After 37 years and thousands of calls to help local residents, Pat Wilkinson is retiring from her executive director post at the Southern Lorain County Ambulance District.
Wilkinson said her career started as a simple job but has developed into one of the most rewarding efforts she’s ever undertaken.
“I don’t even know where the time went,” she said.
During her career, Wilkinson has handled a wide range of calls. She’s delivered babies, responded to car crashes, and held people in her arms as they died.
Even when she lost someone, Wilkinson’s job was rewarding because she knows that person wasn’t alone during their final moments on Earth, she said while holding back tears.
Wilkinson said she’s happiest when she sees people recover from their worst moments, whether it be an accident, a fall, or any general hardship.
Working for SLCAD has been heartbreaking and demanding at times but completely worth it, Wilkinson said.
The decision to retire came as a result of many factors, including a desire to spend time with family and sweeping changes to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System, she said.
“It’s not because I don’t like my job. I love my job,” Wilkinson told the Enterprise. “Thirty-seven years in this business is a long time. It takes a lot of your time.”
Wilkinson has watched SLCAD grow from a small organization that was run out of an abandoned gas station and used two hearses as ambulances to what it is today with modern equipment and numerous grants.
“It’s been incredible to watch where we started to where we are now,” she said.
The executive director’s drive behind her work has always been to help her community.
“That’s always been a priority,” she said.
Community members are treated like family, she said.
“You get into (Emergency Medical Services) because of your need to take care of people,” she said. “It’s just about helping people. So I’ll have to find a different way to do that.”
SCLAD board member Robert Holmes said replacing Wilkinson will be a struggle.
“How do you put (applicants) up against Pat?” he said. “It’ll be very hard to fill her shoes.”
Wilkinson plans to stay with the department until her replacement is found and trained. She is grateful to always having a forward-thinking board, a constantly-supportive community, and an understanding family.
Caitlyn Wasmundt may be reached at 440-647-3171 or on Twitter @LC_CaitW.