That’s how long Green Bank resident Janet Ghigo has served as a member of the EMS squad of the Bartow-Frank-Durbin Volunteer Fire Department. Ghigo has been an EMT, paramedic and instructor with the squad since 1991. Last Sunday, she was joined by members of the county squad and the community at the BFD Green Bank station to celebrate her retirement.
“She’s definitely going to be missed,” EMT and paramedic Leisha Cassell said.
The two began their careers with BFD alongside one another, attending EMT and paramedic school together. The duo worked together on some of the higher stakes calls, but generally, they were on separate shifts because they were both paramedics.
Reflecting on her time working with Ghigo, Cassell said she will never forget how Ghigo kept her cool on all her calls.
“It’s always that calm demeanor,” she said. “I get so scared, sometimes my knees will knock together. She’s always calm.”
When Janet and her husband, Frank, moved to Green Bank in 1988 for his job with the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, now Green Bank Observatory, Ghigo was an EEG tech. Each time they moved, Janet always had a job waiting for her, until they came to the rural county without a big city hospital.
While she could not be an EEG tech in the county, Ghigo was able to stay in the field, as the managing editor of the American Journal of EEG Technology. She was able to work from home and continue her medical field involvement, but there was something missing, the contact with patients.
That is when she became an EMT and later, a paramedic, with BFD, moving up the ranks to become rescue chief.
“The fire department was a great way to meet people, first the members of the department and then you meet the entire community – one person at a time,” she said. “The thing is, if I hadn’t gotten into this, it would have been easy – living on observatory property and having a job just in my house – it would have been easy for me to never meet anybody outside of the observatory.”
The community Ghigo has served for the past 30 years is grateful she made that step into emergency services. While she happens to meet people on possibly the worst days of their lives, they don’t hold that against her. In fact, they consider her a friend and show their appreciation for her help when they see her out in public.
“There have been so many times I go into Trent’s or somewhere and hear, ‘Oh, hi Janet,’ and I’m thinking, ‘I don’t have a clue who you are,’ but I say ‘hi,’” she said. “I don’t need to ask who they are. They’ll tell me, ‘You took me to Davis [Memorial Hospital]…’”
The faces may not ring a bell at that moment, but Ghigo appreciates it when people thank her for her services.
After 30 years of emergency calls and teaching classes for new EMTs and paramedics, Ghigo is ready for retirement.
“Now when I go to bed at night, I don’t have to worry about the pager going off before morning,” she said. “That’s real nice. “It’s nice if there’s something going on Saturday afternoon or Saturday evening, we can go do that.”
That doesn’t mean she didn’t enjoy her 30 years. She proudly recalls that she has taught 300 students to become either EMTs, paramedics or members of the medical field. She has stayed in touch with former students who have left the county, and several have gone on to become paramedic instructors, following in her footsteps.
During the celebration, many of those students were there to thank Ghigo and congratulate her on her retirement.
Along with members of the BFD crew, members of Cass Volunteer Fire Department and Marlinton Fire and Rescue were on hand with well wishes for Ghigo.
BFD fire chief Buster Varner opened the celebration with his thoughts and praise for Ghigo.
“She will be greatly missed,” he said. “She has been an integral part of this squad.”
Varner yielded the floor to other members of BFD who presented Ghigo with a Certificate of Appreciation from Governor Jim Justice and congratulatory letters from Senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin.
The squad also presented Ghigo with a quilt made by Christy Sharp, which included photos of Ghigo from her years with BFD.