A Pueblo paramedic who has spent over a decade helping people in his hometown is one of 33 emergency medical professionals from across the country who were recognized last week with a prestigious award for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Mario Vialpando, an eastside native and paramedic for American Medical Response, was honored by the medical transportation organization Global Medical Response as one of its 2022 Stars of Life.
“It was a total shock to me. It wasn’t even on my radar,” Vialpando said. “For any of us in the field who are working, we don’t work to get an award. We go to work and we do the job that we do because we love the job that we do.”
The Stars of Life awardees represent the best of the best in EMS work, GMR said. “Their stories speak to our mission of providing care to the world at a moment’s notice,” it said.
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Vialpando, 35, was selected for the award for providing exceptional patient care during several critical calls, including one where he saved the life of a young adult with a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Vialpando remained calm throughout that rescue, and used his medical expertise to safely extricate the patient, who was on the roof of an apartment building, bleeding profusely and in severe pain, to a facility for further life-saving care, GMR said on its website.
That rescue was “just one example of the passion and command of knowledge that drives Mario to do his job so well,” AMR operations manager Mike Lening said.
“And just as he cares for his patients, he cares for the well-being of his co-workers. Mario is a staunch supporter of his colleagues’ mental health. He openly gives out his phone number to co-workers, encouraging them to call him if they want to talk or have something heavy on their minds.”
‘Giving back to the community’
Vialpando has worked with Pueblo AMR for the past 12 years. He spent the first eight years as an emergency medical technician before moving up to paramedic.
What he enjoys most about the job is working in the city he grew up in and “giving back to the community that basically molded me,” he said.
And while Vialpando was chosen to receive the award, he said it doesn’t belong solely to him.
“It’s for everybody that I’ve worked with, everybody that I’ve ever been on calls with, everybody that has dealt with tragedy,” he said.
“It’s for my partners who responded with me to these specific situations — because I wasn’t there alone. I wasn’t able to do the job I did if it wasn’t for them, if it wasn’t for my partner clocking in with me, if it wasn’t for the fire (department) guys responding with us at the same time or the police officers making sure that we’re safe on scene.
“It’s not only an award for me, it’s an award for the city that I work in, it’s an award for the operation that employs me and also for the citizens that I serve. And I’m grateful it’s for the city I grew up in and that I love,” he said.
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Vialpando received his award at the American Ambulance Association Stars of Life awards ceremony, held May 1-4 in Washington, D.C.
But if it were up to Vialpando, he would never have received it
“For me to be recognized or to be honored, individuals had to deal with tragedy,” he said. “And I feel like any paramedic in my shoes at that specific point in time would have done the same thing I did.
“But on the other hand … it’s refreshing to feel like somebody actually pays attention to what we do.”
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Chieftain reporter Zach Hillstrom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @ZachHillstrom