Waldoboro emergency medical technician Terry Bramhall always wanted to become a paramedic. But the cost of the additional education seemed out of reach. A grant from the Rotary Club of Damariscotta-Newcastle made her dream possible.
While her career as an EMT providing basic medical care and administering CPR allowed her to work on the front lines of emergency medicine, Bramhall wanted more. She wanted to be able to perform the advanced life-support procedures, including starting IVs and performing endotracheal intubations, that paramedics spend 1,200-1,800 hours of additional training to learn.
Bramhall, who is now in her 60s, has wanted to be a paramedic since childhood. Her grandmother was a nurse and Bramhall remembers sitting at the nurses station in the emergency room.
“I would watch the ambulances come in. It was exciting seeing the red lights. They were doing something good, you know? That’s the worst time in someone’s life and they were doing something good with a smile,” Bramhall said.
Bramhall told the Rotary interviewers that she saw a need for more female paramedics.
“I didn’t have enough faith in myself to believe I could do that,” Bramhall said about pursuing a paramedic’s license. “I grew up in an era where women weren’t in this environment.”
Now the younger female paramedics she works with are her mentors as she finishes her clinical training.
Bramhall was born in Maine. Her parents divorced when she was 2 and she and her mother moved in with her grandmother in Hartford, Conn. Life was good until her grandmother died of breast cancer when Bramhall was 11.
She still remembers the treatments, the nursing staff, the ambulance. Everyone who helped left an impression. According to Bramhall, the treatments back then were barbaric. She said her grandmother weighed 65 pounds when she passed.
“People don’t know how far we’ve come in the medical field,” Bramhall said. “It left an impression — you don’t forget.”
After her grandmother’s death, Bramhall was sent back to Maine and wound up in a series of foster homes before finally being adopted.
“My foster parents are my lifeline,” Bramhall said. “They didn’t give me birth — they gave me life. They made me have more faith in myself — that if I wanted to do it I could.”
Bramhall graduated from Medomak Valley High School and got a job at Fieldcrest Manor Nursing Home in Waldoboro. “There were a lot of ambulances in and out of there,” she said.
The director of the ambulance service offered to show her the ropes and she was hooked.
She took a class in Wiscasset and learned CPR and first aid. “As soon as I got my license they put me on a truck and it was love,” Bramhall said.
After starting with the ambulance service, Bramhall became a certified nursing assistant and got a job with Pen Bay Medical Center. More than 40 years later, she still works three 12-hour shifts, from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m., in the Pen Bay emergency room.
Bramhall credits a fellow EMT at Waldoboro for telling her about the Rotary grant. “He mentioned a couple programs that offer tuition help and I said, ‘Really? Even for someone my age?’”
“When they called for an interview, I asked if it was for young people and they said, ‘No, it’s for education.’ And that impressed me,” Bramhall said. She said that most places are hesitant when they know her age: “How long will that person last in the field?”
“I kept thinking, I know that this is what I want to do for the end of my career, what I’ve wanted to do my whole life,” Bramhall said.
Receiving the grant cemented that path, “because I didn’t know how I was going to get the money,” Bramhall said. “We work as hard as we work, but everyday life happens — cars break down, all of it.”
“I am so glad I took this step, and so glad that the Rotary helped me,” Bramhall said. “It’s been a little bit of all kinds of puzzles to get me here. Rotary was a big piece — they filled in the how.”
According to board member Karen Filler, the Rotary Club of Damariscotta-Newcastle has had an academic scholarship program for over 35 years. But after determining that no one was offering assistance to people entering the trades or who wanted to upgrade their skills, the club implemented the Rotary Training and Tool Grant Program.
“Our club is committed to this program and it is part of our annual budget,” said Filler, who chairs a committee devoted to the program.
The program has several key objectives: “to help people obtain or upgrade skills either through training or by obtaining the tools necessary for career success; to help employees upgrade their skills to meet employer needs and to assist veterans leaving the military and those leaving incarceration; and to help expand the county’s workforce and increase available services for the people of Lincoln County.”
Grants may cover up to 90% of the cost of training or tools for applicants of any age who live or work in Lincoln County. The application is easy to fill out and should be completed at least eight weeks in advance of the training program’s start date. Grants are awarded throughout the year.
The Rotary grant provides up to $2,000 for training and $1,000 for tools. Applications for diverse vocations are welcome.
Training grant recipients have obtained a certificate in quality improvement and patient safety; obtained an EMT license; participated in a conference for health leadership development; pursued an associate degree in building construction technology; and trained to become a paramedic.
Tools grants have purchased tools for a diesel hydraulics program; provided monies for uniforms and equipment for nursing studies; and paid for books and travel for two nurses at LincolnHealth to become certified patient navigators in breast cancer care.
According to Filler, 35 grant applications have been submitted and 22 applicants have received either grants or tools. The application is available at dnmrotary.org.
“This is a program that we hope will be around for many years. We feel that it meets an unfulfilled need in our community,” Filler said.
Bramhall has almost completed the paramedic program she started a year ago with United Ambulance, of Lewiston.
“I have something that I’m looking forward to now. I have a goal,” Bramhall said. “And we don’t get too many goals at our age.”