Pauls Valley Daily Democrat
Pauls Valley, Oklahoma —
Visibility in a community often guarantees that one’s accomplishments are recognized, but there are many instances where those with more impact aren’t always the most celebrated.
For Don Gangwere, who was director of respiratory care and EMS at Pauls Valley General Hospital for almost four decades, there has always been more satisfaction in helping those around him than standing out for that kindness. As a result, many find it hard to imagine their working hours being spent around anyone else.
Since Gangwere started in the medical sector back in 1971, he has seen both the quality of care improve and number of services offered increase dramatically.
One such addition was the hospital gaining ambulance services in 1975, once a mere extra service of local funeral homes.
The city was approached back then by the funeral homes because of new transportation laws and the establishment of minimum wage. Gangwere was asked to lead ambulance services by administrators like Jim Lindsey at the time because it was determined that a majority of calls tend to be respiratory care related.
“My department was geared up already to handle these types of patients,” said Gangwere. “They all have high skill levels and they’re all dedicated to their jobs.”
Gangwere started off managing only a few staff in either department. EMS also only had a couple of Dodge Crusader ambulance vans, which have seen cost increases from $20,000 back then to about $100,000 per vehicle minimum now, and he has seen it grow to the current trucks as well as about 32 staff.
“The funeral homes used to only pay a driver $300 a month to be on call 24 hours a day,” said Gangwere. “There was just no money in it for them anymore.”
One of the things Gangwere noted that he’s enjoyed the most over the years is getting to know the people who depended so much on the hospital’s care. His duties included everything from managing the staff, writing procedures now commonplace in the departments and even driving the ambulances on occasion.
“You get to know them by first name,” said Gangwere. “The relationship you establish with patients has made it worth while.”
Gangwere’s last day Tuesday was much like many others, though this time he was awarded with a plaque for his years of service.
One of his employees, Dale Brister, who has worked with him for 24 years as a paramedic, will be taking over direction of EMS, and Abraham Cherian has taken over as director of Respiratory care.
Brister said several of the employees have been with Gangwere so long that it feels more like a family than just an office with co-workers. He said the one reason he is still with the service is because of the respect he earned from Don over matters like not having a problem working holidays.
Gangwere said now that he is retired he plans to spend time taking care of a few projects and catching up with friends he has not seen in a while. One such project he plans to finally finish is getting some work done on his home.
“If something needed to get done, Don would get it done,” said Brister, “It’s been a pleasure working with him and the hospital will be at a loss.”