After more than 30 years of service as an EMT and firefighter, Ronald Holcomb will retire from Barrow County Emergency Services this August.
Holcomb first began working in the emergency services field in 1975. His first job was as an EMS with Little/Davenport Funeral Homes in Hall County. At the time, funeral homes ran ambulance services in Hall County. In 1979, the Hall County Fire Department took over ambulance service in the county and Holcomb became a firefighter.
“I don’t like fire all that much,” said Holcomb. “Even now I don’t like it but I will do what I have to do. I just prefer to do the stuff on the outside of the fire.”
Three years later, Holcomb joined Barrow County Emergency Services. At the time, Barrow County had two ambulances in service from 7 a.m. until 11 p.m. and one ambulance which operated overnight with an on call crew as back up.
Holcomb said the department has come a long way from the time when first responders could do little more than splint broken bones, give the patient oxygen and haul them to the hospital.
“One of the first changes was that we went from hearses to ambulances so I could actually stand up in the back to work on my patients,” joked Holcomb.
Now, emergency services personnel are highly trained in order to deliver cutting edge pre-hospital patient care.
“From when I started working in EMS to now, patient care has improved a thousand percent,” said Holcomb.
While Holcomb has witnessed many positive changes over the years in the department, he said he is still haunted by the loss of a colleague in 1983. Holcomb was working the day fellow paramedic John Edwin Steed was killed in an ambulance while responding to a call.
“None of us ran calls the rest of the day,” Holcomb said. “Crews from St. Mary’s and Athens Regional Medical Center came down and operated our ambulances for us. One member of Barrow County EMS ran with them to show them the roads. It was just a tough day and having them come and help out that way was good.”
After Steed’s tragic death, Barrow County permanently retired the use of Med 2.
Despite the pain and suffering he has witnessed in his career, Holcomb said he has never regretted his decision to become a paramedic.
“My father always told me if you love your job, you will stick with it and he was right,” Holcomb said. “If a young person is considering getting into EMS, then I would tell them this: Don’t get into it for the money, because it is not there. If you do it because you love it, you will never have a better job.”
Holcomb said the one thing he will most after his retirement is the brotherhood he shares with fellow emergency services workers.
“When you work twenty four hours straight together every third day, you cannot help but build a bond with each other,” Holcomb said. “You are there for each other and you come to be like a family. I am really going to miss my public safety family.”
Interim chief John Skinner said Holcomb will be missed.
“We will miss Ronald’s dedication and experience when he retires,” Skinner said. “He has helped so many patients, that he has truly earned his retirement and I hope he gets lots of chances to just relax and be with Danny and the rest of his family. He also has to remember that he has been, and always will be, a part of our brotherhood.”
Holcomb plans to spend his retirement relaxing and enjoying more time with his family, including his disabled nephew Danny who has been living with Ronald since he was six months old.
“My family is my pride and joy and Danny is a large part of my life,” Holcomb said. “I would do anything for that boy and I know he would do anything for me. He has struggled with his health through his life yet has never given up. His spirit is strong and I look forward to spending more time with him.”