Press Release
 May 19, 2014
Shelia Porter (312) 814-3524

State Public Health Director Announces 2014 EMS Hero Awards

Celebrating the Dedication, Bravery and Compassion of EMS Professionals

CHICAGO – To recognize the heroic efforts of emergency medical services (EMS) responders, Governor Pat Quinn proclaimed May 18 – 24, 2014 as Emergency Medical Services Week in Illinois. As part of that recognition, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck today announced 10 winners of the 2014 “EMS Hero Award.” Among the honorees is Vincent Patrella of Park Ridge, who is being awarded posthumously.

Vincent was tragically killed in the line of duty on the Reagan Memorial Tollway (I-88) in Aurora on January 24, 2014. He and an Illinois State Trooper were assisting a fellow citizen in an emergency when another vehicle crashed into the scene and then burst into flames, killing Vincent and seriously injuring the State Trooper. Vincent has been described by Governor Quinn as being a hero and a selfless man who was dedicated to his family and his job.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to Vincent’s family and friends, and to the countless other emergency responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty,” Dr. Hasbrouck said. “Their unselfish acts of bravery embody the meaning of our theme this year “Dedicated for Life,” and I’m honored to present these awards to them and their families.”

The public can show its support for EMS providers by posting notes of gratitude on our Facebook ( and Twitter ( pages using the hash tag #IDPHEMSHeroes.

Our 2014 EMS Heroes include individuals and crews who exemplified dedication, bravery and compassion during emergency situations. IDPH is pleased to celebrate and share their stories:

  • Quick-thinking, a Good Samaritan and others resulted in Adam Dominik of Chicago rescuing a man and his dog from the cold waters of Lake Michigan on February 4, 2014. While out jogging, Adam heard dogs barking and set out to investigate. He came upon a man who was struggling in the lake trying to save his dog that was beginning to cause him to go under. A passerby called 911 and talked to the man as Adam looked for a rope. Adam first rescued the dog and then pulled the man in towards the shore where more rescuers arrived on the scene and helped get the man out of the water.
  • On August 5, 2013 Brody Hagen, Sydney Brangenberg and Kali DeSherlia, Jerseyville, shifted into high gear when a four-year-old fell into the deep end of a pool and sank to the bottom. The three heroes worked flawlessly together as Brody jumped into the pool and pulled the child to safety. The three then immediately worked together to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) – saving the child’s life.
  • While taking a patient and his wife home from the hospital, on February 5, 2014 in Trenton, Jim Kniepman, Kelly Suydam, Jim Deien and Don Deien noticed the wife wasn’t looking well. When asked if she was okay, the wife made light of it, insisting she needed to stay home to care for her husband. Fortunately, the persistence of the volunteer EMT Basics crew led them to find a caretaker for the husband and convince the woman to go the hospital, where she was diagnosed as having a heart attack. She has since recovered.
  • One morning in October 2013 Gregg Kyes of Springfield was leaving a high school track when two other men were preparing to start their run. When one of the men suddenly collapsed, the second man called out for help. He then ran to reach Gregg, who by then was on his way outside the track gates. Gregg quickly ran back to the victim and administered CPR as the second man called 911. They each continued to do CPR until paramedics arrived, helping to save the victim’s life.
  • The immediate actions of Alicia Mikulski, Des Plaines, saved the life of Zach Cooper, a 6’ 7” forward for the Elgin Community College basketball team. On February 4, 2014 Zach had just come out of a game when he collapsed. Alicia, who is an Oakton assistant athletic trainer, placed an automated external defibrillator on Zach and started CPR, which restored his heartbeat. Her immediate actions saved Zach’s life.
  • Gary Nelson of Galesburg was coming off a 24-hour shift when he witnessed an accident on the morning of November 20, 2013. Gary stopped to help and called for medical units to respond. As he triaged the victims, he noticed a little girl unconscious and not breathing in the back seat. He immediately rendered aid by opening the 11-year-old’s airway, which restored her breathing. His quick actions and knowledge as an EMT Basic are attributed to saving the little girl’s life and preventing her from having long-term health problems.
  • Suzanne O. Reynolds, Greenup, began her EMS career in 1981 as an ambulance driver. Susan soon discovered that she was good at caring for the sick and injured. So, she decided to enroll in an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course. After passing her first course, Suzanne continued her education and today she is a paramedic. In the 33 years since Suzanne has been with the service, she has volunteered thousands of hours to her community – she’s never missed an emergency call. To this day, Suzanne continues to be one of the community’s most active paramedics.
  • Oswego resident and Boy Scout Zac Thompson said he knew he had to do something when a young child fell through a pond covered in ice on a cold winter’s day in January 2014. The 14-year-old ran down to the pond, grabbed the young child’s hand and quickly pulled the child to safety. Zac then walked the child, who was thoroughly soaked and cold, to his home. Zac says his Boy Scout training prepared him for the emergency and helped him save the child’s life.
  • On July10, 2013 a D-9 Caterpillar bulldozer fell backwards into a large cavity, leaving only its blade visible. As coal entered the operator’s compartment it pinned the driver inside. As others witnessed the event, they immediately decided that someone needed to go down inside the cavity to save the driver. Plant supervisor Mike Woods of Galatia volunteered. Mike was hoisted down to a carefully placed 40-foot ladder. As he reached the operator’s compartment, Mike removed the coal that covered the driver’s legs, allowing the man to climb out and be pulled to safer grounds.

Every year, firefighters, police officers, paramedics and others throughout the state send their nominations to the IDPH for the annual EMS Hero Award. The nominations received are just a few of the many heroic acts people dedicated to saving lives do on a regular basis.

In Illinois, there are 66 EMS resource hospitals, 67 trauma centers, 16,758 first responders, 38,536 emergency medical technicians (EMTs - 22,426 basic EMTs, 769 intermediate EMTs, 15,341 paramedic EMTs), 4,629 emergency communications registered nurses, 2,779 trauma nurse specialists, 350 pre-hospital registered nurses and 2,656 emergency medical dispatchers providing 24-hour service to the people of Illinois. Approximately two-thirds of all EMS providers are volunteers.

Illinois’ EMS system also strives to integrate pediatric emergency care needs across a wide spectrum; recognizing that children have unique physiological responses to illness and injury.

To honor those who work in pediatric emergency care, the governor has proclaimed May 21, 2014 as Emergency Medical Services for Children Day in Illinois.

IDPH continues to implement its Five Year Strategy 2014-2018 to maximize IDPH’s effectiveness, influence and value for promoting wellness, health equity, safety and improved health outcomes. Strategic plan priorities include developing and expanding partnerships; improving data utilization; reducing health disparities; improving regulatory compliance; and branding, marketing and communicating IDPH’s value.

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