“Everybody knows they can count on him,” said English Instructor Gina Kirsten, who has known Andy for twenty-something years. “If he can’t personally help you, he will find someone who will.”
Like this past winter when Gina and her husband Olaf [Kirsten] ’85 went out of town and it snowed. Andy plowed their driveway so they could get to their house when they arrived home. “That’s the kind of thing he does and he would do it for anybody—his whole life is helping people.”
While the world focuses on COVID-19, people continue to break legs, have heart attacks, and crash their cars. And Andy is the one who puts on his gown and mask and drives for hours in an ambulance to assist. He’s also the guy you’ll find volunteering in the first-aid tent at community events.
He has been a volunteer EMT for thirty years, basically since he graduated from Northland in 1987. He worked in the music industry for eighteen years before making a career shift to paramedic. He’s been with the Great Divide Ambulance Service as an EMT and paramedic for a dozen years.
He first heard about COVID-19 on the national news. “And not long after, it was local news. Everyone thought it was just another flu. It took several months for folks to figure out what was happening and to change protocols to work safely with COVID-19 patients,” he said.
The biggest changes have been around protective gear. “We are used to trying to get to the patient as fast as we can to help them,” he said. “Now just to interact with the patient, we pull on the mask and gown.”
This past year, to reduce his exposure to the virus, he reluctantly took a step away from volunteering as an EMT. He says it’s still strange to not run when the pager goes off. “But if I get sick, I can’t work,” he said.
In the last year, he’s been tested for COVID-19 three times—all negative. “Self-isolating from family (he’s married to Carrie [Villringer] ’98) in our home has been a strange experience,” he said. “Lots of hospital workers stayed away from their homes to help protect their families at first but after a year, folks are trusting their protective gear and leaving their work clothes at work.”
In his free time, he is mastering photography—look at his Facebook page for a recent shoot of kites on Chequamegon Bay—and he and Carrie both love to search for geocaches. In February Andy received two rounds of vaccinations, and to no one’s surprise, he quietly added himself back onto the EMT schedule.