse back, which is really unusual. It’s called a code save,” Mishriky said. “She looked very dead and then you could see her coming back to life.” The patient left the hospital completely healthy giving Mishriky her first “code save”.
“It’s very raw, it teaches you a lot and takes you away from the privilege you’ve been given,” Mishriky said. “St. Mike’s can feel like a bubble and everywhere you live can feel like a bubble. It’s just the fact that when I come [to Saint Michael’s Rescue] I know that the bubble is immediately popped. So it doesn’t change my perspective, it just widens it.”
Marty Maloney ’18 was the Crew Chief and in charge of all patient care during Mishriky’s code save. A lot of people know Maloney. He’s a modest guy who always says hi and flashes his trademark cheery smile whenever he sees you. The guy who would never brag about the amount of responsibility he carries with him at rescue.
On a typical day, Maloney runs the ambulance. As he transports patients to the hospital, his genuine spirit radiates through the whole vehicle and calms the patient. At that moment, the patient’s well-being rests in Maloney’s hands. If anything were to happen, he would use his extensive training to save the patient. With Maloney at the helm of the ship, everyone feels safe.
The sirens blared as the ambulance cruised down the middle of the road. Through the back window, cars pulled over as the road escaped from under the ambulance and the Saint Michael’s College sign faded into the background.
On the way to the hospital, Maloney delegated tasks, asked a series of medical questions, tested the patient’s vital signs, and charmed the patient with small talk at the same time without missing a beat. He glided around the tight quarters of the ambulance with ease. Every question and every move was smooth and deliberate.
Gaining his Advanced EMT Certification and achieving the rank of First Lieutenant as a junior, Maloney has advanced through the ranks quickly and says he doesn’t plan to stop. “It's addictive and it’s a huge part of my life now and I definitely can’t see my life without it,” he said. “It makes you grow up very quickly because you’re put in situations that you can’t afford to be immature in.”
John Keating ‘17, captain of the rescue unit, was only a sophomore when he found himself at a car accident resulting in two deaths. “The driver of the car, one of the two people that died, had just graduated high school and he was 19,” he said. “I was only a year older than him and that loss of life has stuck with me, but its opened my eyes to understand that life’s short and you have to seize every opportunity. You have to live better, live happier and don’t let the small things get to you.”
Even though Rescue comes with a lot of responsibility, Keating says that it’s worth it. “The people are calling us because it’s one of their worst days and just being able to help them and comfort them, or making a patient who’s having a bad day smile or laugh a little bit in the back…it’s those small rewarding experiences that make it better,” Keating said. “Looking back on it, joining rescue has been the greatest decision I could have made so far in my life.”
While some students work with the rescue side of the program, others prefer to work with Saint Michael’s Fire for an entirely different experience. The fire squad sprang into action earlier this year during a training exercise that allowed the members to put their skills to use in a live fire. Fire trucks lined the streets of Winooski as Saint Michael’s Fire members strapped on an oxygen tank and dashed head-first into the thick smoke and crackle of the burning building.
“There is a real level of responsibility, not only toward yourself, but for campus and the community. We are the ones they rely on,” Brian Eldridge ’18 said. Eldridge is first lieutenant of the fire unit and loves the authenticity of the program. “This is something that’s real. It’s not like you’re training because you might do this someday. The consequences are real. It’s the first real thing you ever do.”
For Griffin Rogers ’18, this authenticity changed his outlook on life. “It makes everything else seem miniscule because once you do fire and you go to real stuff, nothing’s really a big deal. It gives you real world experience.” Firefighter EMT Luke Woodard ’18 learned that the rewards are just as real as the consequences when the group was approached by an alumnus who graduated decades ago. The alumnus had fallen off a cliff as a student and became emotional when he praised Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue for saving his life. “It’s little reminders that what you’re doing actually has an impact,” Woodard said. “A lot of times, you can go on a lot of calls and then feel like they’ve been nonsense calls. You’ll go through a spell and all it takes is one good call or one person saying something like that to remind you why it’s important.”
Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue helps people in different towns all over Vermont. However, many students don’t think of them as heroes. When a person gets in trouble for alcohol or drug consumption on campus, fire and rescue usually assist with the situation. This association can leave people with a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to Fire and Rescue.
“It sucks when you’re seeing somebody who you have class with or are friends with,” Woodard said. “You’re seeing them in such a different way and you have to be the bearer of bad news and a lot of people associate it negatively since that’s the only time they see Rescue and Fire or interact with it. That’s such a small portion of what we do and it’s nobody’s favorite part. We do a lot more than that,”
Fire and Rescue is completely student-run with the exception of a few paid employees. “When someone calls 911 it’s a bunch of St. Mike’s students that show up in an ambulance or a fire truck. Everyone from the driver to everyone in the back is a St Mikes student,” Woodard said. “Just being a part of something as unique and intense as that and the responsibility that it requires…it’s different than anything I’ve done before and different from what most college students experience.”
Most students wouldn’t expect to sit in class next to someone who has saved a life or do a project with a person who has put out a fire. However, at Saint Michael’s College, having class with a hero is an everyday reality. For the members of Saint Michael’s Fire and Rescue, it is not just their actions that make them heroes, it is their modesty. They are the silent protectors of not only campus, but Vermont.