EMS crew rebuilds patient's wheelchair ramp
After helping a quadriplegic whose wheelchair slid off the ramp leading to his home, Okaloosa County EMS crew members came back on their own time to fix the ramp
By Wendy Victora
Northwest Florida Daily News
CRESTVIEW, Fla. — If their supervisor hadn't spread the word about their act of extreme kindness, Kris Kempf and Karen Griffin could have stayed out of the limelight.
No one would have known that after helping a quadriplegic whose wheelchair slid off the ramp leading to his home north of Crestview, the Okaloosa County EMS crew members came back on their own time to fix the ramp.
"We just couldn't go away knowing that he had to go through these type of conditions where he could hurt himself and he had nobody to help him," said Kempf, who is a paramedic and decidedly press-shy. "It wasn't finished at all. No traction. No side rails. Just a plywood ramp that goes up to his front door. It's too steep to begin with."
Kempf and Griffin, an emergency medical technician, were called to the home in rural north Okaloosa County midday Thursday. The resident, a 59-year-old man paralyzed in a diving accident nearly four decades ago, had just moved to the area. He used all of his money to have the ramp built and hoped it was good enough.
But his heavy, motorized wheelchair hit a puddle, skidded and toppled off the ramp and landed on him. The EMS crew came out, lifted the 200-plus pound chair off of him and immediately started discussing how to fix the ramp.
"It was unsolicited and immediate kindness," said the man, who asked that his name not be used.
That night, Kempf, Griffin and Griffin's husband returned after work, fixed the the handrails and added a 2 X 4 to each side so that he wouldn't slide off the ramp again.
"They were outside in the rain and the dark," the man said. "I was like, 'You guys don't need to be doing this.' They told me, 'We are going to make this safer.' "
Their work paid off the next day, which was also rainy.
"If they hadn't done this, I would have been in the yard this morning," the man said. "I came out, slid all the way down the ramp. At the last minute, the board they put on the edge of the ramp stopped me."
Kempf plans to to come back next week and add a section to make the ramp longer. He is also adding some anti-skid strips and is considering what he can do to fix the ramp's steep angle.
"I've done stuff for patients before," he said. "I've never told anybody. I just do it for them, really."
The Daily News learned of their actions after their supervisor's internal email was sent to the newspaper.
"You guys, this is what it's all about," Samantha Diaz wrote in the email. "No matter the types of days we have, the things we see, it is all about helping people. Thank you Karen and Kris for exemplifying the true spirit of EMS and why we do what we do."
Copyright 2018 Northwest Florida Daily News