Mary Bubbers looks back on over 30 years on the ambulance service

Mary Bubbers, who was a member of the Caledonia Area Ambulance Service for more than 30 years, said it was a very rewarding experience. Photo by Charlie Warner

\By Charlie Warner
Argus Editor

Sometimes an insignificant event can completely change one’s life. Mary Bubbers, who spent more than 30 years serving with the Caledonia Area Ambulance Service (CAAS) is a perfect example.

Shortly after graduating from college with a degree in elementary eduction, she found herself serving as a playground monitor at the local elementary school. A young student was injured and some first aide help was required.

“They didn’t have a school nurse back then,” Bubbers recalled. “So we did what we could. It wasn’t a serious injury, but did require some attention.”

It was at that time that Bubbers decided to take a first aide class. She had grown up hearing about first aide and advanced first aide classes. Her older brother Greg Konzem had been involved with the local ambulance service for many years. So she understood how important this type of education was.

“I took two first aid classes from Jim Cooper, who was teaching for the Caledonia Ambulance Service and it just took off from there,” Bubbers recalled.

Although she had gone to college to be a teacher, she quickly learned that she had another calling in life…helping others through medical care.

After taking several more classes, she joined the CAAS and served on the local ambulance service for more than 30 years.

The local service has drastically evolved over the years, according to Bubbers. When she first got on, they had a station wagon and a suburban for transporting patients.

“There wasn’t a lot you could do for a patient when they were in the back of the old station wagon,” she said with a chuckle. “We had to load a very large man into it once and I don’t understand how he wasn’t claustrophobic. His face was right against the ceiling.

“Those first few years, it was pretty much load and go, check the pulse and drive,” Bubbers continued. “There were many more hospitals in the area, so the transport time wasn’t that long. Back then it was more just getting the person to the hospital.”

Over the years the equipment has gotten much more sophisticated and the training much more intense. All of the current members of the CAAS are required to enroll in a number of EMT classes, must pass rigorous testing and complete refresher courses on a regular basis.

The equipment the CAAS utilizes now is light years from what it was three decades ago. When Bubbers first started, crew members would administer CPR, had an oxygen machine and neck and back braces.

Now EMTs utilize cardiac defibrillators, which actually shock a person back to life, on a regular basis. Bubbers said she knows of a number of persons still enjoying healthy lives who wouldn’t be around if not for the cardiac defibrillator.

“That’s by far the biggest reward,” Bubbers noted. “Actually seeing people alive and being part of the community who probably wouldn’t be here if not for the ambulance service. That is really something.”

Bubbers said the CAAS has molded the professional lives of many persons as well. She is a perfect example. While she went to college to be an elementary teacher, once immersed in the health field, she went back to school, earned her RN degree and has worked as a nurse in the Mayo Clinic Health System for the past 25 years.

She said there are many other Caledonia-area residents who started out as a member of the CAAS, who are now working full time in the medical and health fields.

Bubbers said she is quite impressed with the support the Caledonia area provides for the CAAS. And through this support, she feels the local ambulance service is second to none when it comes to dedicated and well-trained EMTs and the state-of-the-art equipment they have.

“The chicken-Q is a perfect example of the fantastic support. When you have 700 to 800 people turn out for the chicken barbecue, that really says a lot as far as how the community values the ambulance service.”

When asked if she had to do it all over again, would she be a part of the ambulance service, Bubbers replied, “most definitely.”

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