LAURINBURG — Cory Baldwin’s 29-year career with Scotland County EMS began as a way to earn money for college tuition.
But soon the work became a vocation as the long hours required began to infringe on Baldwin’s ability to juggle his job as a dispatcher with class, homework, and exams. So the Laurel Hill native traded in liberal arts classes at UNC-Pembroke for Fayetteville Commmunity College courses in emergency medicine, working his way up through the ranks of EMT, EMT-Intermediate, and finally paramedic.
“After I got into EMS and started on the road I wanted to stay and work my way up through EMS and get as much training as I could to do the best I could do at what I was doing,” said Baldwin.
On Tuesday, Baldwin reported for one of his final shifts before his retirement only to be greeted by a surprise party courtesy of his Scotland County EMS co-workers, friends, and family members.
“This is a big family,” said EMS Director Roylin Hammond. “These people live together 24 hours a day and they fight like cats and dogs just like a family does sometimes, but they work extremely well together.”
Hammond, who has worked with Baldwin for 20 years, described his most experienced paramedic as a good leader, dependable, and excellent in patient care. Baldwin is a nationally registered paramedic, eligible to save lives in any state in the U.S.
Though he has earned professional certifications throughout his career, Baldwin considers his reception from patients to be more important than accolades.
“Everybody wants to be the best at what they do; we all do,” he said. “But I wanted also to be the one that people didn’t mind having there to take care of them.”
As a paramedic, Baldwin has spent the last 16 years working two or three 24-hour shifts per week, time he says is usually filled with responding to emergency calls and completing the corresponding paperwork.
“There have been some accidents that stick in my mind, there have been some medical calls that stick in my mind,” said Baldwin. “There are some calls that stick out and will continue to stick out.”
But whether a call results in transport of a patient to a hospital for successful treatment or ends tragically, Baldwin takes a lesson from every one.
“You learn that when something seems to be happening again, that you react a different way then you did earlier,” he said. “You’ve got to be prepared to make changes with your patient care and change what you’re doing in a split second.”
During Tuesday’s retirement gathering, Baldwin made sure to personally speak with each of his colleagues and visitors after a meal of fried chicken, barbecue, and fixings donated by Smithfield’s.
Hammond presented Baldwin with a plaque in honor of his dedication and thanked him for his many years of selfless service. Baldwin’s co-workers and friends took the opportunity to share stories and memories of him.
“I ran my first call with him, it was a cardiac arrest,” said Kimbrick Morris, who began her first EMT job at Scotland County EMS five years ago. “I remember being scared and I remember him coming out and telling me what all would go on with the call and making me feel at ease.”
Though emergency service rarely makes for a stress-free profession, Morris said that Baldwin seldom appears upset or out of his element.
“He always makes me laugh whenever I come in in the morning, just by saying something funny,” she said. “He’s always trying to make me laugh no matter what’s going on around us. He has a good attitude.”
In his retirement, Baldwin plans to continue his education in emergency services methodology in order to become an educator of future EMTs and paramedics. Baldwin and his wife Debra have two adult children, and in his free time, he “would really like to fish.”
He also plans to return to Scotland County EMS on a part-time basis to maintain his hard-earned certifications and keep up with the people who have become more than just coworkers.
“Working with someone in a 24-hour period and being with them for 48 to 72 hours a week, they become part of your family,” Baldwin said.