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Denver Health receives “historic” ambulance fleet, thanks in part to a patient

By Kelly Werthmann

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    DENVER, Colorado (KCNC) — It’s not uncommon to hear sirens in Denver or see red and blue lights flashing as first responders race to an emergency. There’s a good chance those lights and sirens are from one of Denver Health’s 39 ambulances as paramedics rush to answer an average of 130,000 calls across the city each year.

“Over the course of the lifetime of an ambulance, about 6 years for us, we’ll put 1.2 million miles on the fleet every year,” said Chief Paramedic Gary Bryskiewicz.

That obviously puts a lot of wear and tear on their “emergency rooms on wheels,” as Bryskiewizc described the ambulances.

So, when the Denver Health Paramedic Division recently received 10 new ambulances – the largest addition to the fleet in hospital history – Bryskiewicz couldn’t help but think about the thousands of lives they’ll impact.

“What it gives us is the ability to have the right resource to respond to the right patient at the right time,” he told CBS News Colorado’s Kelly Werthmann.

DHPD has not received new ambulances since 2020, following delays due to supply chain challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Bryskiewicz explained getting brand new rigs allowed DHPD to redesign them a bit to be “purpose-specific” for the City of Denver and how paramedics run calls.

“For example, this ambulance is a bit more narrow for the alleyways we sometimes have to go down,” he said. “It’s really a great opportunity to continue the care we provide right now, but then also to grow with our city. It’s an amazing opportunity for us and we’re so grateful for it.”

And a lot of that gratitude is for a patient who helped make the historic new fleet possible.

“I had honestly never thought a whole lot about ambulances or about Denver Health until they saved my life,” said Jessica Zoffnas Barclay.

In 2021, Barclay was rushed by paramedics to Denver Health after inexplicably losing consciousness at work. She fell hard, hitting her head on the concrete floor.

“I was moved to the OR immediately, and had a craniotomy that saved my life,” she said. “But then, after they saved my life, [the paramedics] went on to save 100 more people that day.”

Barclay thought about that quite a bit during her recovery and, without hesitation, she and her family jumped into action.

“First, we have to thank the people who saved my life,” she said, “and then we have to do something about it.”

With the support of friends and relatives – and a matching donation from the Anschutz Foundation – Barclay raised tens of thousands of dollars to help purchase two of the new ambulances.

“You never know what could happen to you tomorrow or today, so it’s important to give back as much as you possibly can,” Barclay said.

A generous gift from one life saved that is sure to help save countless others.

“If you just look at it from the aspect of one ambulance,” Bryskiewicz said, “it’s going to touch 20,000 people. Imagine if we all did that, the impact we could have on our community.”

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