7/2/2013 8:03:00 AM 27-year veteran retires from ambulance service
By Paula Vagts Bluff Country Newspaper Group
Chris Czapiewski began with the ambulance service thinking he was only going to do it for a few years; 27 years later he has decided to retire.
Retirement, though, is a relative term for him, as he co-owns Matt's Body Shop and Tire Service, is the Spring Valley fire chief, a father of six and soon to be a grandfather of five. It's safe to say he isn't slowing down anytime soon!
He started at the fire department in 1984, at that time the ambulance service was independently owned by Wally Osland and they were having problems finding recruits, so the fire department ended up picking up a lot of first responder calls. Czapiewski recalled, "I figured as long as I was going to be part of the fire department I wanted to participate in that too, so I took the EMT classes and became an EMT."
He continued on to say that he didn't want to be a part of the ambulance service because he didn't have the time. But in 1986 the city took over the ambulance service and when Jim McCabe asked Czapiewski if he would help out with the ambulance, since he already had the EMT training, he agreed, thinking it would only be for a few years.
Twenty-seven years later he looks back on his service as a very rewarding experience, in which he got to meet a lot of people over the years that he probably wouldn't have met without the organization, as well as those he's helped take care of over the years.
"You can actually say there are people alive in Spring Valley from what you have done," he said. "It's something that you can make a direct impact on people's lives."
In fact, one of his most memorable experiences made a lifelong impact on his own family. He was on ambulance duty early one morning when his wife got a call that their cousin was in labor and to bring their daughter over to watch her older child. About 10 minutes later his crew got a call to respond to the residence. Five minutes after they arrived, he helped deliver the baby!
When asked why he decided to retire he explained that as he got older and his children got older he always thought he'd end up having more time, but as the years passed he found himself with less and less time.
His decision to retire from the service wasn't an easy one, as it has been getting harder to find volunteers for the ambulance.
"This is not for everybody; you do have to take the bad with a grain of salt," Czapiewski explained, "You kind of need to have a little bit of a sense of humor with everyone on the service, because if you take the job too seriously you won't last long."
He hopes more people will discover how rewarding being a EMT is, especially in a small town like Spring Valley where everyone knows everyone. It is truly a staple service this community needs.
He also stressed this is a job that one can do at any age and as long as they are physically fit.
He position as the fire chief will still allow him to work with the ambulance service and he doesn't plan on retiring from that work any time soon. He always wanted to be a firefighter, calling it his "first love."
It might have been a struggle at times to balance all of the responsibilities he has taken on over the years, but he has no regrets.
"The time went by fast and I enjoyed every minute of it," remarked Czapiewski. "It was fun to do."