Impact of the ambulance squad is felt in community for years

GEORGE “WEDGE” MURDOCH, left, and Roth “T” Tall — two of the charter members of Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association — stand beside one of the organization’s early ambulances ready for action in 1980. MVAA grew into what is today MREMS. Photo courtesy of T Tall

Roth “T” Tall, who has been with the Middlebury Regional Emergency Medical Service since the start, remembers the challenges and the triumphs of starting an ambulance service. 
“We were constantly training,” Tall recalled of the early years of what was then called the Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association, or MVAA. He said Porter Hospital physicians — such as the late Dr. Wayne “Pete” Peters — deserve huge credit for getting volunteers up to speed so they were prepared when faced with difficult medical situations.
Like his colleagues, Tall was sometimes thrust into situations where a patient’s life was dangling by a thread. He recalled a case during the early 1970s when his crew responded to a requested transfer of a newborn to Fletcher Allen Health Care in Burlington. The infant wasn’t breathing properly.
“That baby was as blue as your blue jeans,” he said.
The MVAA placed the baby into an isolette (a kind of clear plastic incubator) in the ambulance. The Porter physician at the time hadn’t given the child much of a chance for surviving, Tall noted.
It became apparent during the journey that the infant’s condition was worsening, so the crew cranked up the isolette oxygen to 100%. They handed off the child to Fletcher Allen staff, but Roth wasn’t optimistic for a happy ending.
Fast forward 15 years. It was the mid-1980s, and Tall was having a sandwich at what is now Shafer’s Market & Deli.
He feels a tap on his shoulder.
The woman doing the tapping ask him if he remembers her. Tall says, “No, I guess I don’t.”
She introduces herself as “the mother of a baby you took to Burlington 15 years ago,” and adds, “I’d like you to meet her.”
Each MVAA/MREMS volunteer has similar stories to tell about the triumph of human endurance, tragic loss and of course the routine calls that can lead to the unexpected.

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