MVRS marks a half century of service this year

- Posted on May 16, 2018 - 11:34 AM

The Mathews Volunteer Rescue Squad was organized in May 1968 by 40 Mathews County residents.

Before that time, all medical transports were handled by private vehicles or a funeral home hearse, and pre-hospital care was provided by county physicians. The following information was taken from a history compiled by Lindy Hatch.

The early years

Guided by the first board of directors—Chairman Wallace Twigg Sr., Robert Orrell, Edward Kobylinski, Janice Payne and Richard Whitney—MVRS held Red Cross first aid classes at the Mathews Woman’s Club, and an Oldsmobile station wagon with first aid supplies was housed at Foster-Faulkner Funeral Home. The station wagon, “fully equipped” as an ambulance, operated in conjunction with the hearse driven by funeral home personnel.

A fund drive was launched that first year to raise $30,000 to purchase two ambulances at a total cost of $12,000 and to construct a squad building at a cost of $18,000. The yearly operating budget for the squad was $8,000.

The arrangement with the funeral home only lasted a few months because, by the end of the year, a new law had gone into effect that forbade the use of hearses as ambulances.

Calls for assistance were generally handled by doctors’ offices. The physician called the funeral home personnel, who called the squad’s scheduled “phone operator” at home. That person then called the duty crew. At some point, the protocol was changed to leave out the phone operators, and calls went either to Nellie Mae Owens or the Twigg Motor Company.

There were two crews to cover each 12-hour shift. If there was an accident, the step involving a physician could be bypassed. Since there was no local hospital, all patients were taken to Richmond, Newport News, or Hampton. Calls averaged four hours.

In November 1968, the board of directors chose the squad’s first officers—president Edward Kobylinski, vice president Sonny Postles, secretary Janice Payne and treasurer Mrs. Vernon Armistead—and then quickly set about purchasing property next to the Mathews Laundromat for a 60’ by 40’ building. They occupied the building in October of 1969 and held regular meetings. The squad adopted an official uniform.

The 1970s

Virginia began to require that rescue squad medical attendants be trained and certified as emergency medical technicians, and 16 active MVRS members received their certification in July 1972 after completing 72 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of hands-on training at Dixie Hospital in Hampton.

Over the following years, the squad answered calls, maintained the vehicles and grounds, and regularly attended meetings and training. Among the special activities and events were a mock casualty drill in 1973, with Boy Scouts pretending to be the victims of a small plane crash behind Mathews Intermediate School; the construction of a four-bay addition to the building in 1974; and the establishment in 1975 of a dispatch center at the rescue squad building. In 1976, a central communications center was established at the Mathews County Sheriff’s Office for rescue and fire calls, and pagers were purchased in 1980 so squad members could be notified of emergency calls.

Decade of growth

Riverside Walter Reed Hospital opened in 1979, dramatically reducing time and mileage for local rescue calls. By that time, the state had established EMT certifications for basic EMT, IV technician, shock trauma technician, cardiac technician and paramedic, and in 1983, all 42 members of the squad were certified EMTs, including eight shock trauma techs and six cardiac techs.

During the 1980s, the squad was very active in the community, participating in state and area training sessions and local and area parades, attending festivals, and providing non-emergency transports for non-ambulatory patients free of charge.