Special for The McDowell News

At just 24 years old, Andrea Wood, a graduate of McDowell Technical Community College, has already seen more tragedy, trauma and death in her young life than anyone expected to see in her lifetime – and more.

As a senior truck medic with McDowell County EMS, she administered lifesaving techniques at the scene of auto accidents, dispensed emergency medication to those suffering from a heart attack or injured in an accident. stroke and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) on people of all ages. whose heart or lungs have stopped working for some reason.

Most people have made it – they survived, they lived, they recovered. A few didn’t. But Wood wouldn’t trade his job for another. She has the skills of a paramedic and the heart of a public servant. She loves what she does.

“Choosing this career is the best decision I’ve ever made,” she said. “Being able to make a difference in someone’s life is a great feeling and it’s one of the most rewarding jobs I can think of.”

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Like other paramedics and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) trained at McDowell Tech, providing care, comfort and medication to people in crisis is part of her daily routine. It’s stressful work that can be mentally and physically exhausting at times, lifting stretchers, extracting a patient from a “pinned-up” accident, watching life pass for a patient despite the heroic efforts of his team to avoid it.

It is often in these moments of crisis that Wood’s servant heart shines brightest. Interacting with patients is what she loves most about her job. She enjoys talking with patients, listening to their stories, offering them physical and emotional support.

“Trauma and death are inevitable,” she continued, “and as a medical professional you need to know your support groups, who to go to, and how to take care of yourself so you don’t become yourself a patient. “She is lucky to have these people in her life, at work, at home and through other friendships.

Answering pediatric calls is Wood’s absolute favorite.

“I love kids,” she said, “and I love working with them and making them smile and feel better, even on their worst days.”

This trait is obviously something that runs in his family; his mother, Wanda Wood, works with McDowell Children’s Network and has an office on the McDowell Tech campus, and his sister, Ashlee Wood, is a senior preschool teacher at the MTCC Child Development Center.

When she started working in the field a few years ago, it took her mom and dad – Jeff Wood – and her sister a while to get used to her schedule, coming home home in the morning after a 24-hour shift and going straight to bed, for example, but they are very proud of her, and always have been, she says.

His closeness to his family is not unexpected. Wood was homeschooled growing up and graduated from Woodsong Academy in 2016. She, her sister, and her parents were together all the time growing up.

In fact, when she signed up for classes at McDowell Tech before she even graduated high school, there was a little season of adjustment. She used to study on her own and just be with her sister, but classes at McDowell Tech naturally involved other people, and team projects were the norm in many of the college courses she took.

“I really enjoyed it, though,” Wood said. “I loved the teachers, the classes and the registration process was so easy.”

When she graduated from high school, she earned her associate’s degree from McDowell Tech at the same time, having taken college courses while dual-enrolled in high school.

She immediately enrolled in the EMT program in the fall of 2016 through the college’s continuing education department. After completing this class, she entered the advanced EMT and paramedic programs sequentially in the spring and fall of 2017. For the next two years, she worked part-time for McDowell EMS while she completed the AEMT programs. and paramedics.

In May 2019, Wood graduated from the paramedic program and began working full-time with McDowell EMS the following August. In December, she graduated with a second McDowell Tech degree, her Associate in Emergency Medical Sciences, the first to receive that degree from the college.

Wood credits McDowell Tech with much of her technical and professional success in the field of emergency medicine, but she equally values ​​having great colleagues, such as her co-worker, Megan Ziegler, and supervisors, like Captain Donnie Tipton, a longtime agent. paramedic and paramedic instructor, who recently retired from McDowell EMS.

It’s been easier for her to get used to long shifts and odd hours – alternating 24 hours on and 48 hours off – because she loves the people she works with.

“It’s not like TV shows,” she said of her profession. “When it’s you and that patient in the back of an ambulance, the emotions can run high and the adrenaline is rushing, but you have to stay calm. If you remember your basics and keep a cool head, it will save lives.

She went on to say, “McDowell Tech teaches you a lot of things, but they can’t teach you how to be empathetic and patient. It is something that you have to have within yourself or something that you have to learn. When you’ve had a long and trying shift and you’re answering a call with someone who stubbed their toe at 3 a.m., you need to be just as cordial and professional with them as the person with who you treated in a more serious and critical call earlier in the shift.

“Andi has commitment, compassion, service and empathy for her patients during patient care,” Tipton said, referring to Wood by the nickname many of her friends call her. “She was a very good student and now she is an excellent paramedic. The county is lucky to have him.

“We are proud of Andrea and all of our public safety graduates who selflessly serve our communities every day of the year, sharing the hearts of their public servants while carrying a tool bag of knowledge and skills that they learned at McDowell Tech,” said Brian S. Merritt, president of MTCC.

A recent economic impact study found that graduates of MTCC’s EMT program see additional earnings increase by $95,900. Alumni of MTCC’s Emergency Medical Technician program added $872,400 in revenue to the McDowell County economy in the 2019-20 fiscal year.

EMT, paramedic, and law enforcement programs are three of many programs eligible for free tuition through 2023 under McDowell Tech’s Learn and Grow Scholarship Program. For more information on participating in the tuition-free MTCC, visit www.mcdowelltech.edu/learnandgrow/