Brian Greenawalt is the kind of person you’re likely to meet on your worst day.
A paramedic for Harmony EMS for the last 15 years, it’s the nature of his job.
“We see people on the worst days of their lives, and it’s something you have to know that you’re prepared for,” he said. “You can’t get into this line of work just for a paycheck. You have to want to help people.”
Greenawalt splits his time — and his lifesaving skills — between Harmony EMS and UPMC, where he works as a part-time flight paramedic. It’s this dedication to saving lives that’s earned him recognition as a Hometown Hero.
He was one of three individuals selected for the honor by the Rotary Club of Zelienople. “Brian was nominated by several people,” said Rich Gigliotti, Rotary president.
Greenawalt said he was humbled by the nominations. “We don’t do this for any sort of recognition. We do it because we want to help people. We want to help our community. To have been nominated and then chosen is very humbling.”
He was informed that one of the people who nominated him for the award was a high school classmate. “That was pretty special; for someone that I’ve known that long and has seen me go from a high school student to now,” he said.
Greenawalt’s journey to becoming a paramedic started at 16, when he joined the Evans City Volunteer Fire Department. “That triggered my interest in emergency medicine,” he said. “I talked to people who worked as EMTs and paramedics and then got signed up for the basic level program that started me down my current career path.”
Anyone desiring to become a paramedic must first work as an EMT, Greenawalt said. “It’s a tiered training system.”
EMTs are trained to do basic medical intervention such as bleeding control, CPR and other basic first aid, Greenawalt said. Paramedics have more advanced medical training in life support techniques. They can start IVs, give medications, and administer medical treatment related to cardiac monitoring and advanced airway interventions such as inserting breathing tubes.
Scott Garing, chief of fire and emergency services at Cranberry Township, previously worked with Greenawalt at Harmony EMS. “When you’re having your worst day, you want him to show up because he’s going to solve your problem,” he said. “He is a fantastic medical provider. He has the ability to process a medical situation quickly without getting scared. He’s calm, cool and collected in the face of a complex situation.”
Greenawalt is so dedicated to his craft that he’s known to respond to ambulance calls from home, Garing said. “He helps to supplement ambulance crews for tough calls or brings an ambulance to a call when needed. He puts in a tremendous number of hours doing this.”
The job is rewarding, which makes the extra effort worthwhile, Greenawalt said. “Any time that we are able to see somebody that we cared for or took to the hospital after the fact, those are the moments we remember.”