For EMS Appreciation Week, Moore County paramedics shared their stories, discussed how they found their calling, and what they feel is the most rewarding part of the job. Despite their many different backgrounds, the one thing all the paramedics on shift shared was the rewarding feeling of being there for patients on the worst days of their lives.
“My favorite part of the job is being able to be there for somebody when they’re having their worst day and to be able to do something to try and make it better,” explained Richard O’Neil, a paramedic and field training officer for Moore County. “When I see someone I’ve helped along the way or pass on what I’ve learned, that’s the best part. I enjoy the care.”
Like many paramedics on shift, he first got his start as a firefighter. He recalled responding to fires and car accidents and how he always wanted to be able to do more to help the people. Though he has been a first responder since 2006, he transitioned to EMS in 2013.
Robbie King, a fellow paramedic who got his start as a firefighter, mirrored O’Neil’s sentiments. “It’s a universal thing,” King agreed. “The most rewarding part of the job — for me — has always been going to see someone on their worst days and doing what I can to improve it. I’m happy to be serving the citizens of Moore County.”
King started many years ago when he took an EMT class with his wife. He found his calling and continued obtaining certifications and enrolling in courses.
Robert Chanonat, another fellow paramedic who got his start as a firefighter, agreed wholeheartedly with O’Neil and King. “It’s a rewarding job, even though times are changing,” Chanonat shared. “You go through every emotion.”
Nearly three decades ago, Chanonat took an EMT class in Florida, where he lived with his wife. He enjoyed the course and continued taking additional classes until moving to North Carolina, where he became a full-time paramedic.
Twenty-five years later, Chanonat hasn’t looked back and continues serving the community, noting how recently his team responded to the stabbing at Pinecrest High School. According to Chanonat, doctors believe the EMTs were directly responsible for keeping the patient alive with their rapid and intense response.
He added, however, that having an outlet for stress is important. When he’s off the clock, Chanonat can be found playing the fiddle with his band Cousin Amy Deluxe to help him unwind.
Courtney Bynum, the final of four paramedics on shift who were firefighters first, agreed fully. “I enjoy how a positive attitude can change someone’s worst day,” she added.
Bynum started with the fire department but soon found she enjoyed running medical calls and helping people. It wasn’t long before she enrolled in courses and began her journey as a paramedic.
Paramedic Breanna Hoffman, laughing, was the first who didn’t find her start at a fire station to share her story. Rather, Hoffman recalled that in her final year of high school, her grandfather suffered a massive heart attack, and she found inspiration in the EMTs who saved his life.
“If it wasn’t for the paramedics coming to save him, he wouldn’t be here, and neither would I,” Hoffman explained. She also noted that all EMTs are “a little crazy” and that it’s a good calling for her.
Finally, paramedic Michele Dellay shared her story, which began with, “I spent a long time not even knowing what I wanted to do.”
It wasn’t until she and a group of friends suffered an accident at Lake Tillery that Dellay found her calling. She recounted how one of her friends broke her back while at the lake and that she was inspired by EMS helping get her friend out of the car and into the hospital that she looked into becoming an EMT herself. “And here I am!” she concluded, smiling.
Feature photo: Courtney Bynum (left), Richard O’Neil, Robbie King, Breanna Hoffman, Robert Chanonat, Michele Dellay.
~Article and photo by Sandhills Sentinel Reporter Abegail Murphy.