Brett Wigglesworth has a heart for others.
For the past five years, he’s been the emergency medical services operations manager for F-M Ambulance Services in Fargo, North Dakota, a subsidiary of Sanford Health. Before that, Wigglesworth worked for 12 years as a paramedic.
He’s been on the front lines for nearly 20 years, providing a lifeline to those in emergency situations. Now, he’s getting well-deserved recognition.
Wigglesworth was named the recipient of the 2020 Star of Life Award. Given out every two years by the American Ambulance Association, the award celebrates the best ambulance professionals in the U.S.
“It seems unattainable. It’s a career achievement award. I can’t believe I won. It’s crazy. It’s held in pretty high regard here,” Wigglesworth said.
“I thought they were playing a joke on me. Our executive director told me, and I just went, ‘Oh, OK, sure.’ He said, ‘No, you’re really getting it.’ Sometimes I still don’t believe it.”
Wigglesworth’s calling to emergency management came when he experienced it firsthand.
“My dad was sick with cancer. During the last months of his life, he was in and out of the hospital and had to do a lot of ambulance trips. I was in college at the time, and seeing how the paramedics took care of him, it made me switch to being a paramedic.”
Wigglesworth noticed then how calm and collected the paramedics were and wanted to take after them.
And he has. If you ride with Wigglesworth now, you’ll notice he’s a “steady Eddie” in the face of emergency, but it wasn’t always that way.
“The majority of paramedics go on 1,000 calls a year. I’ve probably gone on 12,000. On my first few rides, everything was new, and you get a lot of adrenaline. As you progress, that calmness comes from experience. When we get hectic calls and stay calm, it’s because we’ve been there before,” he said.
Wigglesworth’s calm and caring demeanor comes from not only experience, but also keeping in mind the reason he became a first responder in the first place.
“My No. 1 concern, and why we do this job, is for the patients. If you get accolades, it’s very common for us to push it aside. We’re so focused on the patients. Everything we do is geared towards the patients’ well-being.”
The real reward
Wigglesworth is flattered by the Star of Life Award. Few workers in his industry ever receive such a high honor.
The recipients typically are gifted with a paid trip to the nation’s capitol to meet representatives. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though, Wigglesworth isn’t sure whether he and his wife will make the trip.
Despite not knowing when or if he’ll head east, he’s grateful for the award itself. Even then, he says these awards aren’t the measuring stick of a successful career; the real reward is knowing you helped those in need.
“If you ask yourself if it’s best for the patient, and the answer is yes, you’re going to have success no matter what awards you get,” Wigglesworth said.
“I didn’t need this award to feel rewarded. This job is rewarding regardless of whatever recognition we get. If you keep the patients’ best interest in the forefront of your mind, you’re never going to go wrong. Working for F-M Ambulance and our organization, I feel like I’ve won the lottery. There’s places around the country that don’t get to do a quarter of the things we do.”
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