My dad's work as an EMT taught me and my son about sacrifice and giving back

The world needs more heroes, like Richard Ponikiewski and Ronnie Ferguson, ready and willing to lend their helping, knowledgeable hands

By Dustin Ponikiewski

I was involved in a wrong way accident recently, with my 5-year-old son and 3-month-old daughter in the backseat. Another car crossed the median and crashed into us head-on. We were all shaken, but OK.

The fire department arrived on scene, and all my son wanted to know was, "When is Papa going to get here?"

When I was a child I did not understand why my dad, Richard Ponikiewski, would leave his family to go and help other people that didn’t appreciate them. As I got older, I grew to appreciate that what he did every day was a tough choice, that it was not an easy road, but more like a personal mission, a natural calling.

My dad got that call to care for others a long time ago. He did not answer that call for the money or the recognition. He answered it because he was a man who longed to give back.

He wanted to help people. In times of hardship and disaster, if you look closely, you will see my dad and others like him. The helpers. They are the ones that sacrifice much of themselves to be there for others. He was one of them.

Personal and family sacrifice
Although he was not able to save everyone he set out to save, the effort and heart he put into it was astounding and something that many people knew and respected about him, myself included. He would be the first one there and the last one to leave. He was willing to do anything he could to make someone’s situation better.

I learned more of my dad’s sacrifice on the job when he told the story of losing a young child, a boy, around the same age as my brother and I. I realized how closely it hit home and how much that event shook him to the core.

The long days of him working followed by the few days he was able to take off led me to think that he may have cared about the job more than his family. But after seeing what he did each day, and how many other families he helped, I understood this was not the case. He loved us and was also able to do what he loved as a career. He balanced it as best as he could, which I think is the case for many of our first responders.

When your dad is an EMT
The calls he shared with our family reflected all ends of the spectrum, some funny, but others very scary. I always wanted him to come to school with me for show and tell. I wanted to show off to the whole class how cool my dad’s job was!

When he was teaching me to ride a bike for the first time, I fell off and scratched my leg. I remember him coming to my "rescue," then sizing up my "injuries."

He looked at me and asked, "Are you walking? Talking? Breathing? Then you will be just fine."

When I was beginning to learn how to drive, he and my aunt (his sister, who is a longtime member of the Ft. Worth Police Department) showed me pictures of accident scenes where speed or distractions were a factor. I like to think this scared me straight! This same talk came when my brother started driving as well.

With my dad being in the medical field, I always knew I could ask any question I needed to, trusting that when I did, he would always have the right answer ready in his matter of fact way. 

Lifelong inspiration
My dad also inspired me to find a spouse with the same caring attitude. And my mom, Lisa, was right there too. Her guidance helped me learn how to deal with having a spouse that is a first responder.

My wife, Melinda, works as a senior dispatcher with the Grand Prairie Police Department. I hear stories from every side, the sad ones that stay with them always, and the happy ones where everything turns out OK. In the few accidents I have been involved in, I know that when 911 is called and the paramedics show up, everything will be OK.

My dad has motivated me to help where I can, not for the glamour but because I believe it enriches the soul. It is a wonderful thing to be able to provide relief for another person in their time of need. I believe that this world needs more heroic people like my dad, and his partner Ronnie Ferguson, ready and willing to lend their helping, knowledgeable hands.

EMS Appreciation Week should not be just one week, but all year long, because they deserve so much more credit than is given to them.

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