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Thursday, May 9, 2013

EMS: EMT Gordy Anderson started, 44 years ago #CaEMS

Longtime ambulance worker has seen it all
Scoop and load.
A group photo of Gordy Anderson and other Hartson’s Ambulance Service EMTs and their ambulances taken at the Jack Murphy Stadium parking lot in 1974. Courtesy photos

That’s what emergency workers did back when Gordy Anderson started, 43 years ago. They’d get into an ambulance that was little more than a station wagon with a siren on top, hurry to the scene of a car accident or heart attack, put the patient in the back and rush to the nearest hospital.
“You’d try to stop the bleeding if you could, but that was about it,” Anderson said.
CPR? Paramedic? Trauma center? What’s that? A first-aid class was the extent of his training.
Gordy Anderson working as an EMT for Hartson’s in 1974. In the early 1970s, he was part of the county’s first Emergency Medical Technician class.
American Medical Response dispatcher Gordy Anderson with a 1976 Cadillac Miller-Meteor ambulance, the type he worked out of in the early part of his long career as an emergency medical technician. Hayne Palmour IV • U-T
Gordy Anderson tracks ambulance calls in the communications room at American Medical Response in Kearny Mesa. — Hayne Palmour IV / U-T
That changed, of course, and keeps changing. Every year brings new equipment and techniques that improve the chances of survival for people injured in places where medical help has to come to them — no small thing in a nation where trauma is the leading cause of death for people under the age of 45.
Anderson is a dispatcher now with the San Diego branch of American Medical Response, a private ambulance company that serves Chula Vista, Imperial Beach, La Mesa, Lemon Grove and several rural fire districts. At age 63, he’s proud of the improvements in a profession he helped pioneer here. And proud that one thing hasn’t changed.
“We take care of people,” he said. “That’s what we do.”
Earlier this year, in Washington D.C., he received the Star of Life, a national honor, from the American Ambulance Association.
“A lot of people since 9/11 got into this business not to help people but to be heroes,” said Thom Hillson, who works for an ambulance company in Colorado and has known Anderson since the early 1970s. “They get separated out pretty quickly. They can’t imagine the kinds of things we see and do.
“You might get a call from an 80-year-old woman who’s having trouble breathing and it turns out her husband died two weeks ago after 32 years of marriage. She called 9-1-1 because she needed someone to talk to. Some people resent that. But somebody like Gordy, he understands. He calls off the ambulance, sits down with a pot of coffee and talks to her.
“It takes somebody special to tolerate that — to not just tolerate it, but embrace it. Gordy is that kind of person.”


Anderson was on duty in 1978 when a PSA jet collided with a Cessna and crashed in North Park, killing 144 people. He was on duty in 1984 when a gunman shot 40 people at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro.
But ask Anderson about his most memorable calls and he talks about a cancer patient he transported from a hospital to a clinic for radiation treatments. In the beginning, she was in so much pain she recoiled when Anderson touched her bed. Some 30 treatments later, she was well enough to ask the ambulance crew to drive by her house so she could make sure her husband was watering the flowers.
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