Kat Riedel ’14 inspires others with EMT volunteer work; finds connections between academics and real life.
Kat Riedel ’14 was visiting her hometown one day when she heard an emergency call on her scanner. A man had collapsed at a college there. Although she was not on duty at the time, Riedel rushed to join her fellow members of Danville Lifesaving Crew at the scene.
When she arrived, another volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Dimitrius Monroe, had stabilized the patient. He turned the scene over to Riedel, who had recently completed a higher level of EMT training. Monroe was impressed by the maturity, leadership, skill, and confidence she demonstrated as she directed care for the patient. “She’s cut out for this,” Monroe said in an interview later. “This could be her calling.”
Focusing on the patient came naturally to Riedel, a 21-year-old Randolph biology major who has four years of experience as an EMT. “Because I’m a team leader, everyone else looks to me to set the tone,” she said. “I try to stay very calm and get things done quickly. How I feel is not as important as taking care of my patients at that moment.”
Riedel started volunteering with Danville Lifesaving Crew during her junior year of high school, and she became an EMT during her senior year. Throughout her three years at Randolph, Riedel has studied tirelessly to progress through two stages of EMT training, reaching the leadership role of EMT-Intermediate/99, which is one level below a paramedic. Meanwhile, she has balanced her on-campus coursework and life with her commitment to serve three, eight-hour shifts each month in Danville, which is about an hour from Randolph.
Riedel’s dedication to saving lives has earned her the respect of her fellow volunteers, professors, and classmates. “Just having a full course load is enough to fill up the lives of most students,” said Doug Shedd, the Catherine Ehrman Thoresen ’23 and William E. Thoresen Professor of Biology. “Working in the kinds of things that Kat does is inspiring for everyone around.”
Riedel went to elementary school across the street from the Danville Lifesaving Crew headquarters. The ambulances coming and going always interested her, and when she got to high school, her curiosity grew into a desire to help.
“Within a very short period of time, my dad got really sick and a friend of mine died,” Riedel said. “I wanted to know what to do if something ever again happened to someone I cared about.”
Riedel joined the squad as a junior member in April 2010 and earned her basic EMT certification that year. She felt an immediate bond with her fellow volunteers. “I found myself surrounded with wonderful people who care very much about giving back,” she said. “I got a second family.”
Tommy Pruett, executive director of Danville Lifesaving Crew, remembers Riedel being eager to learn all she could about medical conditions and emergency treatment. It is not unusual for people to join the EMT crew as teenagers, but few obtain their certifications as quickly as she did, Pruett said. “While she’s not the first, she’s certainly done it with a whole lot of class and a whole lot of success,” he said.
In addition to taking a full course load at Randolph, Riedel also completed additional EMT training courses at community colleges in Lynchburg and Danville. In the summer of 2012, she achieved her EMT-Intermediate/99 status, which gives her team leadership responsibility.
Riedel sees many strong links between her studies, her volunteer work, and her dream to become a flight nurse. “All of our classes that we do for EMT training have a heavy focus on anatomy and physiology, but being a biology major takes it to a more complicated, deeper level,” she said. “It provides depth for what I do.”
Biology professor Adam Houlihan said that Riedel’s life experience adds volumes to classroom discussions. “She has real world examples for things that we cover in my microbiology class,” he said. “That’s really valuable for the other students to see that this is not just some academic exercise.”
Riedel vividly remembers her first emergency call: A woman had pulled her car over with concerns about chest pains. Since then, Riedel has responded to more than 500 calls, including hundreds when she was off duty but wanted to offer assistance.
Roy Craft, another Danville Lifesaving Crew volunteer, said Riedel has a calm, mature way of helping. He remembers one particularly chaotic scene where a patient was having a heart attack. “People were running over top of each other trying to get everything accomplished,” he said. “But the entire
time, Kat kept a cool head about her.”
Volunteering to save lives puts her own life in perspective, but it also makes Riedel feel good to know she can help others. “I can go home at the end of the day and know that I made a legitimate difference for someone,” she said.
That is a view Craft appreciates. “I think people these days are usually looking for things they can do for themselves,” he said. “Any time you can help somebody else, that’s a better reward than anything.”