Paris Emergency Medical Services is turning 40 this year, and EMS Director Kent Klinkerman is proud of the department’s hard work and unique legacy.

“We’re pleased and proud that we’ve been able to take care of the citizens of Paris and Lamar County all those years,” he said. “It was our goal back in 1979 to do exactly that.”

Klinkerman calls Paris EMS a “third city service,” an anomaly compared to most EMS services. Paris EMS services have passed from the funeral home, a private provider, the hospital and now to the city since its inception in 1979.

It’s also unique for the services it provides: in addition to emergency treatments, it also provides standbys and out of town transfers across the county.

There are 930 county miles to serve, Klinkerman said. With a three-ambulance fleet under three shift supervisors — John Janes, LP, Russell Thrasher, LP, and Robert Cody, EMT-P — EMS works with a team of 21 emergency responders, two billing staff members and three transfer staff. In 2018, the 3-ambulance fleet covered 250,000 miles and ran 8800 calls, a new record and historical high.

“We’re a full service EMS,” he said. “There’s lots of places that only do 911, or just transfers. We do everything. That’s what our citizens expect, and what we’ve done from the start.”

Full service requires emergency personnel to be experienced and adept, Klinkerman said. The remote locations and back county roads also require the teams to “go deep into patient care,” he said.

“You’ve got to be prepared for a wide variety of types of illnesses and injuries,” he said. “You’ve got have paramedics that have to be prepared to act quickly and decisively, with competence on the skills to take care of patients.”

Treatments and tools in the field have also changed drastically over the years.

“Patient care has changed so much,” he said. “We do so much more in the field. Cardiac care, respiratory, ventilators — you have to be broadly educated on anatomy and physiology to try to figure out what’s going on, what’s the underlying problem. Trying to not only treat the signs and symptoms, but try to get to the core of the issue.”

Klinkerman said the job can bring a lot of sad memories. Over the years, specific calls stick with him, he said. But despite working with “blood and bones,” the calls that still make him most nervous are labor and maternity.

“You’re not just thinking about one patient’s life, but two patients’ lives, the baby and the mamma,” he said.

Klinkerman is proud of the work his team does, in the field and behind the scenes.

Often working in tandem with volunteer fire departments, first responders out in the county and EMS Reserve forces, the department strives to bring a personal touch to a tough job.

“I think they do a good job. I think they’re motivated to be good at what they do, they’re dedicated to trying to not just do the care, but have some compassion,” he said. “It’s our family and friends that we’re picking up, so I tell them to take care of them like they’re family. Sometimes all that is, is holding their hand.”

Macon Atkinson is a staff writer for The Paris News. She can be reached at 903-785-6963 or macon.atkinson@theparisnews.com.

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