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Del Preuss, 66, has made more than 10,000 ambulance runs as a paramedic with Bemidji Ambulance Service.

OUT AND ABOUT: No call ever the same

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BEMIDJI -- Del Preuss had exactly 10,126 ambulance runs when he started work at 5 p.m. May 8 for Bemidji Ambulance Service.

Having more than 10,000 runs is a statistic not many paramedics complete, but Preuss achieved it on Feb. 24. And he didn't even realize it.

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Preuss, 66, has served as a paramedic at Bemidji Ambulance Service for the past 17 years and took on the role as facilities director about 18 months ago. He is also a registered nurse in the emergency room at Sanford Bemidji Medical Center.

Preuss has been keeping track of each of his runs through the years and knew his 10,000 was approaching. "One of these days it's going to be here and it had already passed," he said. "I hadn't looked for about a month or so and, all of a sudden, I realized: I passed it."

Preuss said it's a rare to reach that many runs because people find themselves getting bored with the job. "They get the lights and sirens syndrome," he said. "Maybe 10 percent of the calls, at most, are lights and sirens going some place."

The crews do several transfers, moving patients to different facilities, "that's not a life-saving situation but its probably going to be life changing for them," he said.

Bemidji Ambulance Service has three crews on at all times, each with at least two people, a paramedic and an emergency medical technician. One crew takes all the 911 calls, one crew transfers patients and another backs up the other crews in case of another 911 situation or transfer.

Preuss keeps track of where each crew and their ambulance is at every point in the day. "When you're a director of the ambulance service, you know what's going on all the time even if you're not working," he said. The Bemidji Ambulance Service covers an area some 900 square miles, which is regulated by the state of Minnesota.

A tipping point

Preuss started to pursue his medical career years ago due to an accident on a bus ride to the Twin Cities. The bus actually tipped over, he said, leaving the majority of the 40 people with some injuries and there was no one with any first aid training aboard. "I cared for people as best as I could with the little knowledge that I had, that's when I decided I needed to learn know more about how to take care of people." he said.

Preuss and his two sons became emergency medical technicians and started working for Rice Memorial Hospital Ambulance in Willmar. He continued his education at Saint Cloud Technical College, working to become a paramedic. In the fall of 1997, Preuss moved to Bemidji to work at the ambulance service; his sons eventually followed to work as emergency medical technicians.

Although Preuss has been on a large number of runs, he says that each call is different. "You might run into one that looks similar, but people are different," Preuss said.

Preuss admits he's struggled over the years with not being able to figure out what happens to patients after an ambulance crew delivers them to where they need to go. "It kind of like you were missing a piece of the puzzle, you get the patient, take them to the hospital, drop them off and you never hear or see them again because of all the regulations," Preuss said.

Although now that Preuss also works in the emergency room, he can experience what it is like on the opposite side. "It's probably some of my fellow crew members who are bringing them there, but I have to care for them in the emergency room, so then I get to see what take places in that time," he said.

Preuss said he plans to work several more years as a paramedic, "eventually I'm going to retire but as long as I am in good health, I'm going to continue to work, but probably not as many hours," he said.

Preuss said the hardest part of the job is that a person goes to work each day with no idea of what could happen. "The irregularity of the hours of your life, you never know what is going to happen one second from now."

Out and About is a Pioneer feature where we profile everyday people doing everyday things in and around Bemidji. We run stories on Tuesdays. If you know someone you think should be profiled, please email Maggi Stivers at mstivers@bemidjipioneer.com or email news@bemidjipioneer.com.

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