A salute to those who keep the community safe on Christmas

Editor’s Note: Hopefully everyone spent Christmas Day the way they wanted. That can mean a variety of things depending on your traditions; but often entails family, friends, loved ones, libations, presents, coffee, bad sweaters, worse ties, libations, elaborate dinners, libations, home videos, and coffee.

However, there are those like Officer Tim Fish of the Highlands Police Department, Nurses Susan Kaminsky and Janice Hughey at Highlands-Cashiers Hospital, Firefighter Gary Ammons of Highlands Fire and Rescue, and countless others who spent their Christmas on the job. This is not an article of employers pulling a Scrooge and forcing Bob Cratchit to work in the cold. Everyone in this article celebrated with their families ahead of time and were happy to work on Christmas. But in my opinion, they do make a certain sacrifice on Dec. 25 for the benefit of the community because of their career choice and their efforts should be noted.

In HPD Officer Tim Fish’s 29 years of service in law enforcement, he’s worked his share of holidays. The Department has a rotation system, and they adhere to that system and some days it’s just your turn to work on a holiday.

“We stick to the normal schedule of 12-hour shifts,” said Fish.  “If a holiday falls on your day that’s your day to work.”

Highlands Police Officer Tim Fish patrols the streets of Highlands on Christmas evening.

He added that his evening on Dec. 25 was generally slow, but that holidays often have the potential for large-family gatherings that sometimes end in disputes that require some level-headed mediation. Or it may be conducting a welfare check on those dealing with depression over the holidays just to check in.

HPD has the same number of officers on the road on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day as they would any other night, two-officers for both the day and evening shifts.

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Nurse Susan Kaminsky R.N. works on the facility’s Acute Floor and volunteered to work on Christmas Day.

“I volunteered to work because a lot of the nurses here are younger than I am with small children,” said Kaminsky. “I want them to have those memories in life spending Christmas with their families like I do.”

Highlands-Cashiers Hospital Nurse Susan Kaminsky spent her Christmas caring for patients and helping with their rehabilitation and recovery.

The Acute Floor is where patients are directed if they need rehabilitation and recovery or have a new diagnosis that requires immediate care, often-times being transferred from the Emergency Department into Kaminsky’s care.

“I’m glad my co-workers can spend Christmas with their families,” said Kaminsky. “Plus, I enjoy providing care for my patients, especially on Christmas Day. That’s just how I feel.”

HCH Emergency Department Nurse Janice Hughey, R.N. and MSN, has been a nurse for over 40 years and has been at HCH for three months. Even though HCH has a holiday rotation schedule for staff, Hughey volunteered to work a co-worker’s shift on Christmas.

“I celebrated last Sunday with family but some of the nurses had to go out of town, so I volunteered so they could visit their families,” said Hughey. “I’m also new here and I’m trying to show that I’m a strong team player and I’m happy to pull my load. And I want patients taken care of, that’s why I’m here.”

Highlands-Cashiers Nurse Janice Hughey spent her Christmas working at the hospital and said the Emergency Department at HCH was busy throughout Christmas.

She added that in her experience, an emergency department is busy before and after a holiday, but this year the ED was bustling throughout Christmas Day. Hughey said patients visiting the ED over the holidays, or on any given day, often have cardiac issues, abdominal pain, illnesses, and falls both ice-related and in general.

Highlands Fire and Rescue Chief Ryan Gearhart said the department does not have a 24-hour staff, but the station is staffed during regular business hours. If a call is received in the evening, volunteers arrive in force to resolve the problem. This year the man at the helm of HFR on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day was Firefighter Gary Ammons. Gearhart said the entire department appreciates Ammons volunteering to work both days.

“We had one person covering both days,” said Gearhart. “Gary covered us on those days and I want to thank him for offering to work.”

Gearhart added that HFR only received a couple of calls, so it was a slow two days for Ammons.

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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