Christian Schmeck passed away a few days ago at 59. I saw his obituary posted in the EMS room at a local hospital. I suspect most of the newer EMTs who saw it didn’t know who he was.
I first met Chris over twenty years ago when I worked at the state health department. He was a service chief for a local volunteer ambulance and we had invited him to an EMS Summit to discuss ways the health department could improve the EMS system. He wore his white chief’s shirt with the gold badge on it, but he came across as an unassuming man who was happy to be invited, glad that someone wanted to listen to him. I remember sitting next to him at lunch and having a long talk with him about a call he did where he came upon a family found dead in their beds from carbon monoxide poisoning and I saw how deeply it affected him.
A few years later when I left the health department and started full-time as a paramedic, he was a training officer at the service where I was hired. He gave us all our orientation on our first day, and he was reassuring in providing guidance to the group of us new hires. Over the years I worked with him a few times. He was a good solid partner. Never a know-it-all, but not afraid to direct me if I started down a wrong track. And he was kind to patients – always. He never spoke a harsh word or showed a lack of patience. He was an EMT you wanted taking care of one of your family members if they ever needed help.
Like many in EMS, he was often tired, working commercially during the day to support his family and then spending long hours as a volunteer at night, teaching classes and doing calls. As the years went by, he divorced, moved to a new town, joined another volunteer service, and suffered a slow decline in his health. Eventually, he gave up the road, and went into dispatch, and then just teaching. I saw him a few times in hospital rooms in the ED and did a double talk on seeing him on the other side of the stretcher. I’d always stop and talk and wish him well. He would tell me he was doing better, just waiting to be discharged or possibly just admitted for the night.
The last I saw him was in the aftermath of big storm we had last October. He was walking out of an emergency shelter. He wore a nasal cannula and carried a small O2 tank on his shoulder. I didn’t have time to talk, but we said hello.
For those EMTs who read his obituary, but who never knew the man, Christian Schmeck was one of us.