Fredonia EMTs are quite the couple

John and Priscilla Lemke of the Town of Saukville have dedicated many years to providing firefighter and EMT services to the Fredonia community. Photo by Sam Arendt
Ozaukee Press staff

Priscilla and John Lemke enjoy regularly baby sitting their two young grandchildren.

But when duty calls, they instantly respond, and their grandchildren adjust accordingly.

John, a firefighter/emergency medical technician for the Fredonia Fire Department, and his wife Priscilla, an EMT, have been serving for years.

The tag-team from the Town of Saukville has been on call during weekdays, splitting their time due to full-time work schedules. One would work the morning and the other the afternoon.

Their dedication went beyond being compensated.

“They both would cover for us, even if they weren’t getting paid for it,” Fredonia Fire Chief Brian Weyker said.

John, who recently retired, delivered bread in Milwaukee and was back home by around noon each day. Priscilla works as a registered nurse on third shift.

That made them available to be on call during daytime hours, a unique but not unheard of schedule. Their commitment to the Fredonia community, however, has been remarkable, Wyeker said.

Both joined the department at separate times before they married each other.

John had worked for the West Bend Fire Department and moved to the area about 23 years ago. He attended of the Fredonia Lions’ pancake breakfasts and an ambulance was always there.

John already had an EMT license and was trained, so he figured he would join the department.

Priscilla, already a registered nurse, came to a department open house during Fire Prevention Week and noticed a table set up for EMTs and firefighters.

“I thought, ‘I could do this. My youngest one would be in first grade,’ so that’s why I joined,” she said.

“I lead a dull life. I knew I was home all day. I knew I could do this,” she said with a laugh.

The two met working for the department and got married nine years ago.

While John said all the department’s members are easy to work with, being on the same call with his wife provides an advantage.

“We were a little bit more in tune with each other,” he said.

Perhaps the bigger advantage is to be able to talk with each other about how to do their job better.

“We could talk about things that we could have done differently or better versus waiting until practice night. We could critique ourselves quicker,” he said.

For John, he enjoys serving the community with his fellow department members.

“They are good people. I love the camaraderie,” he said.

For Priscilla, being an EMT helps her be a better rehabilitation unit nurse.

She has to renew her registered nurse license every two years, which involves answering a set of questions. Those, however, don’t pertain to the job.

“All questions are ‘Do you plan on working longer? Do you plan on retiring soon? Are you paid on call or hourly or salaried?” she said.

“They just want to know how long you’ll be working. It has nothing to do with my skills.”

Her EMT license, however, requires training every six months. Last week she just went through a session on immobilization of different body parts.

Some of the tasks at her full-time and part-time jobs are essentially the same.

“I do a lot of IVs at work but they’re not the kind of IVs we do here (at the department),” she said.

She uses a continuous positive airway pressure machine on both jobs but in different scenarios. As a nurse, a CPAP treats sleep apnea. As an EMT, it treats respiratory distress, bad asthma or congestive heart failure, and she can give patients medication with it.

Some of her EMT skills have translated back to her nursing profession. If someone comes in wearing a cervical collar, she knows if it’s sitting correctly. For patients coming in with a cast on their leg, she knows to check for circulation, movement and sensation.

“I don’t think everybody remembers to do that type of stuff,” she said. “Usually, when they get to rehab nurses like me the cast has been on for a while.”

The extended knowledge comes with its sacrifices that included other family members, however.

Sometimes when Priscilla’s pager goes off, she would has to call one of her two daughters, while her third — the mother of her two grandchildren — sleeps after her third-shift job.

“All I would say is, ‘I’ve got a call,’ and they’d say ‘OK,’ and they’d get in the car and go to the station. There was no big conversation there,” she said.

Baby sitting duties needed to temporarily shift.

Priscilla and one of her daughters would trade vehicles — only one has car seats for children.

When Priscilla was done responding to the call, she would call back her daughter and she’d come back to the station to switch cars back.

“It was organized chaos, I would call it,” she said.

“A lot of times this couldn’t have happened if I wasn’t getting one of them to help. They were a big help with me being able to pick up the kids and watch them.”

She arrived on scene of one of her most memorable calls by happenstance before a call even came in. In October 2002, when she was returning from work in Sheboygan, she was one of the first people on the scene of an I-43 pileup in which heavy fog that contributed to 10 deaths. She treated several walking wounded and stayed on the scene for a couple of hours, she said.

Now both 65, John and Priscilla have decided to step back from regularly being on call.

Weyker said the department is trying to to fill the full-time shift they split with one person and hopes to forward a recommendation to hire someone in March.

John and Priscilla, however, will still be active department members and occasionally be on call.

“We’re not retiring. We’ll still be running some calls,” John said.

Priscilla said it takes a certain type of person to dedicate themselves to such a job.

“You either like it or you don’t,” she said. “If you have too much of a social life, I would not suggest it. You have to do a weekend and you’re committed to so many hours per month. It’s something you have to be committed to for a while.”




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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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