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Cannon Falls Paramedic Is Among Most-Decorated In US: 'I Just Knew I Had Found My Place'

CANNON FALLS, Minn. (WCCO) -- It is EMS appreciation week -- a time to recognize all the first responders and paramedics who save lives in our communities.

And one of the most medaled paramedics in the country is right here in Minnesota.

Exactly two weeks ago, on what happened to be her birthday, Brenda Voshalike was honored with the Star of Life award from the American Ambulance Association in Washington D.C.

For 44 years she's been a paramedic, helping people in her community, like Jerry Larson. Voshalike made a split-second decision that saved Larson's life from a devastating chainsaw injury in 2016. When Voshalike and her team arrived on the scene that day, Larson was losing so much blood so quickly, Voshalike made the call to drive him directly to Mayo Hospital, and not waste time with a helicopter.

"If she hadn't made that decision, I wouldn't be here," said Larson.

After a long recovery, Larson visited Voshalike at the Cannon Falls Fire Department to thank her in person.

"That was one of the best days ever when he walked through that door," said Voshalike.

It's moments like that visit that keep Voshalike committed to her job.

Brenda Voshalike -- Cannon Falls EMT -- Most Decorated Paramedic In US
Brenda Voshalike (credit: CBS)

She joined the Cannon Falls EMS team as a 23-year-old in 1978. She was originally intending to make it a resume builder before heading to medical school, but she ended up never leaving.

"I just knew I had found my place," said Voshalike.

Voshalike says one of the hardest part of working in a small town is knowing everyone. Many days in her career she responded to an emergency involving a friend or family member.

"For a time, you're going to have to lock away the emotion that that is somebody close, that is somebody you care about," said Voshalike.

Her perseverance through trauma, her calm demeanor and her commitment to her community is what keeps her going. Now at 67-years-old, she has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"I hope to show that love of the job to others," said Voshalike.

Voshalike has already received the highest honor in EMS, the National Paramedic of the Year.

In her career, she's also delivered two babies outside of the hospital in emergency circumstances, earning her two stork pins to add to her awards.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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