PEPPERELL — According to tradition, the annual Fire Department Christmas party’s recognition ceremony ends with the naming of firefighter and emergency medical technician of the year.
Master of Ceremonies Deputy Fire Chief Peter Shattuck, speaking in the Knights of Columbus Hall this year, noted that the decision is one of the hardest things to be done because “we have (many) people who’ve done some extraordinary things.”
Deputy Chief Jonathan Kinney, whose job it was to announce the EMT of the Year, said, “We’re fortunate to have a number of very dedicated individuals, but this one stands out for her availability even when not on call. Her skills have blossomed. We refer to her as call sign A48 . . .”
A48 is Melissa Schrader – daughter of Michael and Cindy Schrader, sister to younger brother Josh — diminutive, strong, and according to all he know her, a very dedicated, 21 year-old college student studying to become a registered nurse.
She was on call last weekend and while being interviewed, was called to leave the Park Street fire station in Ambulance 2 to answer a difficulty-in-breathing call. That was followed by a second emergency, typical of an EMT’s shift and a place where Schrader prefers to be.
“I was surprised (at the award),” she said, quickly shifting discussion to the accomplishments of her colleagues.
“I’m single and covering shifts is no problem, but I always have to go (to calls). I think ‘what if that were my parents, or a friend. I’d have to be there. It’s the same with everyone,” said Schrader, a North Middlesex Regional High School graduate who went on to earn an associate’s degree in criminal justice. “I loved cops as a kid,” she said.
Melissa recently completed Massachusetts State Police boot camp.
Mike Schrader said his daughter was one of 10 women who went in, but was one of two who graduated.
“She signed the paper and they took her through a door. When I tried to go in to say goodbye, they directed my wife and I out the other door. She was ‘gone.’ It’s tough. If a bed isn’t made correctly, they sleep on the floor,” he said. “Eight dropped out the first night.”
Did she do the push-ups?
“Sure,” Melissa said.
Schrader said her interests have changed to the medical side of things. Now a college junior, she’s switched majors.
“I liked helping people in a more hands-on way. I don’t want to carry a gun or get shot at. I hope to become a registered nurse,but I don’t yet know what kind of nursing, maybe working with children. After that I can challenge (becoming) a paramedic.”
She became an EMT two years ago after graduating from the EMT, Inc. school.
“I’m just an EMT basic,” she said, “but every EMS (responder), police, fire, do the same kind of work. It is kind of thankless.”
Melissa’s good friend Justin Zink tells a story of a dinner the were sharing while off duty when a call came in.
“She asked if we should go. I said ‘but we’re eating dinner.’ She said ‘I’ve got to go,” Zink said. “She doesn’t want anyone to go without being helped. She tries to help everyone. She’s very motivated and always available.”
Schrader said her parents are supportive of her decisions.
“They love (my job). I’m kind of following in my dad’s footsteps (Mike Schrader is a veteran Highway Department employee),” she said.
Melissa, there is no “just” before the title EMT basic.