Monty Stevens has been working for Stokes County Emergency Medical Services in some capacity since 1980, serving as director since 2004. But come Jan. 1, 2013, he will embark on a new path — retirement.
His last official day of work as EMS Director will be Dec. 31. “While I have enjoyed my service with Stokes County, I feel the time is right,” he explains. “I have been blessed to be able to do what I have enjoyed for more than 30 years. Few people can say that.”
Stevens’ interest in EMS work stretches back to his farming childhood in the Francisco community. As the youngest of four children, he watched his oldest brother Jerry become one of the charter members of the Francisco Volunteer Fire Department and later the Rescue Squad.
“As he was taking First Aid classes,” Stevens recalls, “I remember going up to his room and looking through his textbooks and thinking that it would be something to have a job helping people.”
At the same time, Stevens was regularly watching the popular television show, “Emergency.” He says, “I remember watching Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto and thinking how cool they were and the things they were doing.”
After graduating from North Stokes High School, he went to work with Quality Mills in Mount Airy but also enrolled in an EMT class in Pilot Mountain. At the first class, Stevens was surprised to see one of his neighbors, Don George. George later became the director of Stokes County EMS and hired Stevens for part-time work in August 1980.
“Everyone here at the time thought that Don hired me to be a spy, which was the farthest thing from the truth,” Stevens explains, “and I was jokingly nicknamed ‘The Spy.’ Don could tell you that he heard less from me than anyone else, but the nickname stuck.”
In 1982, Stevens went to work full-time with Surry County EMS, but still worked part-time in Stokes. In 1984, he came back to Stokes full-time. During those first four years, Stevens advanced through the levels of EMT, EMT-Intermediate and Paramedic.
In June 1988, he was promoted to Stokes County EMS Training Officer.
“I always said that I ‘fell’ into that position,” Stevens jokes. “I had applied two other times and was actually offered the job the second time, but I turned it down. On the third occasion, I was building a house and wasn’t very interested, but I fell off the roof and fractured three vertebrae. At that point, I had no choice but to apply, as my physician placed me on lifting restrictions.”
When Stokes County EMS Director Ricky Tuttle resigned in February 2004, Stevens was promoted to that position. All along, he has been teaching classes across the state. He has been a featured speaker at the statewide EMS conference, EM Today and the National Hurricane Conference.
Although Stevens doesn’t feel that the actual EMS job has changed substantially, he says the treatment methods have, mainly due to getting the latest equipment.
Stevens gives an example: “Twelve-lead cardiac monitors allow paramedics to detect ST Elevated Myocardial Infarctions (Heart Attack). Once it is detected, we can send EKGs to the hospitals via cellular technology. In the end, it gets the patient into the cath lab quicker, and patient outcomes are much improved.”
Stevens has also seen a big improvement in cardiac arrest care and stroke care. “We have some of the best times and patient outcomes of any service in the state,” he notes. “That in itself is quite an accomplishment since we are a rural county.”
As director, Stevens had two main goals: getting the best equipment and building a new EMS station at Pinnacle.
“Right now I think we have the best and most equipment that we have ever had,” he points out with satisfaction. “The Pinnacle Station was something that had been sorely needed for quite some time.”
Although Stevens will be leaving Stokes County EMS, he still has improvements he desires to see.
“With the treatment modalities being so time dependent now, there will have to be discussions in the future on the timeliness of EMS,” Stevens says. “Stokes County, with its rural setting and unique geography, presents a lot of challenges. Even with the station locations being as strategic as they are, there are places that have a 20-25 minute response time.”
How can that unavoidable circumstance be improved upon? Stevens has an idea: “Affordability and practicality of placing an Advanced Life Support ambulance in every community is most likely not feasible, but placing an additional single-staffed paramedic in quick response units might be. This would get a paramedic on scene quicker and in the end would greatly improve patient outcomes.”
Such forward thinking illustrates the great care that Stevens has exhibited in his 32 years of service. “More than anything, it’s knowing that you are truly helping someone,” he sums up his favorite part of the job.
Stevens says that what he will miss most is the people. “I have got to meet a lot of people through my career, many of which I can call my friend today,” he notes.
One such person is Greg Collins, who has been Stevens’ friend since childhood and now serves under him as assistant EMS director. “I am so glad to have had the opportunity to work with Monty,” Collins says. “He has done a great job for this county by helping our organization to become one of the most respected emergency medical systems in the state. Monty has also been an essential part of emergency management for North Carolina. His expertise will be greatly missed.”
But all good things must come to an end, and so it is with Stevens’ EMS career. He says that he didn’t arrive at this decision quickly or lightly.
“When I went to work in Surry County, I was partnered with a man named Herman Vaughn,” Stevens relates. “Herman quickly became my dearest friend. Herman has always told me that you will know when it’s time — and he has been right.”
What does the future hold for this man who has served Stokes County for so long? “At the moment, I just want to finish this out and then take a few deep breaths,” Stevens admits.
He has taken up photography over the last few years and has just started framing and matting his photographs. “But there are some other opportunities on the horizon,” he says. “I am still young, so I can start another career. The word retirement is really not fitting; I think I am starting a new chapter.”
But Stevens will look back fondly on the chapter that is closing: “I have been very humbled by the faith, trust and support that everyone has placed in me, and I hope I have served everyone well. It has truly been an honor to serve the good citizens of Stokes County.”