Life-changing Experience Into a Lifesaving Career

Published: November 10, 2015

Growing up, Heather Griffin never imagined she would be working from a mobile office while saving lives. And yet that is exactly what she does. A paramedic with Life Flight Network, she travels from Oregon to Utah and all points in between. Dispatched to respond to up to 12 calls per shift, her job is to make sure people get the lifesaving care they need. It’s a far cry from being the stay-at-home mom she once was. She says one significant life experience and the College of Western Idaho (CWI) changed her life.

“I needed an outlet to get through and this is my way of doing that,” she said.

In 2009, Heather experienced a parent’s worst fear. Her youngest son, Lucca, was born without a thymus. Without the vital gland, it meant Lucca would never be able to fight off infection. His best chance for survival was to get medical help at Duke University Medical Center—the only hospital in the country that could save his life. Heather and Lucca were transported to North Carolina on their first of two medical flights.

“I can honestly relate to what people go through,” Heather said. “We do a lot of NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) transports through Life Flight. I know I can help them through it because I have been there.”

Heather says her experience was bittersweet. Lucca survived for 10 months. Determined to make something positive of the experience—and to pay tribute to her son—she decided to go to school. Research led her to choose the Emergency Medical Technician program through Workforce Development.

“I knew my choices were limited and I wanted to make sure I wasn’t wasting money,” she said. “I ended up with more than a great education. I found Steve Cole—a fantastic mentor who I will always be indebted to.”

Heather finished her studies in 2011 with advanced EMT training. She completed national registry testing in 2012. Six months later she was working at Life Flight.

“When a call comes in, we are never given specific details on what kind of call it is,” she said. “When I first started, I was afraid I would get a pediatric call and not be able to keep it together. As it turns out, my first call was for NICU. My mentor worked overtime to help me work through it.”

Heather will never forget what led her to make a career out of saving lives. She wears a blue lanyard around her neck every day as a reminder. Printed with the word “DUKE” around it in bold, white letters, she says it’s for Lucca. Although she has faced hardship, she still feels blessed.

“I love to get up every day and go to work,” she said. “I work for a great company that really works with me. They are flexible and family oriented—which is great for me and my three children. I can’t imagine anything else and I wouldn’t be here without CWI.”

Heather recently remarried. Her husband is a Boise police officer. The date they chose to get married was September 11—which is significant to them both as 9-1-1 responders.

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