West River Health Services (WRHS) recently welcomed a new Paramedic into town. One week ago, Paramedic Christopher South moved to Hettinger to become a new member of the WRHS team.
Already, South has started in town, working first hand with the local ambulance service.
Although he is new to Hettinger, South is not new to medical field. The paramedic said that he has enjoyed being a first responder for over 24 years.
“I’ve worked all over the world,” said South. “I’ve been a paramedic on five different continents. I’ve worked in every environment you can think of, from arctic to jungles to dessert to combat and even offshore oil rigs.”
In addition to working in the field, South said that he is excited and passionate about teaching first responder skills to others.
“I’m an instructor in just about everything under the sun,” said South. “The education side keeps you busy, and that’s what I really enjoy doing, teaching others.”
With WRHS, South hopes to encourage and provide education for local people to become first responders.
“We are wanting to provide an outlet for people to join this career,” he said.
Growing up, South said he never saw himself being a first responder. Instead, his passion for the medical field originated from an early traumatic experience.
“I had absolutely no desire to be in EMS. That was the furthest thing on my radar,” he explained. “When I was 17 years old, my mom passed away from an overdose and I found her, and I remember standing in that room, seeing her, and I was terrified and I didn’t know what to do.”
After that experience, South made a promise to himself that he would never be in that situation again and that he would learn how to respond to emergencies.
“After I got out of high school, like two days later, I joined EMT school, and I took to it like a duck to water,” he laughed. “I think every patient you encounter cements that passion for the job. When I go see a patient in the field or in the emergency room, they don’t care to see my resume. Patients don’t care how much you know, they want to know that you care.”
South moved to Hettinger from Birmingham, Alabama. South said he came to Hettinger because WRHS did a good job of recruiting him.
“The hospital found my resume on Indeed,” he explained. “They were really good about recruitment.
Even though Birmingham is 175 times bigger than Hettinger, South said that he is glad to be in rural North Dakota.
“For me, coming to Hettinger is an opportunity to participate in really rural medicine,” said South. “It’s a big family of 1,200 people. It’s like everybody is cousins here. You go down the street and everybody shakes your hand and wants to sit down and talk. You don’t have to worry about crime. It’s just a hidden gem in North Dakota.”
Specifically, South said that he is excited to work in a rural community and work through the challenges a rural environment might create.
“It’s challenging because a lot of times there isn’t a lot of cell service, so you have to make a lot of judgments on your own,” he explained. “There are long transport times, so it’s not like a city where I’m within 5 minutes of a trauma center.”
Already, the newcomer has gotten involved in the community by visiting the Hettinger’s Assembly of God church. South said that, as he gets more acquainted with Hettinger, he hopes to get more involved in the community.
“I’ll be helping out with the run here on the 4th of July,” said South. “One thing that attracted me to the hospital is their community involvement. In a small town, you have to get involved in a community.”