The Byron Rescue Squad gathered at the Depot Restaurant in Le Roy on Monday, Feb. 3, 2014, to acknowledge a very special EMT. Mary Hutchison, of Byron, has served a combined 40 years in the emergency medical service. She was honored with a scarf with her name and EMT number embroidered on it. Over the course of the dinner meeting that night, Mary’s peers asked her about her long career, and although she does not like to bring attention to herself, she agreed to share her story.
Mary began her career as a registered nurse.
“The emergency department nurse ‘bug’ bit me,” she said.
Mary loved being a nurse. It was during this time in 1973 that the doctor in charge of the emergency room thought that nurses who worked there could benefit from taking this new course called, Medical Emergency Technician class. So Mary became what would later be called, an EMT.
In 1976 new regulations about pre-hospital care went into effect. This resulted in the funeral directors no longer being able to provide transportation to the hospital with their hearses. It required paid ambulances to have EMTs on call. Volunteer services were then formed. Some ambulances became part of local fire departments and some were independent. Mary joined the North Seneca Ambulance, a volunteer corps independent of the local fire department which covered six townships in Seneca County. North Seneca Ambulance was certified on April 1, 1976, making it the first in New York State.
Mary was also a member of the 817th Evacuation Hospital, US Army Reserves, based in Webster, NY from 1974 - 1998. Her duties included teaching the Army’s Field Medic Course. Due to the similarities in the courses, she became part of a team who combined the Field Medic Course with the EMT course so that graduates could qualify for their Army job and at the same time, also have the skills to get a civilian job. It is interesting to note that the Army now graduates all Field Medics with National Certification as an EMT.
In 1982 Mary married Bob Michels and moved to the Wyoming County Town of Gainesville. She wanted to continue as an EMT, but was told that since the ambulance was part of the Fire Department, she would have to become a firefighter first. At that time no woman had ever joined the fire department. Mary knew that it was illegal to discriminate against her because she was a woman, so Mary asked one of the members to sponsor her.
Bob Zuidema was able to convince the department that Mary was not ‘"rying to take over the department’." So it was with much reluctance that the men finally accepted her as the first female member of the Gainesville Fire Department. Many firefighters' wives later told Mary that they were glad she had broken the barrier and other females joined the department.
Mary belonged to Gainesville Fire Department for more than 25 years.
“I loved it,” said Mary, who continued to teach EMT classes in Wyoming County, including the only daytime class. Mary lived and breathed pre-hospital EMS in rural New York.
Two years after her husband’s death in 2009, Mary met and married Jim Hutchison from Byron. One of the first things she did was join the Byron Rescue Squad. Here Mary continued to share her valuable skills and also mentor new EMTs. On average, an EMT might recertify once, giving a total of six years of service. Mary has served for 40 years, ending when she decided not to recertify in July 2013.
She brought her dedication and skills to many people over her unusually long career. In her words, “when an EMT has to be helped in and down from the ambulance, it’s time to quit.”
When Mary was asked what was the best part of being an EMT, she replied, “When I walk into a scene and have someone say to me, 'I’m glad you’re here, that makes it all worthwhile.' ”
Mary has three children, six stepchildren, 21 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She and her husband belong to the North Bergen Presbyterian Church where she is the organist.