Paramedic Tim McClain’s future path was set when he joined an Explorer Post as a teenager. His desire to give youths that same opportunity in O’Fallon led to the formation of one here that is growing steadily.
“I got hooked on the EMS experience at 16, and that was it for me,” he said.
After retiring from the Air Force as a flight medic, McClain became part of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Emergency Medical Services team a year ago. He suggested an Explorer Post to Police Chief Eric Van Hook, who was receptive. He then talked with the Cahokia Boys Scouts Council. Within months, the thriving post had youngsters from O’Fallon, Mascoutah, Lebanon and Swansea involved.
Currently, there are 14 members, and McClain has a waiting list of 24. New members can join at any time.
Explorers are a “Learning for Life” program established by the Boy Scouts to provide mentorship in fields young people are interested in as careers — fire and EMS, law enforcement, health care, cooking, arts and humanities, and so forth. Through ongoing, hands-on activities, these 14- to 19-year-olds learn to be responsible neighbors in their communities.
McClain said the city of O’Fallon has been supportive of the program as a community outreach effort from the beginning. It is the only EMS-based Explorer Post in the metro-east. (Swansea has a fire cadet program through its fire department.)
“EMS is a thankless job. We try to get out in the community as much as we can. We teach CPR, we install car seats, we go out to the schools and do safety presentations, career days,” McClain said. “There isn’t a TV program that shows the behind-the-scenes of what EMTS does — except for the old TV show ‘Emergency!’ — from start to finish, interacting with hospitals and nursing homes. We thought, ‘Let’s try to get our name and our profession out in the public.’”
Bernie Thebeau, a student at Belleville East High School, is a proud member of the Explorers. He likes the hands-on aspect, as he plans to pursue an EMS career.
“The Swansea fire chief told me about it. I joined mainly for the experience,” he said.
McClain said they allow the students to have as many opportunities as possible, including ride-along privileges.
The Explorers take four classes — CPR, first aid training, HIPPA training, and a four-hour blood pathogens session. They learn how to hook patients to IV bags and what everything in the truck is. They will put these skills to the test when they participate in a disaster drill at Mid-America Airport on June 17.
They met every Wednesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m.
McClain grew up in a small town near Henderson, South Carolina.
“I had 42 people in my class senior year. It was the cool thing to do — the volunteer fire and rescue squads — and it stuck with me,” he said.
He joined the Air Force in 1997 and became a paramedic around 2001. He did several tours of duty in Afghanistan as a pilot medic. He moved to O’Fallon when he was stationed at Scott Air Force Base.
He said EMTs have continuing education sessions once a month, with some type of training. New programs, like supplying File of Life plastic sleeves people can stick to refrigerator with health information, and a STARS program that provides archived information about special needs children, started through Cardinal Glennon, have been implemented.
“We’re very pro-active,” he said.
“The biggest thing on the EMS side is safety. We have to know the, ‘When?’ and the ‘Why?’. I can teach anyone to put an IV in, but, ‘When and why?’ is the most important thing to learn,” McClain said. “We want to make sure the kids are safe. We don’t want to put them in jeopardy. I want to train the next EMTs the right way. Five years from now, they may come back as paramedics. That’s the ultimate goal.”
EMS Business Manager Jeff Wild praised McClain’s efforts.
“He exceeded all our expectations. It’s being run like it’s been a 10-, 15-year program. It’s because of Tim’s passion and a lot of hard work,” Wild said.
The youngsters’ enthusiasm is what drives McClain.
“I am really enjoying these kids. They are very energetic and have a lot of fun, too. They have become brothers and sisters,” he said.
He and his wife Dawn will be married 24 years on June 19. They have one son, Reid, 23, who also lives in O’Fallon.
McClain is now in his 26th year in emergency medical services.
“No day is the same. It’s the best job in the world. It’s something different all the time,” he said.
Q: Do you have words to live by?
A: “I can do all things through Christ which strengthen me.” (Philippians 4:13)
Q: Whom do you most admire?
A: My wife, Dawn. She’s my rock — everything from a devoted military wife, paramedic wife, and best mother in the world. She’s been by my side for 30 years.
Q: If you could spend time with a famous person, past or present, whom would it be?
A: Winston Churchill.
Q: What is the last book that you read?
A: “Lone Survivor.”
Q: What do you do for fun and relaxation?
A: Outdoor activities, but mainly hunt and fish.
Q: What is the usual state of your desktop?
A: Clean and organized.
Q: What did you want to do career-wise when you were growing up?
A: Military. Thankfully, I was able to serve my country for 23 years in the U.S. Air Force.
Q: What do you think is your most outstanding characteristic?
Q: What irritates you most?
A: Ingenuine people.
Q: What type of music do you listen to?
Q: What do you like most about your job?
A: Helping others.
Q: If you were independently wealthy, what would you be doing?
A: Living on the beach and hunting all over the world.
Q: When they make a movie of your life, who would play you?
A: Chris O’Donnell.
Q: If you were stranded on a deserted island, what would you have with you?
A: My wife and a fishing pole.