A close incident with a near drowning while lifeguarding piqued Elizabeth Pahl's interested in becoming an emergency medical technician.

A senior at Osakis High School, Pahl recently became a first responder with the Osakis Emergency Medical Response crew. And even though she is still in school, if her pager goes off, she is allowed to leave.

But she did have to get permission from the high school principal, Tim Roggenbuck, first. And the OEMR had to get approval from the city council. Once both gave the go-ahead, she was able to join.

Roggenbuck said the school is in full support of Pahl and feels it's a good experience.

"Helping out the community is what it's all about," said Roggenbuck.

Pahl agreed with her principal and said by being a first responder, she hopes to help out and have an impact on the community.

"Osakis is great," she said. "The churches, the school, everyone is very supportive. I have definitely found my home in Osakis."

On-call

For the most part, Pahl said she is on-call all the time, but because she needs sleep to do well in school and school is important, she shuts her pager off between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Pahl explained that she took an EMT course at Central Lakes College in Brainerd. For six months, every other Saturday, she attended the eight-hour class. Once she passed that course, she also participated in training with the responders before assisting on her first call.

When asked about the first call she got to go on, Pahl said it was different applying book knowledge to a real life situation.

"A real patient is a bit different and I was happy to have a team with me," she said. "There's definitely a learning curve."

After graduation, Pahl will be working in Glenwood at the Glacial Ridge Hospital as an EMT, and will continue on with the first responders in Osakis. In the fall, she will head to Duluth to pursue a degree in the medical field as she plans to become an anesthesiologist.

When asked if she had advice for anyone thinking of becoming an EMT, Pahl said although it might be a little rocky at first, it gets better. She also said it was important to learn from your mistakes.

All calls taken seriously

Mark Grinstead, an Osakis police officer and director of the OEMR, said if anyone is interested in joining the first responders, they can stop into City Hall for more information and an application.

Currently, there are 12 members and three more are training right now, he said, including another high school senior, Cheyenne Christopherson. Osakis Police Chief Chad Gulbranson and Officer Calvin Uhl are both joining the first responders crew, as well, Grinstead said.

"This will be very beneficial for daytime calls, which is when a majority of our calls occur," said Grinstead. "Fewer of our members are available during the day due to working out of town."

The OEMR responds to about 15-20 calls per month, although Grinstead said it can be very random - three calls in a day and then a week can go by before the next one.

The types of calls can vary as well, and can range from a variety of medical calls such as flu-like symptoms, diabetic reactions, falls, insect stings to more serious calls such as heart attacks, seizures, strokes and vehicle crashes.

"We take all our calls very seriously no matter the severity," said Grinstead. "And we give 100 percent of ourselves to help stabilize and assist the patient until an ambulance arrives."

The OEMR also assists the Osakis Fire Department at large fires by monitoring the firefighters' health as far as fatigue and their vital statistics.

The Osakis Emergency Medical Responders attend monthly meetings where training is provided on a wide range of topics.