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Whether he’s responding to a heart attack, or running an obstacle course covered in mud, David Demby is calm under pressure.
That calmness shines through as Demby, 37, discusses his typical routine, sometimes logging hours as an Army Reservist, other times saving lives as an Emergency Medical Services paramedic. He has also dedicated thousands of hours as a field training officer with Lancaster County’s EMS and admits there’s not a lot of downtime in his life.
“I’m tied up all the time,” Demby said. “There’s never a dull moment.”
In recognition of those efforts, his fellow medics decided to nominate him for Paramedic of the Year, an honor handed down annually from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control’s division of EMS and Trauma.
Writing letters of praise about Demby’s many accomplishments, his coworkers recounted everything from tales of his deployment in Baghdad to his success running through a grueling obstacle course last year called the Tough Mudder challenge. The letters were then presented as a package to DHEC officials for consideration.
After DHEC’s intense selection process, a surprised Demby was awarded the honor during the S.C. Emergency Care Symposium held March 23 in Myrtle Beach.
“It’s amazing. I didn’t know until I was there at the symposium. All the medics who participated in the Tough Mudder challenge were there with me,” he said. “At the last part of the ceremony they gave out all these awards, but I didn’t know I was going to win. It was a surprise. All my fellow medics knew and they all managed to keep it from me.”
In on the surprise was his wife Janie, also a paramedic with Lancaster County EMS.
“My wife was so happy. She was sitting next to me at the symposium. I could tell she was nervous because she wasn’t saying anything, but I never did pick up why she was nervous,” Demby said. “When they announced my name, I looked over and saw her smile.”
The honor brought a smile to his own face, especially after learning how he was nominated.
“I was very surprised. I had no idea all the folks would write such nice things about me. It’s flattering to know so many people think well of you,” he said. “They put a lot of time in those letters.”
He accepted a plaque along with several other major winners that day, including those for EMT and Registered Nurse of the Year.
“They asked me to say something (to the crowd), but I didn’t really say a lot,” he said. “I’m not the best at public speaking.”
Despite winning the award almost a month ago, Demby continues to feel the love from county residents. He was recently recognized for his win by Lancaster County Council members who presented him with a special duffel bag filled with items.
“It was nice. They gave me an EMS cup, a notebook and the bag,” he said.
A busy schedule
Even when he’s not responding to 911 emergency calls within the county, Demby keeps himself busy.
He’s served in the Army Reserves for 19 years, where he currently holds the rank of master sergeant. Demby said he’s proud of his work with medical readiness for soldiers as part of the Division Surgeon’s Office in the 108th Training Command, based out of Charlotte.
“There I help with medical health readiness for 3,000 to 6,000 soldiers in all different brigades,” he said. “I look at reserve health readiness and medical readiness for deployment, just making sure soldiers’ numbers are right.”
He also talks of his first and last deployment, when he was sent to Baghdad as part of a National Peace Transition Team. While there he also served as a medic and a medical advisor on a brigade from 2006 to 2007.
These days he spends hundreds of hours as a field training officer with EMS, helping prepare medics and other medical professionals in several techniques. Those techniques include advance cardiac support, pre-hospital life support training and emergency training.
“We train instructors who then train folks in the community,” he said. “EMS spends a lot of time training. We make sure all the folks are trained and we throw everything we can at them. Anything cardiac and stroke-related.”
He’s also dedicated to working with other medical professionals, such as those in Springs Memorial Hospital’s emergency rooms, to help save lives.
“It amazes me the coordination between agencies like EMS and the ER and how two groups can talk together and get people where they need to be,” Demby said. “That’s the best part of my job right there.”
One of the most exhausting events he’s experienced, though, has to be his participation in last October’s Tough Mudder challenge.
Designed to test human endurance and boost teamwork skills, the intense obstacle course is held each year with teams raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans with disabilities.
Demby and his fellow medics trained for months to prepare themselves for the challenge, which was held in Society Hill and featured a 10- to 12-mile run complete with 26 obstacles, including running through fire, ice water and dangling electric shock wires.
“At two specific points you have to crawl through the mud and had to run through wires that shock you,” he said. “We did well and everybody was able to complete it. Though we looked like a bunch of old men coming around the corner.”
He said the group of medics is already working out the details of forming another team and setting a training schedule for this year’s event.
In between his jam-packed schedule, Demby is also pursuing a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Grand Canyon University, which he hopes to finish early next year.
At heart, though, Demby said he’ll always be a paramedic.
“EMS is where I plan to be for awhile,” he said. “I enjoy doing the job.”
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416