Ron Sunderland isn’t just the manager of Rosie’s. He’s also an EMT.
ADDISON COUNTY — Many Addison County residents know Ron Sunderland as the long-time manager of Rosie’s Restaurant, a Route 7 landmark in Middlebury. But did you know that in addition to his demanding full-time job, Sunderland has been working as a first responder since 1993?
He first became interested in learning emergency medical skills in case one of his customers had a health problem while at the restaurant, and decided to take the initial training and volunteer with Townline First Response for calls near his home in Bridport. Soon after Sunderland also signed up to cover a regular Friday shift as a volunteer with the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association, which is now Middlebury Regional EMS. To volunteer this time Ron had to give up a day off of work.
Subsequent training made Sunderland what is now called an Advanced EMT, with certification to give injections and intravenous fluids. Over the years he became an officer with both Townline and Middlebury, and in 2010 joined the Bristol Rescue Squad, another ambulance service, as a volunteer and president for the past eight years. He is a board member for District 7 EMS, headquartered in New Haven, which governs all the first response groups in the area.
In 2005 he took extra training to become a medical examiner and can be called to check into any sudden death in Addison County. In 2003 he received the Vermont AEMT of the Year award for his service.
Ron Sunderland well remembers his first emergency call in Bridport, only two days after he completed his training. He was called to a location on Torrey Road for what turned out to be a fatal shooting incident. He was called to many auto accidents in the area, including a lengthy extrication in Cornwall where the victim’s leg was caught, and another where the driver’s head was trapped between the A-post (next to the windshield) and the car door.
But he says there is actually very little “blood and gore”; most emergency calls are for medical problems. These can be challenging to figure out but often involve difficulty breathing. People frequently wait too long to summon help and the situation becomes critical.
He also remembers many calls to help intoxicated young people and a few scary situations with young children and infants. He fondly recalls a few “frequent fliers,” like the lonely lady who called 911 each Thursday night for a trip to the hospital for her breathing difficulty. She made friends with the crew and learned the protocols well enough to coach new volunteers through the treatment procedures in the ambulance.
Sunderland’s training has helped patrons at the restaurant with choking (yes, that Heimlich maneuver really works!) and other medical problems that arose while they were at the table. One 92-year-old gentleman turned blue after choking on a piece of lamb. It took one Heimlich while he was seated, then another with him on the floor to clear both pieces he had caught in his throat. He was still unconscious and was taken to UVM Medical Center. When he recovered and returned, Sunderland told him “no more lamb, you are having tomato soup!” The man lived on to the ripe old age of 97.
While on the Bristol Rescue Squad, Ron had to climb down a 150-foot riverbank to stabilize an ankle fracture for a young man injured while swimming in the gorge. Firefighters helped carry the man up the steep embankment to the ambulance. Sunderland said he is grateful to have firefighters and police officers to help when needed.
Sunderland recalls several auto accidents that took place directly in front of Rosie’s on Route 7, and one particularly dramatic crash where a motorcyclist flew through the air and landed in Rosie’s second driveway. Sunderland rushed to help, while a staff member grabbed Ron’s emergency bag from his car. Staff at Rosie’s are encouraged to take annual CPR training, (over a dozen have done so), and there is a defibrillator in Ron’s office if needed for sudden cardiac arrests.
Sunderland says it is harder to get enough volunteers for all the squads where he works these days, and both Middlebury and Bristol use paid staff to manage their scheduling needs. Older volunteers may be put off by new requirements for computer skills to take the course, and young people are working hard to make ends meet and raise their families, and may feel too burdened to take the course and volunteer. Ron discovered he enjoys teaching and continues to act as an instructor for new EMTs.
He thanks the volunteer first responders who are on scene before the ambulance service arrives. They have the same emergency training and certification as the ambulance crew. He looks for the one with the clipboard, who has the patient information that ambulance and emergency room personnel require.
New volunteers are very much needed and appreciated in all our local squads. Please consider taking classes to volunteer in your area. We are so thankful for Ron Sunderland’s many hours of volunteer service to the residents of Addison County through Townline First Response in Bridport, Middlebury Regional EMS, and Bristol Rescue over the years.
For information about volunteering with any of the squads in the area or when the next EMT courses might be held, call Ron Sunderland at 388-7052.
Editor’s note: This story was provided by Alice Grau of Town Line First Response.
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