'Doogie' Rigby, EMT, is trying to do it all NORTH LAUREL/SAVAGE

December 18, 1992|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,Staff Writer

At the Savage Fire Station, Bridget Rigby is nicknamed "Doogie," after the precocious teen-age doctor character in the popular television series, "Doogie Howser."

At 17, Bridget's not a doctor yet, but she's definitely on the fast track in the medical field.

She left Hammond High School in June after her junior year to attend the University of Denver in Colorado as a pre-med student. And she's getting plenty of practical experience from her work as a volunteer emergency medical technician, or EMT, at the Savage Fire Department.

In fact, earlier this week, she helped to deliver a baby.

The call came on Monday night, while Bridget was volunteering at the station.

When the Savage emergency medical crew picked the woman up, her water had already broken, and additional time was lost because the ambulance had to be rerouted from a Laurel hospital to Howard County General Hospital. The woman's medical history also complicated the delivery.

Bridget stayed with the woman in the back of the ambulance, monitoring her blood pressure, checking her pulse, giving her oxygen and offering comfort. They made it to the hospital just in time and Bridget held her hand through the delivery.

"That's probably one of the nicest calls you can get," said Bridget.

Career firefighter and EMT Dave O'Neill, who supervised Bridget on the ride to the hospital, praised her composure and competency during the call.

"I've seen a lot of people hesitate in these situations," Mr. O'Neill said. "But with Bridget, you almost have to hold her back; she wants to get in and do a little bit of everything."

Bridget, who lives just outside Savage in Huntington, decided early on that she wanted to become a trauma physician, and left high school to focus on her career choice.

"I don't like to see people hurt, I really don't, but you can make the biggest difference there," Bridget said.

She chose to attend the University of Denver because it was one of the few schools willing to accept her without a high school diploma. Bridget was short one high school English credit but she'll receive her diploma next June with the Hammond class of 1993, having been granted credit for a college English class.

To gain medical experience in the field, Bridget enrolled in an EMT course at the Savage Fire Department last December. She completed the 120-hour course in April and volunteered at the station during the summer before leaving for college. Currently, she's putting in about 12 to 16 hours a week while she's on vacation.

As an EMT, Bridget is trained to administer basic life support procedures such as CPR and certain techniques to clear blocked airways. EMTs are also trained to monitor intravenous and EKG equipment and to provide treatment for shock and bleeding.

Bridget's witnessed her share of unsavory scenes during her volunteer hours with the fire department. She's been on calls responding to car accidents, injured children, diabetic emergencies, out-of-control drug users, and even a suicide.

"The television was on and he had been sitting there for a couple of days," Bridget said of the suicide. "I felt bad, but you can't fall apart every time you see something bad."

Firefighters and EMTs who've worked with Bridget say her commitment to her work reveals a maturity beyond her years.

"With Bridget you have to keep on your toes to keep up with her," Mr. O'Neill said. "She gives real quality care and is real compassionate with the children that she treats," said Michael Katafiasz, a career firefighter and EMT.

Bridget's mother, Debbie Rigby, said, initially, she was concerned that her daughter was in such a rush to get on with her career.

"She can't get enough of life, she just wants to do it all," said Mrs. Rigby, a health assistant at Bollman Bridge Elementary School. "We try to tell her, 'you don't have to squeeze it all into one year.'"

rTC Bridget doesn't have any plans to slow down any time soon.

She's planning to take time off from school to complete a 1,000-hour paramedic program at a Colorado hospital and eventually hopes to work part-time as a paramedic while attending college, and full-time before going to medical school.

She baby-sits six days a week for a family in Colorado with a 2-year-old who suffers from severe seizures. And she's applying to study biology in Australia.

In her spare time, Bridget goes mountain climbing, white water rafting and bungee jumping.

"I like thrill-type things," Bridget said. "I'm a type A personality I guess."

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