For Jerry Waters of Aiken, Edward J. Eidson II, Jared DeRosier and Courtney Washburn are lifesavers.
For the three Aiken County Emergency Management Services paramedics, saving lives is just part of their profession. Waters and his wife, Gracie, surprised Eidson, DeRosier and Washburn with their personal thanks Monday at Aiken Technical College and announced a new endowment to ATC in honor of them and other medical responders. The Jerry W. Waters Scholarship Endowment will help students in the college's Emergency Medical Services department receive training to help save other people's lives.
On Sept. 12, 2018, Waters suffered a heart attack, causing his heart to stop twice.
"Fortunately, by the grace of God and the expertise of these three trained, professional emergency medical technicians, my heart was started again both times in an Aiken County ambulance on the way to the hospital," Waters said. "These guys saved my life, and we take them for granted. I'm here because of them. I don't think anyone can thank you enough," Eidson and DeRosier both were humble about their role as lifesaving heroes.
"I was just doing my job," Eidson said.
"God gave you your life back," DeRosier said. "We were just used as a tool."
Jonathan Jones, ATC's Emergency Medical Services program director and the department chair of Allied Health, said he is looking at using the endowment to help students pay for required tests for certification as they move through the program from EMT basic to EMT advance to paramedic. Students must pass the tests to receive state certification and work.
"Some of those tests can be up to $250 each," Jones said. "That seems to be a hurdle for some of our students, especially younger students who are just getting started in college and the workforce."
Having Waters' endowment to help pay for those tests will free up other grant money to buy more training equipment so students will be better prepared, Jones said.
"It's a win-win absolutely," he said.
Cindy Blystone, the Continuous Quality Improvement officer at Aiken County EMS, said South Carolina has a critical shortage of EMS personnel in all counties.
"As our profession has grown, the amount of education required has continuously increased, and with that, the financial burden of entering the EMS profession has increased. This endowment will be here forever to help someone achieve their goal of doing paramedicine as a career," she said.
The first scholarship will be awarded during the 2020-21 academic year. The criteria for the scholarship are as follows:
--The recipient must be a resident of Aiken County.
--Preference will be given to a graduate of the Aiken County Career and Technology Center who was enrolled in the Emergency and Fire Management program.
--The recipient must be enrolled in the associate in applied science paramedic program.
--The recipient must have a minimum grade point average of 2.5. Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.