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HomeNewsArchivesKIRK GRYBOWSKI WAS WELL RESPECTED NATIONWIDE

KIRK GRYBOWSKI WAS WELL RESPECTED NATIONWIDE

Lou Jordan, a member of the Emergency Medical Services community on the mainland and president of Emergency Training Associates, shared the following letter with the EMS community across the country upon learning of the death of Virgin Islander Kirk Grybowski. Jordan says the EMS community stateside, is sharing in the sorrow of the passing of Kirk Grybowski. "He was a very important part of our EMS family here in the continental United States," Jordan told the Source. "Unfortunately, many on the islands may not have realized just how well known and respected Kirk was, and will remain. It will take a special person to replace the void he leaves."
Friends……………………I miss you………………..
One of the problems with growing old is the inevitable loss of friends. It seems that in spite of our efforts to think young the sands of time settle, the clock of life ticks on and friends die.
While I have been blessed with many friends, and a number of them have passed on, I must admit that losing any of them does not make it easier. No matter how full your life the loss of a friend leaves a void, a distinct and separate void. It doesn't get easier, and the mixed emotions of sorrow and reflection on good memories are like uncontrollable counterweights on the opposite end of an emotional seesaw. The ups and downs just come and go. It doesn't get comfortable, just familiar.
Recently the Emergency Medical Services world and I lost a real friend. Kirk Grybowski, former director of EMS for the U.S. Virgin Islands, suffered a cardiac arrest while on vacation in Chicago. His wife Judy, a longtime professor and nursing icon at the National and International level, was at his side.
She called to tell me how hard the EMS crews that responded worked on him. Three crews put forth the best efforts possible, as did the receiving hospital – to no avail. It was apparently Kirk's time to move on. The crews never knew that they were working on the husband of a trained expert, under the most stressful situation she had ever faced. Her respect and praise of their efforts are assurances that everything possible was done. To these EMSers I send my "Thanks." You couldn't have given her any more peace than you did. There is no doubt in her mind that he got the best treatment possible. Your actions will forever serve to soften her loss.
Kirk was a well educated guy, he had multiple Masters degrees, but still was just one of the guys.
I met him in 1976 when he was trying to find out what EMS was and how he could develop a system in the Virgin Islands. Dr. R. Adams Cowley, the father of Shock Trauma and the Trauma Center concept, allowed me to work with Kirk for many years.
Taking a poorly organized and grossly under funded group of taxi drivers that also drove the ambulances based at an understaffed and under-equipped hospital, Kirk developed an EMS System for the US Virgin Islands that is among the best anywhere.
His spirit and belief was the biggest motivator in the early years, as he took classes and rode the ambulances right along with the new students.
Few knew the political battles Kirk fought in behalf of EMS, for he had political obstacles to overcome that make some of our stateside stories pale in comparison. Not being a "born here" native Virgin Islander, he routinely was subjected to political shenanigans that made progress next to impossible. Those of you familiar with small town or island politics know that relatives and friends are often the basis for positions and support, and performance or success are secondary.
But for 24 years Kirk never quit trying; he found ways to overcome the opposition time and time again, in a way that the politicos couldn't stand up to. He proved that EMS was needed and he showed the public the advances that had been made. Public opinion was on the side of EMS progress, and Kirk used each small success as the basis for the next step. Very soon nurses were leaving nursing to become EMTs. It is no stretch of the truth to say that long ago, the progress of EMS was a catalyst for the improvement in nursing in the Virgin Islands. I believe it was the best, and most productive case of " the tail wagging the dog " that I ever saw.
While Judy worked hard and successfully to get an accredited Nursing program in St. Thomas, Kirk moved EMS up to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians Paramedic level. They were both dedicated to helping people.
Over the years they were even asked to go to Swaziland, Africa and other places to assist in establishing health clinics and emergency response teams for the impoverished people that had previously had nothing in the way of health care.
Their belief and dedication to making things better for others was obvious.
A long-time director of EMS, Kirk traveled to as many EMS-related meetings as he could, often paying out of his own pocket and taking his vacation time to do so. A frequent student at the National Fire Academy, he made friends from all corners of U.S. and the world.
He was thirsty for new ideas and information that would be of value to his efforts to support EMS in the Virgin Islands, other Islands of the Caribbean, and everywhere he traveled. He was a true ambassador of EMS.
While many at EMS national meetings would be strutting around in their fancy suits, Kirk would usually be found dressed casually and refusing to play the PC games.
On one occasion at a National Council of State EMS Training Coordinators meeting, Kirk and I roomed together. As we were getting ready for a formal dinner, he sent me down early telling me he would "catch up" with me, that he had "a surprise." Kirk appeared with the ceremonial regalia that he had been awarded by the King of Swaziland for his work in EMS. Beads feathers and all, this 6-foot-plus Polish giant in sandals made his entry. He spent the entire evening telling an enthralled audience about the EMS that was developing in many areas of South Africa.
Rather than another rubber chicken dinner, we all enjoyed that evening sharing the world of EMS in a global forum. We were pulled away from telling each other how great our individual states were, and began discussing problems and solutions. It was both enjoyable and refreshing, and we all saw ourselves as a part of something bigger than our own little fiefdom's. I believe he set a stage for sharing that broke the previous tradition of our patting each other on the back. And I believe he knew just what a difference he was making.
While there are many stories I could tell you about Kirk Grybowski, I won't. I just wanted to use this opportunity to let you know that an important EMS figure has left our ranks. And many of his friends will miss him. But we all are better off because of his quiet contributions, and some of his not-so-quiet ones as well.
While I know he was one special person, I hope that some of you will look around you and think of some of the people like Kirk, or unlike him, but special to EMS in their own way. You should look for someone in EMS that makes a difference, and take the time to let them know that you appreciate their efforts. We take our heroes for granted, or we don't take the time to realize that they exist.
And if you get to the promised land before me, look for a big smiling guy, wearing sandals, with a white EMS Star of Life helmet precariously perched on his big head. Say Hello for me, and take the time to talk with him. I am sure you will have found a friend. His name is Kirk.
Kirk and Judy visited just prior to their trip to Chicago……..as he left, I didn't realize it would be such a long goodbye…………but I am sure that a part of him lives on, as does a part of other friends of mine and yours. Remember the friends that are gone and cherish those that are here. Our memories add to the value of their lives and enrich ours.
Lou Jordan
President Emergency Training Associa
tes
Maryland

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Lou Jordan, a member of the Emergency Medical Services community on the mainland and president of Emergency Training Associates, shared the following letter with the EMS community across the country upon learning of the death of Virgin Islander Kirk Grybowski. Jordan says the EMS community stateside, is sharing in the sorrow of the passing of Kirk Grybowski. "He was a very important part of our EMS family here in the continental United States," Jordan told the Source. "Unfortunately, many on the islands may not have realized just how well known and respected Kirk was, and will remain. It will take a special person to replace the void he leaves."
Friends……………………I miss you………………..
One of the problems with growing old is the inevitable loss of friends. It seems that in spite of our efforts to think young the sands of time settle, the clock of life ticks on and friends die.
While I have been blessed with many friends, and a number of them have passed on, I must admit that losing any of them does not make it easier. No matter how full your life the loss of a friend leaves a void, a distinct and separate void. It doesn't get easier, and the mixed emotions of sorrow and reflection on good memories are like uncontrollable counterweights on the opposite end of an emotional seesaw. The ups and downs just come and go. It doesn't get comfortable, just familiar.
Recently the Emergency Medical Services world and I lost a real friend. Kirk Grybowski, former director of EMS for the U.S. Virgin Islands, suffered a cardiac arrest while on vacation in Chicago. His wife Judy, a longtime professor and nursing icon at the National and International level, was at his side.
She called to tell me how hard the EMS crews that responded worked on him. Three crews put forth the best efforts possible, as did the receiving hospital – to no avail. It was apparently Kirk's time to move on. The crews never knew that they were working on the husband of a trained expert, under the most stressful situation she had ever faced. Her respect and praise of their efforts are assurances that everything possible was done. To these EMSers I send my "Thanks." You couldn't have given her any more peace than you did. There is no doubt in her mind that he got the best treatment possible. Your actions will forever serve to soften her loss.
Kirk was a well educated guy, he had multiple Masters degrees, but still was just one of the guys.
I met him in 1976 when he was trying to find out what EMS was and how he could develop a system in the Virgin Islands. Dr. R. Adams Cowley, the father of Shock Trauma and the Trauma Center concept, allowed me to work with Kirk for many years.
Taking a poorly organized and grossly under funded group of taxi drivers that also drove the ambulances based at an understaffed and under-equipped hospital, Kirk developed an EMS System for the US Virgin Islands that is among the best anywhere.
His spirit and belief was the biggest motivator in the early years, as he took classes and rode the ambulances right along with the new students.
Few knew the political battles Kirk fought in behalf of EMS, for he had political obstacles to overcome that make some of our stateside stories pale in comparison. Not being a "born here" native Virgin Islander, he routinely was subjected to political shenanigans that made progress next to impossible. Those of you familiar with small town or island politics know that relatives and friends are often the basis for positions and support, and performance or success are secondary.
But for 24 years Kirk never quit trying; he found ways to overcome the opposition time and time again, in a way that the politicos couldn't stand up to. He proved that EMS was needed and he showed the public the advances that had been made. Public opinion was on the side of EMS progress, and Kirk used each small success as the basis for the next step. Very soon nurses were leaving nursing to become EMTs. It is no stretch of the truth to say that long ago, the progress of EMS was a catalyst for the improvement in nursing in the Virgin Islands. I believe it was the best, and most productive case of " the tail wagging the dog " that I ever saw.
While Judy worked hard and successfully to get an accredited Nursing program in St. Thomas, Kirk moved EMS up to the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians Paramedic level. They were both dedicated to helping people.
Over the years they were even asked to go to Swaziland, Africa and other places to assist in establishing health clinics and emergency response teams for the impoverished people that had previously had nothing in the way of health care.
Their belief and dedication to making things better for others was obvious.
A long-time director of EMS, Kirk traveled to as many EMS-related meetings as he could, often paying out of his own pocket and taking his vacation time to do so. A frequent student at the National Fire Academy, he made friends from all corners of U.S. and the world.
He was thirsty for new ideas and information that would be of value to his efforts to support EMS in the Virgin Islands, other Islands of the Caribbean, and everywhere he traveled. He was a true ambassador of EMS.
While many at EMS national meetings would be strutting around in their fancy suits, Kirk would usually be found dressed casually and refusing to play the PC games.
On one occasion at a National Council of State EMS Training Coordinators meeting, Kirk and I roomed together. As we were getting ready for a formal dinner, he sent me down early telling me he would "catch up" with me, that he had "a surprise." Kirk appeared with the ceremonial regalia that he had been awarded by the King of Swaziland for his work in EMS. Beads feathers and all, this 6-foot-plus Polish giant in sandals made his entry. He spent the entire evening telling an enthralled audience about the EMS that was developing in many areas of South Africa.
Rather than another rubber chicken dinner, we all enjoyed that evening sharing the world of EMS in a global forum. We were pulled away from telling each other how great our individual states were, and began discussing problems and solutions. It was both enjoyable and refreshing, and we all saw ourselves as a part of something bigger than our own little fiefdom's. I believe he set a stage for sharing that broke the previous tradition of our patting each other on the back. And I believe he knew just what a difference he was making.
While there are many stories I could tell you about Kirk Grybowski, I won't. I just wanted to use this opportunity to let you know that an important EMS figure has left our ranks. And many of his friends will miss him. But we all are better off because of his quiet contributions, and some of his not-so-quiet ones as well.
While I know he was one special person, I hope that some of you will look around you and think of some of the people like Kirk, or unlike him, but special to EMS in their own way. You should look for someone in EMS that makes a difference, and take the time to let them know that you appreciate their efforts. We take our heroes for granted, or we don't take the time to realize that they exist.
And if you get to the promised land before me, look for a big smiling guy, wearing sandals, with a white EMS Star of Life helmet precariously perched on his big head. Say Hello for me, and take the time to talk with him. I am sure you will have found a friend. His name is Kirk.
Kirk and Judy visited just prior to their trip to Chicago……..as he left, I didn't realize it would be such a long goodbye…………but I am sure that a part of him lives on, as does a part of other friends of mine and yours. Remember the friends that are gone and cherish those that are here. Our memories add to the value of their lives and enrich ours.
Lou Jordan
President Emergency Training Associa tes
Maryland