Making a difference in her community

Lakes Region EMS EMT Jessica Keeney receives Star of Life award—

Lakes Region EMS emergency medical technician Jessica Keeney is humble about her accomplishments.

Jessica Keeney

Jessica Keeney

For her and the many others who work in the emergency medical field, doing their jobs is not about recognition and awards. But sometimes they earn awards by going above and beyond their normal job duties.

Such is the case with Keeney.

A five-year veteran of Lakes Region EMS who worked for Shafer Franconia Fire & Rescue before coming to Lakes Region, Keeney was nominated last year around Christmastime to receive the Star of Life Award, an American Ambulance Service award that recognizes EMS professionals for the day-to-day lifesaving services they provide.

“I was working when they announced it at (the Lakes Region EMS) Christmas party,” she said. “A couple of friends from work called and said, ‘Hey, you got the Star of Life award.’ I was laughing, and I was like, ‘Oh, whatever.’”

Keeney thought her coworkers might be joking, but she soon found out that wasn’t the case when Lakes Region EMS Executive Director Aarron Reinert called and confirmed that she had received the award.

Left to right: Lakes Region EMS EMT Jessica Keeney, Lakes Region EMS Executive Director Aarron Reinert and Lakes Region EMS Supervisor John Paulsen at the American Ambulance Service Stars of Life awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in March. Keeney and Paulsen both received Star of Life awards. Photos supplied

Left to right: Lakes Region EMS EMT Jessica Keeney, Lakes Region EMS Executive Director Aarron Reinert and Lakes Region EMS Supervisor John Paulsen at the American Ambulance Service Stars of Life awards ceremony in Washington, D.C., in March. Keeney and Paulsen both received Star of Life awards. Photos supplied

A trip to D.C. 

Keeney was one of about 60 emergency medical personnel from 38 states to travel to Washington, D.C., March 18-20 to receive the Star of Life award.

She was impressed with the reception they received.

Keeney said numerous members of Congress went out of their way to make the group feel welcomed, and the awards ceremony was “awesome.”

“It was very humbling,” she said. “I didn’t feel like I deserved that.”

After receiving the award, she, her husband Jesse and her two older children — 11-year-old Kenzie and 8-year-old Jack — took a few days to tour the Washington, D.C., area.

Keeney said having most of her family come with — nearly 2-year-old Lily was a bit too young to make the trip — was the best part of the whole experience.

Making connections in the community

According to part of a bio sent to the Post Review by Lakes Region EMS, “(Keeney’s) kindness and generosity often lead to her going above and beyond when caring for patients, both during and occasionally after the call. It is not unusual for Jessica to drop off warm meals, bags of groceries or lists of available services to patients who are in need.  She provides these services quietly, on her own time, with no fanfare, simply striving to help others and make a difference in her community.”

One person who has experienced Keeney’s kindness firsthand is a World War II veteran who lives in the Shafer area.

Keeney said she and the Lakes Region EMS crew respond to a lot of calls throughout the year, and sometimes they meet people who just need a little extra help.

This man’s wife had recently fallen and had an extended stay in the hospital.

“I told him we’d take real good care of her, take her to the hospital, she’ll be OK and he could come see her,” Keeney said.

The man thanked Keeney for her service and the kind words, but told her he didn’t have any family left in the area and most of the couple’s friends had passed away.

That statement stuck with Keeney, so she decided to ask her supervisor if she could stop by this man’s house while his wife was in the hospital and make him dinner.

Keeney was told that was just fine, so she and another EMS employee paid him a visit.

“He welcomed us with open arms,” she said, noting they visited the man a few more times over the course of weeks until his wife returned from the hospital.

Another person Keeney met through her work at Lakes Region EMS was a woman who had been taking care of her disabled daughter for years.

The woman’s health was starting to fail, so emergency calls started to increase.

Keeney said she could see the love the woman had for her daughter and knew she didn’t want to put her in an assisted care facility, even though it was difficult for her to care for her daughter.

Keeney said she brought groceries to the woman on behalf of Lakes Region EMS, and her reaction was one she’ll remember for a long time.

“She was so darn cute because she was like, ‘I don’t know what I did to deserve this.’” Keeney said. “These are the type of people who deserve awards — the woman who takes care of her daughter, the World War II veteran. These are the people you want to do a little extra for.”

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