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Oneida County Sheriff’s Office Telecommunications Team Honored with Spirit Award

Katie Thoresen/WXPR

911 dispatchers are often considered the first, first responders.

They’re talking people through what is likely one of the worst moments of their lives before police, fire, or medical responders get to the scene.

Oneida County Sheriff’s Office Telecommunicators are getting recognition for their work.

The whole team was honored with the 2021 Spirit Award on Thursday.

Oneida County Communications Lieutenant Jake Simkins nominated the team.

“They take care of one another. They work long hours. They’re here 24/7, 365. No matter what it’s all about the team and not themselves, really what the Spirit Award embodies in the EMS community, so I submitted the nomination for them. Really proud of this group,” said Simkins.

Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR

The Spirit Award is in honor of the Spirit 2 Medical Helicopter crew that died in an accident three years ago.

Pilot Rico Caruso, Flight Nurse Klint Mitchell and Flight Paramedic Greg Rosenthal all dedicated their lives to helping others.

“The last thing they did was safely deliver a patient before the accident,” said Matt Thompson, EMS Outreach Coordinator for Ascension Wisconsin Spirit Medical Transport.

The Spirit 2 crew was on their way back to Woodruff from Madison when their helicopter crashed in Hazelhurst.

Their loss is still felt in the first responder community.

“Doing everything we can to their legacies alive was important us,” said Thompson.

To keep that legacy alive, the medical group created the Spirit Award.

“What this entire Spirit Award is about is to honor the memory of our guys, but really truly give this award to someone or a group that will exemplify what it means to be in EMS and serve patients people and patients every day,” said Thompson.

Credit Katie Thoresen/WXPR

The Oneida County Sheriff’s Office Telecommunications Team is one of five recipients of the Spirit Award this year.

A group of people so dedicated, they continued to work and answer emergency calls even as the award was being presented to them.

Last year, they were behind the scenes of roughly 37,000 calls.

In any given day, the telecommunicators give CPR instructions over the phone, talk with suicidal people, and stay call while dispatching resources to all types of emergencies.

“We get it that it’s their worse day when they’re calling. To get them and to offer them help as soon and as quickly as possible is really our goal, really take that to heart and that’s why it’s a really special group,” said Simkins.

Two others have been presented with the Spirit Award this year.

Judi Karshna is a Parks Falls EMS with 60 years of experience in the health care industry. Michael Fraley is a paramedic for Oneida County EMS and also the Regional Trauma Advisory Council.

Two more awards will be given later this year.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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