With tens of thousands of visitors to Southern Illinois for the eclipse, the day was already not normal for paramedics in Jackson County.
Then two paramedics on a hot day walked into an even hotter mobile home, and their day changed. What they chose to do that day has been lauded by the medical director of EMS services for the region, and widely shared on Facebook.
“With their situational awareness, they concluded that there was likely more to this 911 call than meets the eye,” wrote the medical director, Dr. Joseph R. Haake, in a memo to EMS providers and shared on Facebook. Haake is medical director for emergency medical service in Southern Illinois. He wrote the memo to recognize their “outstanding service on a call.”
“The two small kids come out, and they looked hot. My God, it was hot in there,” said Tony Baudino, now of Mascoutah. Baudino and his paramedic partner, Travis Hicks, had been called to the home for the children’s mother. She had recently been diagnosed with an illness, Baudino said, and was unsure about some of her symptoms.
I definitely had a soft spot for these people. They were definitely trying to help themselves.
Hicks and Baudino checked the thermostat on the window air unit: 92 degrees and blowing warm air.
“It was brutally hot in there,” Hicks said. “The kids were red-faced; parents were sweating.”
The woman’s condition did not merit a trip to the hospital. But the family still needed help.
“Travis and I ... just kind of looked at each and were like, ‘Man, there’s got to be something more we can do.’” Baudino said. Both men have children of their own.
We probably spent 50 or 60 bucks, not a whole lot, but it means a whole lot to these kids. I’m crying here; I’ve got kids of my own.
The men asked the family if they would accept help.
“They were very, very nice people who had just fallen onto hard times,” Hicks said.
Haake’s memo said the men asked to go off-duty so that they could help the family.
“We explained we were going to the gas station to get some food and see what we can do,” Baudino said he told dispatchers. And the response was, “Hell yeah, we’ll cover for you guys.”
Hicks, who lives in Vergennes and has family in the area, started calling churches and family and friends. The church could help, but not for two days because the pastor was out of town.
“We didn’t want them to have to wait a couple of days,” Hicks said.
Hicks works as both a full-time paramedic and is a part-time police officer; he called police officer Brian Tripp to buy an air conditioner for the family. Tripp, Hicks and Baudino split the cost.
Hicks called upon his mother, too, who with his sisters bought the family groceries, school clothes for the children and school supplies. Hicks’ brother-in-law installed the air conditioner that evening.
Hicks lives in the same community as the family, Baudino said, so had family resources nearby to help. Baudino’s own wife and children had just moved to Mascoutah, and he hadn’t seen them for two weeks because the paramedics were on mandatory work schedules.
“We probably spent 50 or 60 bucks, not a whole lot, but it means a whole lot to these kids,” Baudino said. “I’m crying here; I’ve got kids of my own.”
“These kids didn’t know what to eat first,” he said. Baudino said the family had been struggling for some time, affected by the tornado in February and the father’s job change.
Haake’s memo has been widely shared on Facebook.
“Travis Hicks and Tony Baudino displayed exemplary compassion and kindness to this family,” Haake wrote, recognizing the “great display of care to fellow citizens.”
Baudino has moved on from the Jackson County Ambulance Service, now working as an on-site medic for Amazon, an opportunity he says he just couldn’t pass up.
“I definitely had a soft spot for these people. They were definitely trying to help themselves,” Hicks said. “And the kids were so cute; both of the kids ran up and hugged us and told us thank you.”