Thursday, March 29 was a bit different for Tina Van Houten.
She didn’t have an alarm clock going off to wake her up … and she didn’t have to get ready for work.
Van Houten wrapped up a 33-year career with Escalon Community Ambulance on Wednesday, March 28, working her final shift with the local ambulance service.
“I started as an EMT and worked for a couple of years,” Van Houten said, noting that she joined the ECA in February, 1985.
She then went back to school, the ambulance board officials sending her to a program at Delta College to become a paramedic.
She said there were a couple of things that sparked her interest in the emergency medical field.
“Lambert Veldstra, he went to my church, they’d get a call and sneak out of church,” Van Houten explained, adding that she always wondered where they were going.
Then it was a minor family emergency that solidified her interest, as her young sons were wrestling and roughhousing and one of them split his forehead open.
“I freaked out, I didn’t know there would be that much blood,” Van Houten said.
Not wanting to feel helpless in that type of situation – and not entirely satisfied with her career as a dental assistant – Van Houten made the move to the ambulance corps.
“At first my sister and I took a first aid class at El Portal,” she said of her initial involvement. “God had a plan.”
That plan has seen countless adventures over the last three-plus decades, with memorable calls, unique cases and the ability for Van Houten to make a difference in many lives.
“It just flew by,” she said. “I have really enjoyed it.”
Van Houten grew up in Ripon; her husband Martin ‘Marty’ Van Houten grew up in Escalon. They have lived here most of their married lives, except for a brief time when Marty was attending school down south. Both sons went through Escalon schools – oldest son Jeff is a firefighter in Stockton and lives in Modesto while youngest son Kyle lives in Escalon and has been hired as a substitute teacher in the Escalon Unified School District.
“There are a lot of traumas you will never forget,” Van Houten admitted, including the call in which her son Kyle was seriously injured in a construction accident and had to have a leg amputated.
“I wasn’t on duty that day but I heard the call and I knew the accident was in the area where he was working,” she said. “His brother was on the job. That’s a call I will never forget either.”
Ultimately, though, the opportunity to help is what has driven Van Houten over the year and kept her energized for a demanding job, one in which she “lives two lives” – splitting her time between home and the job.
“The people in the community are like family, you see them so many times and I think in a small town, they appreciate you,” she said. “I will miss the people the most, the interaction. And here, I have worked with some really good people.”
While Tina gets ready to enjoy retirement, husband Marty still has “a couple years to go” before his retirement from UOP but then they will look at doing some traveling.
Van Houten has plenty to keep her busy in the interim, however.
“I will go home and get done all the things I’ve been putting off,” she said. “I need to paint my fence, that’s one of the big things on my list. I also like working in my yard.”
With no alarm clock to worry about, no running out to calls when the alarm sounds, the Van Houten yard will probably be looking pretty good very soon.