Three years ago, Dahti Blanchard retired from teaching at Swan School in Port Townsend, WA. Today, at 67, she’s the oldest resident Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) with East Jefferson Fire Rescue.
It all started when she saw a sign calling for volunteer EMTs and acted on a dream she’d had for 30 years.
“I was curious as to whether I’d be able to physically do the test, and went for it,” she says. She had to carry a 150-pound dummy out of a fire and two 40-pound buckets into a firetruck as well as accomplish time-constrained tasks such as threading needles.
Dahti started with one 12-hour shift per week. This allowed her to spend with her husband and two grandchildren, write novels, train for triathlons and marathons, and serve as artistic director with the Ladies’ Chamber Orchestra and Benevolence Society. Turns out, one shift wasn’t enough. The calls were exciting, but so was the time spent at the station learning about equipment, drills and other aspects.
True to form, Dahti considers herself a life-long student. “It took me almost 20 years to get my degree.” She earned her B.A. in Early Music from The College of St. Scholastica in Minnesota and went on to enroll in a year-long course to to teach music to middle schoolers. She also trained to become a doula to support women during labor. The subject matter in the EMT training, however, was completely new to her.
“She came well equipped with some life experience that has already served her very well,” says Lt. Jason MacDonald. “Dahti relates very quickly and easily with patients and offers them a reassuring feeling.”
Her schedule is typically 24 hours on, off, and on again, followed by a four-day break. She has her own room and looks forward to her turn to cook dinner for her fellow EMTs and firefighters.
No doubt, Dahti has learned quite a bit, especially about herself. “I didn’t know how I’d be able to handle the difficulties, and I’ve been happy and excited to find that I can really focus in the moment, handle those things, and be present for what we’re doing.”
Retirement is a great opportunity to learn something new about ourselves. Ask your association about volunteer opportunities as well as support such as pension defense and supplemental health coverage from AMBA.
Novelist Jane Austen said, “Self-knowledge is the first step to maturity.” However, as Dahti Blanchard can tell you, it can also be the other way around.