When Kendall Washington and about 70 other paramedics with East Baton Rouge Emergency Medical Services gathered for a training in-service recently, Washington was unaware he was about to receive his department’s highest honor.
EMS officials surprised the 20-year veteran paramedic with the 2014 Paramedic of the Year award June 3.
“It was unexpected,” said Washington, 42, of Baton Rouge. “I feel like on any given day, you can go out there and find somebody that works here that deserves this just as much as I do.”
The award is not for any specific act but is more of a recognition by his peers of the work he did each day in 2013, said Christian True, an EMS deputy shift commander, Washington’s training officer and one of the many paramedics who nominated Washington.
“He undersells himself,” True said.
Washington, resplendent Wednesday in his black uniform with the special white badge signifying he is Paramedic of the Year as well as red and green pins right above his nameplate for the Medal of Honorable Service and the Medal of Honor respectively, is not a self-promoter. So True did it for him.
“I believe his co-workers … they look to him as a mentor,” True said. “Kendall, he believes in leading by example — always the first to volunteer, always the first to do the extra work.”
True said Washington is the epitome of what they are looking for in a paramedic because of his intelligence, compassion and ability to communicate well with others during tough times.
Washington is from Baton Rouge and graduated from what was then known as the University of Southwestern Louisiana in 1994 with a bachelor’s degree in emergency health science. As part of one of his classes, he went on a ride-along with paramedics on a 12-hour shift.
He was hooked.
“The fact that everybody is just kind of hanging on every word you say as you’re saying it. It’s kind of a rush I guess,” Washington said.
After graduating from college, he worked as a paramedic for two years with Priority Emergency Medical Services Inc. in New Orleans before switching to EBR EMS where he has been for about 18 years.
After two days of training Washington, True said he realized he had nothing left to impart on his pupil about being a paramedic and began teaching him how the organization worked.
One example that exemplifies why Washington is worthy of the honor came in 2013, True said, after Washington and other paramedics were called to the home of a young woman who was recently paralyzed in a shooting.
The paramedics were called for a medical emergency, but Washington quickly realized that the woman’s home was not built to accommodate a wheelchair, and there was not a ramp for her to get in and out of the house.
The woman was on a list with the state to have a ramp built, but it was taking too long, True said. So in his own time, Washington contacted some people, spent some of his own money on supplies and coordinated construction of the ramp.
Washington received the Medal of Honor for his work during the apartment fire at Turner Plaza Apartments on Jan. 29, True said. Washington was one of the first on the scene of the three-alarm blaze and went door to door, making sure all of the residents were out of their apartments and safe.
Washington also coordinated the response with other responding agencies and set up a triage area for smoke inhalation and burn victims.
He was also given a Public Service Award from the Sunrise Rotary Club of Baton Rouge.
Washington is married and has four children — three daughters, ages 12, 15 and 21, and a 7-year-old son.
“I would take the admiration of my peers over the actual award,” Washington said. “Getting a standing ovation from my peers meant more than getting the award.”
Follow Ryan Broussard on Twitter @ryanmbroussard.