Paramedic pioneer

Published 12:39 pm Monday, July 23, 2012

Paramedic Pat Still was not just the first female EMT in Atmore. She was also the driving force behind a change for the better in the way emergency services operate in the area, and her influence can still be seen today.

Some “Atmore Icons” have become institutions in town after decades of service, while others are seen as innovators who were the first to serve an important role. The late Pat Still was a combination of both. Still worked for years as a paramedic in Atmore. Not only was she in the first class for paramedics in the state of Alabama, she also was the first female paramedic to finish the class. After completing her courses, Still began teaching emergency medical technician, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, pediatric advance life support and first responder classes in Atmore.

Those who knew her well say Still strived to better the ambulance service in Atmore.

“Before Pat did what she did, people were thrown on the back of trucks,” said Karen Jay, who, along with her husband Frank, now owns Atmore Ambulance Service.

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Realizing that Atmore needed an ambulance service that offered more than just a driver, Still went to the supreme court to lobby for the opening of a new ambulance service. She wanted to ensure Atmore residents were offered the best first response care available.

Julie Osenton was an apprentice of Still’s who said she learned many valuable lessons while under her direction.

“She mentored many people, including myself, paying for so many to go to EMT/paramedic school,” Osenton said. “I started to work for her when I was fourteen, and she was instrumental in my decision to further my education and go to nursing school.”

Osenton said one of the first calls she assisted Still with was rescuing a young boy who had fallen in a grain wagon and was sucked into the grain storage bin.

“Pat took him and we did what we call a load and go,” Osenton said.

Still immediately began the Heimlich Manuver and back-slaps to remove grain from the boy’s lungs. Soon after the grain was dislodged from his lungs, the boy regained a pulse and began to breathe on this own.

“When we arrived at Greenlawn Hospital he was sitting up talking to us.”

Osenton said the young boy was one of the many lives Still saved.

Still also worked to strengthen relationships between paramedics, firefighters, and police officers. To help aid in response time, she taught first responder classes to fire departments in outlying areas. In hopes of reaching Florida residents with faster response times, Still approached Florida officials for the right to cross state lines for calls close to Atmore. This right was granted to her, and her team began responding to calls across the state line.

“Today we cover Huxford, Little River and the Baldwin County line,” Jay said. “We back up Century (Fla.) and go down 97.”
With the passing of Still and her husband, Merrill, the ambulance service was left to Frank and Karen.

“My husband and I had a five year plan with the Stills,” Karen said. “But we were thrown into it in a few months because of Merrill’s death and Pat’s battle with cancer.”

As for the future of Atmore Ambulance Service, the Jays have high hopes.

“We strive to provide the best care for the people in our area,” Karen said.  “Mrs. Still was a matriarch of Atmore’s ambulance service. This community is fortunate to be home to a lady who cared so deeply for the health and safety of others. Through the hard work and dedication of those she trained, her legacy of timely and quality care for Atmore residents lives on today.”