(Photo by Curt Knoke) From the battlefields of foreign countries to the quiet village of Bonduel, Doug Bartels has done his best to keep the sick and injured alive. Bartels’ tireless efforts have earned him the Health Care Volunteer of the Year Award from the Shawano Area Community Foundation.
By Lee Pulaski, Shawano Leader
Doug Bartels has spent the last 50 years doing his part to save people’s lives. To hear him talk about it, though, there are plenty of others who are much more qualified to be in the spotlight.
Despite Bartels’ protestations, the Shawano Area Community Foundation has named the Bonduel man as its Health Care Volunteer of the Year for 2019. The award is sponsored by ThedaCare Physicians.
Bartels is currently working as part of an ambulance crew with Bonduel EMS, where he has been since 2004. However, before that, he often served as a Bonduel first responder on his own while working for Shawano Ambulance for 23 years. Bartels had also worked in Shawano Hospital’s emergency room on the weekends during that time.
His career in the health field started when he fought for this country’s freedom. Bartels served as a medic in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force, stationed in Korea and Vietnam.
Through it all, Bartels has maintained his composure and his determination to keep neighbors and strangers alike from dying, according to Rodney Hoppe, who nominated Bartels for the award.
“After 50 years in the emergency medical field, Doug is still a first responder providing a wealth of knowledge and leadership with a real expertise in explaining what’s going (on) to family members at an emergency scene,” Hoppe wrote in his letter. “Calm is not a word heard at many scenes, but Doug has a knack to make that happen with his explanation of what’s going on.”
Bartels said he received training in pre-hospital medical care while he was in the military. He said he went to college after leaving the service, but he decided the battlefield education he received should continue to be put to use.
“I took a few courses and then started with Shawano Ambulance as a part-time person,” Bartels said.
For most in the health care field, the desire to help others is the reason given for going into that line of work. Bartels gives a different answer.
“I was in the military for seven years, and I was in some very exciting organizations,” Bartels said. “I spent a year in Korea and a year in Vietnam, and I kind of miss the excitement. There was an element of excitement, and there was an element of me being useful to the community.”
Citing a line from the film “Forrest Gump,” the uncertainty of every call Bartels goes on is like a box of chocolates. Everyone is different in some way — circumstances, people, steps that need to be taken.
Bartels’ time working in Shawano’s emergency room came about as a result of a nursing shortage. He said the hospital hired a number of first responders as emergency room technicians to help fill the gaps.
Shawano Ambulance provided Bartels with his own full medical kit, and if there was an emergency call in Bonduel when Bartels was at home, he was able to respond quickly instead of patients having to wait for an ambulance to arrive from Shawano.
“That was before the first responder program came into existence,” Bartels said. “In reality, I was a first responder for the village of Bonduel, township of Hartland and the western portion of the township of Angelica. I was the first responder before the first responder program was legislated as an entity.”
The work hasn’t been without its share of sadness, though. Bartels recalled being called to the scene of a vehicle accident on state Highway 29 almost 25 years ago in which his daughter was involved.
“Quite unfortunately, her best friend died in that accident,” Bartels said. “I didn’t even recognize my own daughter when I first saw her.”
Bartels remembered having to put his emotions on hold as he worked to care for all who had been injured.
“I kind of felt like I took the emotions out of my body and put them on the side of the road,” he said. “Then I went ahead and did what I had to do. The tour ended, and I went to be with my daughter. I stayed with her at the hospital for three weeks.”
Things turned out well for Bartels’ daughter in the end, and he now has four grandchildren as a result of being able to save her life.
Now 75, Bartels said he’s considering retiring, but he’ll only do that once he’s certain there are plenty of folks to take his place saving lives.
“Bonduel EMS is a very progressive organization,” Bartels said. “We have a lot of new members, and I’m depending on them to pick up the ball here now and take over. I’m going to retire — well, not tomorrow, but when the organization is ready with all these young folks that have come on. Once they become proficient, I’ll be taking a backseat.”
Bartels has asked that the $1,000 prize that the SACF gives to nonprofit organizations be given to the Bonduel High School scholarship committee. He wants the prize broken down into two $500 scholarships and given to students pursuing medical education.
“It’s not just handing out pills or responding to accidents,” Bartels said. “It’s physical therapy, occupational therapy, sports therapy — there’s just a whole world out there in the medical community.”
Our affiliate, the Shawano Area Community Foundation, in conjunction with The Shawano Leader, has staged a Celebration of Giving Volunteer of the Year promotion for the last 10 years. Each year select area volunteers are presented $1,000 cash grants for their efforts to improve the quality of life in the Wolf River Region. The awards, sponsored by area businesses, are then reinvested back into area nonprofit organizations at the direction of the award winners. This is the third in a series profiling outstanding volunteers in the community.