The Utah Bureau of Emergency Medical Services has honored Weber State University alumnus Zackery Hatch with both the Paramedic of the Year and the Incident of the Year awards.
After graduating in 2005, Hatch has been working for the West Valley City Fire Department. It was Hatch’s participation in two separate instances that qualified him for the awards.
The incident that granted him Paramedic of the Year was when Hatch and his partner were called to assist in a choking.
“Usually six people show up (on a call like this), but West Valley was fighting an apartment fire, so we took the call,” Hatch said.
They arrived on the scene to a woman choking. They tried to reach the obstruction with medical tools but were unable to do so. As the woman turned blue, the two paramedics realized there wasn’t much time. If they were going to save her, they needed to act fast.
“We were unable to get the piece,” Hatch said, “and so we cut her throat to give her air — something pretty rare, and it worked.”
The procedure, known as a tracheotomy, is taught to paramedic students in the WSU program Hatch participated in as a student, but is seldom used in the field.
The second incident involved a young man trapped inside a rail car. He was pinned underneath 200-plus tons of steel that had shifted in transit. Hatch and others tried to move the steel, but it wouldn’t budge.
“We got the steel down to his lower-leg portion, but his condition was crashing,” Hatch said. “We flew a surgeon in and amputated his leg.”
Everyone involved with the incident was honored with the award for Incident of the Year.
National Emergency Medical Services describes the Paramedic of the Year as one who continually demonstrates excellent patient care clinical skills with exemplary professionalism, significant commitment to the success and advancement of the emergency medical system statewide, as well as exceptional contribution to the emergency medical education programs, associates and patients.
Jeff Grunow, associate professor and chair for the WSU Emergency Care and Rescue Department, was an adviser to Hatch.
“He is a common-sense type of person,” Grunow said. “It’s kind of rare that the same group got Incident of the Year . . . and Paramedic of the Year.”
Grunow said that in both situations, the men must have realized how difficult it was going to be to help the individuals. Grunow has only seen one amputation in his whole career as a paramedic.
Grunow and Hatch are now colleagues at WSU, both teaching in the paramedic program. Hatch said he loves being a teacher.
“WSU has the best paramedic program in Utah,” he said. “WSU goes above and beyond when teaching their students.”
Hatch has been in charge of distance learning in the paramedic program. The classroom employs a webcam that allows students from southern Utah, Nevada and other surrounding states to take part in the education.