Father's Day: Sons follow in dad's footsteps in serving communities as EMTs

·6 min read

Jun. 18—EAU CLAIRE — Families across the nation will gather to honor their fathers this weekend.

Jay Young's children will attempt to celebrate Father's Day as well, but the whole family knows it may not happen.

With Jay's three sons, Eric, Justin and Jamison, following in their dad's footsteps to become emergency medical technicians, it's as likely as not that one of them will get called into work or a pager will go off and they will have to leave the party to go save a life or help someone in need.

It's a lifestyle they've learned to live with — and to love — since making the choice to serve as part-time EMTs in addition to their regular day jobs.

"You get used to it. You don't get much sleep sometimes, but you find that patient outcomes are the most important part," said Jamison, a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire. "We're a big community-based family. The satisfaction comes from helping patients and hearing you made a difference in people's lives."

To a man, the Youngs trace the family business — they all work as EMTs for Mayo Clinic Ambulance Service — back to Jay's decision, prompted by a friend, to go through training and become an EMT in 1990.

From that point on, while growing up in Bloomer, the sons always showed an interest in their dad's work for Bloomer Community Ambulance Service. Even at age 2, Eric, the oldest boy, loved to page through Jay's EMT training books and look at the pictures, Jay said.

The brothers, who all got certified as EMTs while they were students at UW-Eau Claire, recalled as kids looking forward to riding in ambulances during community parades and hearing how appreciative residents were of their dad's efforts. It all made an impression.

"It's every little boy's dream to do what his dad does, and then after seeing what the crew does on the ambulance and riding in an ambulance during parades, one thing led to another and I got my EMT license too," said Eric, 33, a high school principal in Whitehall.

It's not like they were pushed into the emergency responder role, insisted Justin, 27, a health and physical education teacher in Gilman as well as Jamison's twin brother.

"It was just always kind of in our family, so I'm like, 'I'm doing it too,' " Justin said. "I always knew one day I'd be an EMT, and getting to do that with my dad is an honor."

Jamison, who began college planning to study physics and engineering, attributed his switch to a medical career to his positive initial experience as an EMT.

"Without my dad's start as an EMT, I likely wouldn't have done it either, and now I'm a nurse dealing with multiple patients every day because of what he did," Jamison said. "The rest of my life I'll be working in health care because of him."

For Jay, who works full time as an engineer for Hewlett-Packard in Chippewa Falls in addition to his side gigs with both the Mayo Clinic and Bloomer ambulance services, it's heartwarming to see his sons take an interest in something that's such an important part of his life.

"I find it very rewarding to be an EMT because you get to help people in their time of need, and I think the boys feel the same way," Jay said. "Once you get it in your blood, you want to keep helping people."

That service mentality shines through in Jay's sons too.

Despite the obvious stress of dealing with people needing emergency medical care at a moment's notice, Eric didn't hesitate in saying the pros outweigh the cons.

"In this job, you see people at their best and at their worst," Eric said. "We're there for them no matter what."

Stepping up

The Youngs' part-time EMT duty can mean picking up shifts and on-call coverage on weekends or sometimes even taking a vacation day from their full-time jobs to help with an open ambulance shift.

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jay and his sons picked up as many shifts as they could because the need was so great as a result of increases in both call volume and staff missing work due to sickness.

"The pandemic hit us hard in our area and I felt the need to help out on the ambulance as much as possible, as we have seen some of the busiest times that I can recall," Jay said, noting that Mayo did a good job of providing the personal protective equipment necessary to keep them safe.

Sandy Eustice, the retired Chippewa Valley Technical College instructor who provided EMT training to both generations of Youngs, said she taught other parents and children over the years but recalled no other examples of four people from the same family.

"The Young boys were standouts, dad included," Eustice said. "It takes a certain type of person to work in prehospital care, and I genuinely believe that compassion and love for helping people is deeply ingrained in that Young family. They're a special group."

Special bond

Though it happened more frequently when they all worked with the Bloomer ambulance service, some of the Youngs still occasionally work a shift, go on a call or attend a training session with a family member. It's an opportunity they don't take for granted.

"There is nothing that beats being able to work alongside my three sons once in a while," said Jay, who also serves as state treasurer for the Wisconsin EMS Association.

Clearly, the feeling is mutual among his boys, as they all said they relish the chance to work with family members.

"When I get to work with my dad, who's been doing it for more than 30 years, there's nothing to worry about because he's seen it all and I know he's got my back," Justin said.

A career highlight, Justin said, was getting his first cardiac save when he was on a call with his twin brother and their dad.

"That was pretty special," Justin said, adding that the best part is that the individual he revived that day is still alive.

The Youngs' willingness to forgo free time — and family time — to serve the community in multiple roles also stems from their father leading by example, the sons agreed.

Growing up, Eric said, the boys saw their dad work multiple jobs to provide for the family and make sure they had everything they needed. The Youngs also operate a tent rental company together in Bloomer.

"We like to work hard. That's just kind of how we were raised," said Eric, who just last week worked two overnight EMT shifts in addition to his full-time day job. "Just seeing his work ethic drove us to do the same."

As a result, they've had numerous holiday and family gatherings over the years interrupted by the call of duty. And with some of them on call once again, it would surprise no one if the same thing happens this weekend. It goes with the territory.

The family legacy may not get Jay a relaxing Father's Day celebration on Sunday, but he insisted seeing his children follow his lead fills him with fatherly pride.

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