This Former Navy Pilot Loves the Thrilling Challenge of Helping Her Neighbors
The call came from a concerned neighbor on a very cold winter day: An older person had slipped on the ice on the way to the mailbox and could not stand up. EMT Shelley Pennington and other Pennington First Aid Squad answered that call.
Finding their patient face-down, upset, and in excruciating pain, the team assessed that one leg was broken. They had to quickly stabilize it, and get the person off the ground and onto a stretcher before hypothermia set in.
A splint was applied to the broken leg. The team used a hoisting tool called a scoop to lift the person onto a stretcher.
As she worked, Shelley explained everything she was doing to the patient, who had calmed considerably. “You’re going to be ok,” she said.
A Fitting Volunteer Experience
Shelley has always sought excitement, a challenge, and a chance to help others.
The second oldest of Jack and Betty Jo Pennington’s five kids, she moved to the town that coincidentally shares her name in the fifth grade, and, after high school, left for three decades.
A 30-year career as a Navy and Naval Reserve pilot took her all over the world. She also had a long career in commercial aviation, flying passengers for TWA and packages for UPS. When Shelley wasn’t flying, she was running. She’s run over a dozen marathons including, Boston four times.
Then, in 2011, Jack and Betty Jo needed help, so Shelley moved home to provide it. After years of care, her dad passed away in 2013 and her mom in 2018.
Shelley, finding herself with more free time and a desire to do something meaningful with it, was encouraged by friends already on the Squad to try PFAS.
“I love it!” Shelley said. “You don’t know what the next call is going to be – it’s the big unknown. And then you have to get there as soon as possible and make important decisions about what you should do.”
There is also a lot of nurturing to be done. “You have to be reassuring to both the patient and his or her family,” she said. “People are calling 911 on the worst day of their lives. You have to do the best you can to alleviate that fear, to help them understand what the next steps are.”
Helping her neighbors in her home town is extremely satisfying, as is working with a team of dedicated volunteers. “I’m from the military and the aviation industry, and in both places, we had crews of people working together. We had camaraderie, and I missed that. At Pennington First Aid, you’re also working as a crew – you’re not flying solo in any of this.”
She Had the Will, She Learned the Way
Shelley, who is now 63, walked into Pennington First Aid Squad without any medical background. She liked the challenge of learning new things from anatomy to pharmacology to patient assessment. Learning began with the EMT course, but it continues with drills and guidance from all the other volunteers.
“On the Squad, we have people from 16 years old all the way up to people in their 70s,” she said. “Sometimes, we have a teenager who has more EMT experience than a 50 year old with a PhD.”
Should YOU Be the Neighbor Your Neighbors Can’t Live Without?
Shelley believes that anyone who has considered volunteering with PFAS – or Pennington Fire Company, Hopewell Fire Department & Emergency Medical Unit, or Union Fire Company & Rescue Squad – should explore what could be a life-changing opportunity.
“It’s very rewarding to help people. And in a small town like this, you’re part of the patchwork of this town,” she said. “If you have a personal connection to your town, you get more satisfaction from living there.”
Interested in volunteering or learning more? Please visit www.ProtectHopewellValley.com, or call Matt Martin at 609-537-0287. Emergency and non-emergency volunteers are needed at all Hopewell Valley fire and ambulance companies now. Training and gear are free.