It sounds unusual, trading a fully equipped ambulance for a dollar. But it’s becoming a regular tradition.
“Neighbors helping neighbors, that’s how I look at it,” said Deanie Curry, who helped start the Harrison Community Ambulance Service 18 years ago.
Wednesday, in return for one silver dollar, the Harrison organization turned the keys of its 1979 Chevrolet ambulance over to the Prichard/ Murray Quick Response Unit.
The exchange brought back memories.
“I told them it had to be a real silver dollar,” said Curry, who was on hand in 1977 to accept the Harrison group’s first ambulance from the Post Falls Ambulance Service for the same price.
“They called down from Prichard to ask what to bring. I told them, bring the dollar and a smile,” she said.
That wasn’t hard for the Murray/Prichard volunteers to do. In lieu of an ambulance, they’ve been driving a former firetruck, a 1971 one-ton International with tool boxes on the sides.
With a water tank in back and a fire hose in front, there’s no room on the truck for a stretcher. Until an ambulance arrives from Kellogg, members of the Prichard/Murray crew have had to wait with victims wherever they found them.
“It’ll be nice to be warm and dry. And it will really make a difference in our patient care,” said Hank Odegard, president of the Prichard/Murray unit.
Fred Muhs, president of the Harrison group, checked with several emergency service outfits before choosing a recipient. The Chevy’s small frame and four-wheel drive makes it particularly suited to narrow mountain roads.
“Everything we have was either donated or gotten through fundraisers,” Odegard said. “It’s been an uphill climb. This is the best present I can think of.”
The Prichard/Murray Quick Response Unit services 400 square miles of rugged country north of the Silver Valley. An ambulance from the nearest hospital takes at least an hour to arrive.
Odegard said they’ve handled 284 emergencies since they formed in 1989, crises ranging from gunshot wounds to loggers crushed by falling logs.
“We’ve done everything but deliver babies. And I shouldn’t have said that, because now we’ll probably have to,” he said.
The fact that the Harrison ambulance has 45,000 miles on it doesn’t bother Odegard a bit. “By our standards, it’s barely broke in,” he said.
Harrison purchased the Chevy new in 1979, passing along its old rig to the Bayview/Athol Quick Response Unit for - you guessed it - one silver dollar.
Raising the money for the Chevy wasn’t easy.
“We had a transportation grant for $10,000 and literally panhandled on the street for the matching funds,” Curry recalled.
Late last year, the Chevy was replaced by a new, larger ambulance obtained with the help of Kootenai County and an Emergency Medical Services grant. The Harrison Community Ambulance Service decided not to let the silver dollar tradition die.
“We got so much help with the Chevy, it seemed only right,” Curry said.