Bangor, Maine: Muddy Angels from Maine to Washington and points in between, along with friends and fellow bicyclists from Canada, have come together for a remembrance ride for one of their own, Isaac “Skippy” Greenlaw. Skippy grew up in the Bangor area and worked for several fire/rescue departments in the area, as well as working dispatch. He dedicated his adult life to public service and safety.
According to those closest to him, Skippy exhibited signs of bipolar disorder and PTSD for years. In September 2018, he took his own life. No one knew it was coming. To a person, if he had only called, any of the Muddy Angels, his fellow participants in the National EMS Memorial Bike Ride, would have been there for him.
It’s been nine months, and people are still in mourning. His mother still struggles with the loss. She told me he’d called her and explained his plan, then disappeared. He was found in the woods several days later.
The evening before the ride, we attended a con-ed program. Much of its emphasis was on providers watching out for each other, recognizing the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress, communicating with each other and with management on mental health issues, and pursuing assistance to help those ailing get better.
Isaac joined the NEMSBR in 2009—that was a good year of inspired riders, and strong friendships were formed. He returned for many years thereafter, assisting in every aspect of the ride, moving luggage, setting up rest stops, marking routes, and riding to remember the fallen. He gave the biggest hugs that could at times be uncomfortably long if you didn’t know that was his style. He always had a smile on his face and a friendly word for each person he encountered. In his downtime he would travel for photography. I was always pleased when he reached my area, because there would be a phone call and a loud, “Hey, brotha, coming your way! Let’s do lunch!” And a good time was had.
We rode for two days, 130 miles, from Bangor to Freeport, Me. The weather was sunny and breezy, but the temperature was high 30s to low 40s. Rolling country roads that survived a New England winter were crumbly, rough, and full of potholes.
On our journey I spoke with several riders about what made them come out to do their first ride. Rod Kohen of Maine read about it in a magazine and thought it would be fun, interesting, and the right thing to do. He did it with a coworker and friend. Sara Salvis, of Candia, N.H., and Tamie Lynne, who came from Washington state, heard Steve Berry talk about it at EMS conferences.
During the ride filmmaker Jen Lyons gathered footage for a planned documentary to be called Who Will Rescue the Rescuer? Keep an eye out for it.
I rode with one colleague who was having a hard time reconciling a call he’d run the week before. It was a pediatric trauma code—a child got off a school bus, then went under the rear wheels. He treated the patient and had them at the hospital in 10 minutes, but the child didn’t make it. He was reliving the call, as we all have when we’ve had a bad one. His thoughts: Could he have done more?
We made a stop in Augusta, the state capital and where the state’s EMS memorial is. A ceremony was held, a bell rung. Isaac was there the year the memorial was dedicated. Now he will be on it.
In Freeport we held a final ceremony for Skippy, said our good-byes to each other, and moved on. Some went on to join the northern NEMSBR bike ride, others the southern, and others on home.
Rest in peace, Skippy Greenlaw. If only you’d known how many loved you and would miss you.
Mike Kennard, EMT-P, has been in EMS for more than 33 years. He currently works as a paramedic at Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester, NH, and is a program coordinator for the New Hampshire Bureau of EMS. Mike is a retired assistant chief from the Nottingham (NH) Fire and Rescue Department. Contact him at email@example.com.