Rick Wold: Hudson's long-distance EMT
Rick Wold's dedication to St. Croix EMS & Rescue is a bit mystifying to anyone who hasn't experienced the joy of public service.
The 51-year-old Eau Claire man rises early every Wednesday morning and drives 66 miles to Hudson, where he puts in a 6 a.m.-to-6 p.m. shift with the local ambulance service.
"People ask why I drive all the way here," Wold says. "I say, Hudson is very unique. It's still a small town. It's a beautiful town. The people are great."
Wold has been keeping up the routine for five years now. Sometimes, he takes a weekend shift, too.
His journey to Hudson came by way of Somerset.
He and his wife, Mary Ann, have a video production company, Studio One Teleproductions. During the heyday of Somerset rock concerts, they were hired by the village's police department to document unlawful behavior by concert-goers.
The police used the video as evidence and to train new officers unaccustomed to the concert crowds.
"You've got tens of thousands of people coming into this small community, and it's an eye-opener for a lot of people. So this way they had a little bit of an idea of what they were getting into," Wold explains.
He would ride with police officers and videotape their encounters with intoxicated and unruly youth.
A few of the part-time Somerset officers were also members of St. Croix EMS & Rescue. When Wold expressed an interest in becoming an EMT, they suggested that he join the Hudson ambulance service.
St. Croix EMS put him through the EMT-basic training that he needed.
Wold says he gained respect for EMTs while working with them on public safety videos. The respect grew when his elderly parents were in need of emergency care, and ambulance crews responded quickly and professionally to take them to the hospital.
His love of the job and the friends he's made is what keeps him returning to Hudson.
He's still doing it for the reason that he's still producing videos, the soft-spoken Wold says. It's fun.
"We are a family," he adds regarding his fellow EMS workers. "In ways, you're closer to your EMS family than you are to your blood family."
He's especially close to paramedic Ken Kolbe, his work partner for 12 hours each Wednesday. The two spend much of the day on the new recliners in the lounge above the ambulance garage watching cable news programs and commenting on the issues of the day.
"Ken's a real good partner - a big part of why I'm here," Wold says, giving Kolbe a pat on the back.
Kolbe rolls his eyes and responds, "It's a good thing I've got boots on, because it's getting real deep."
An EMS video
Put a video producer on the staff of an ambulance and rescue service and it's no surprise that he would eventually make one about the service.
"When Minutes Count," a 12-minute video on St. Croix EMS & Rescue, was released in November.
Wold recruited the top EMS spokesman - Randolph Mantooth of the 1970s TV show "Emergency!" - to narrate program.
It describes the services provided by St. Croix EMS through video footage, Mantooth's narration and statements by EMS Chief Eric Christensen and numerous other members of the staff.
"I wanted to tell the community what we're all about," Wold says, "because a lot of times you don't look into it until you really need the service."
He speaks passionately about the quality and variety of services provided by St. Croix EMS.
As a paramedic-level service, St. Croix EMS has the ability to deliver what in the medical world is known as "advanced life support" care. It means the ambulance workers have the training and medicine to begin emergency room care in the field instead of simply transporting patients to the hospital.
The service also has a dive team for underwater rescues and a unit that uses ropes to extricate people from hard-to-reach places.
"St. Croix EMS is unique in the fact that we do a lot of specialty things that many others don't," Wold says.
Hudson's location on the heavily used St. Croix River provided the impetus to start the dive team.
Interstate 94 brings tens of thousands of people through Hudson on a daily basis and is another major generator of calls for St. Croix EMS & Rescue's services.
After hearing Mantooth speak at an EMS conference in Red Wing, Minn., in October 2007, Wold went to work to recruit him as the host of the video on St. Croix EMS that he was already planning.
It took six months of phone calls and weekly e-mails, but Mantooth and his business agent wife, Kristen Connors, finally relented. Mantooth visited Hudson in late June 2008 to stand before a camera and read the lines Wold had written for him.
Mantooth is a highly regarded figure in the EMS field because the TV show he starred in as Johnny Gage, a rescue worker for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, spurred development of modern emergency medical and rescue services.
"To have him narrate the program was like having MacArthur narrate a documentary on the South Pacific," says Wold.
The Western Wisconsin Regional Trauma Advisory Council was so impressed with the final product that it gave Wold its Partner in EMS Award for 2008. The council serves hospitals and ambulance services throughout a large area of western Wisconsin.
Members of St. Croix EMS voted Wold the service's EMT of the Year for 2007.
"When Minutes Count" has been airing on Hudson cable access Channel 15. It also is available for viewing on the St. Croix EMS & Rescue Web site, www.stcroixems.com.
About 300 copies of the DVD have been made. Each of the 40-plus members of the ambulance service got one. A sizable number also went to the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau, which will share them with individuals and businesses interested in what Hudson has to offer.
Doing what he enjoys
Wold has spent his life doing the kind of work he enjoys.
He grew up on Eau Claire's east side hill, a couple of blocks away from the big TV tower on Hastings Way.
A graduate of Memorial High School, he simultaneously attended UW-Eau Claire and held down a full-time production job at WEAU-TV (Channel 13), the NBC affiliate in Eau Claire.
After graduating from college with a double major in journalism and business administration, he went to work as the public affairs director for WBIZ radio in Eau Claire.
He started Studio One Teleproductions in 1979. The company produces small-market TV commercials as well videos for a variety of businesses and industries.
"If you enjoy what you do, you really never work a day in your life," Wold says. "Hudson has been very good to me. It is my greatest pleasure to give something back."
According to EMS Director Christensen, "Everybody needs a Rick on their service."