Local paramedics have almost 80 years of combined experience

Each paramedic at Tri-State treats about 650 patients each year on average

Tri-State Ambulance in La Crosse averages 16,000 calls each year in the seven counties it covers.

Saturday was the final day of EMS Week, a week dedicated to honoring those responsible for responding to medical emergencies.

Forty-two years ago, in 1973, President Gerald Ford signed off on celebrating EMS Week in the United States.

Just a few years before that in 1970, Tri-State Ambulance was formed in La Crosse.

And for almost as long as EMS Week and Tri-State Ambulance have been around, two local paramedics have been responding to the medical emergencies of the Coulee region.

Lucy Cordes and Gregory Konzem have been paramedics in La Crosse a long time.

“Memorial Day of 1977,” said Konzem.

“I started in August of 1989,” said Cordes.

Before coming to La Crosse, Cordes had 10 years of experience as a paramedic in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Combined Konzem and Cordes have almost 80 years of experience.

“The job really is geared more towards a younger person, but some people manage to stay in the field for a lot longer,” Cordes said.

The duo said a lot has changed since they started.

“When I started here a lot of the equipment that we use, like the stretchers, were all manual, there was a lot of lifting, two, three or fours lifts per patient, now we have power cots, which kind of reduce that amount of lifting,” Cordes said.

“The technology that’s come about that’s allowed us to do, I think, more things for the patient in the field and on the way to the hospital, which can speed up their care when we get there,” Konzem said.

Something that hasn’t changed is the dedication to learning. At least once a month each paramedic is taking a class to learn something new or brush up on (his or her) skills.

“Every two years, each EMT and paramedic needs to go through a refresher if they’re going to continue on here to maintain their national registry certification and their licensure through the state of Wisconsin and state of Minnesota,” Cordes said.

But through it all, they both still love what they do.

“There are times when you see a positive outcome, by that, something we did changed or prevented some further degradation of the patient, and that makes it worthwhile,” Konzem said.

When asked how long they plan on working as paramedics, both said it’s getting to a point where they’re thinking about retirement, but they’ll cross that bridge when they come to it.

Each paramedic at Tri-State treats about 650 patients each year on average.