White named Paramedic of the Year

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 20, 2010

NATCHEZ — Being in uncomfortable places with lives on the line is where Thomas White Sr. feels the most comfortable.

That is why after 29 years as a paramedic, White wants to continue riding in the ambulance rather than take an office job.

“When you go out and help people, they are expecting you to do something,” White said. “If a child is drowning and not breathing, when we drive up, the first thing the mother is going to do is run up and hand us the child.

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“You can’t freeze up at that moment.”

Dedication to the job during the years has played a part in earning White the Mississippi Emergency Medical Technicians Association’s Paramedic of the Year.

White, who thought he was coming in to work the American Medical Response booth at the MEMTA conference in Natchez for two hours, was tricked into going to the awards ceremony.

“When they started naming off the paramedic of the year’s experience, I thought that sounded like me,” White said. “When they said he turned down an office job to stay in the field, I thought that sounded even more like me.

“It was a shock, but I’m honored to have been recognized.”

Tim Houghton, who is the AMR operations manager for Southwest Mississippi, said White actually trained him.

“You want to talk about humbling,” Houghton said.

“I come in to help make decisions, and he knows I don’t ask any questions that he didn’t train me to ask.

“I thank him for getting my career off to a good start.”

Houghton said White still comes to the job with a smile on his face.

“He’s worked for 29 years and even with some of the things he has seen, he still greets everyone who walks in with a smile,” Houghton said.

Four years ago, Houghton said White helped save his grandfather’s life.

“Thomas was the medic to respond when my grandfather went into cardiogenic shock,” Houghton said. “He was pretty far in and was non-responsive, but by the time my grandfather left the hospital, he was responding.

“A lot of people would have frozen up when they found out it was a supervisor’s relative, but Thomas did everything right in getting him back.”

White said he once responded to a call where a 5-year-old was involved in a wreck, and it turned out to be his son.

“I did not know it was my son until I got there,” White said. “When it is a family member, people tend to panic and freak out — but I knew it was the time to get everything right.”

Today, Thomas White Jr., 31, is doing well and working alongside his dad as a paramedic.

White said he wants to work until he is 70, which will be another 11 years.

“Every 10 years, the company gives you a diamond,” White said. “I will be like a 4-star general then.”