Johnsonville EMT: ‘Kind of what God wanted us to do’

February 18, 2019
Gail Howell calls her work wtih the Johnsonville Rescue Squad her mission. Howell has worked with the rescue squad for more than 30 years.

FLORENCE, S.C. – For the past 36 years, Gail Howell has fulfilled a mission for the Johnsonville community. She has served as an EMT for the Johnsonville Rescue Squad.

Howell began volunteering with the rescue squad while teaching at Deep Creek Elementary School in Hemingway.

Howell said her mother encouraged her to get involved with the EMS.

“She thought I would be interested in it, and I’ve always been a helper,” Howell said. “I’m the helper. That’s what we do; we help. So that is right up my alley.”

For nearly 15 years, Howell spent her days teaching kindergarten and spent many afternoons and nights taking calls with the rescue squad.

“I’ve been headed home from school, and instead of going home came here to run a call, because I got the call while heading home,” Howell said. “It’s such a different job. Of course, it’s like two different tracks.”

For years, Howell volunteered with the rescue squad, which she said made it like a calling because the people who worked did so without pay.

“I think, especially when we started, it was completely voluntary and we got paid not one cent. It was like a calling; this was our calling,” Howell said. “This is kind of what God wanted us to do. So, it was kind of like what we’re called to, and we are doing our mission work at home.”

In 2003, Howell retired from teaching, but that didn’t end her work with the EMS. She has continued with the rescue squad and still serves with it today.

“I just enjoy helping people and that sense that people need you,” Howell said. “I’m not going to sit home and watch a movie when I know somebody could be out there in desperate need. That is just my nature – I guess.”

Howell serves as the rescue squad’s chaplain.

“As the chaplain, I tell them, ‘We are doing God’s work,’” Howell said. “To me, this is a form of a mission field. We are doing a mission. To help someone when they are vulnerable and most need it is a mission field.”

Howell said over the course of her time working with the Johnsonville Rescue Squad, she has seen the squad grow in coverage, gain better equipment and provide quality care. The squad now is able to have a paramedic almost 24/7, she said.

“It’s nice seeing it evolve into even better service,” Howell said.

Howell said she and the squad focus on treating the whole patient, not just their physical needs. She said they try to emotionally care for patients.