As a kid in the late 1970s, Mark Henn watched the crew from Station 51 regularly perform spectacular, dramatic rescues on NBC’s ground-breaking show “Emergency,” and it just looked cool.
A few years later, he followed his younger brother into Tunkhannock Ambulance’s junior member program because, well, those guys made it look cool too.
Never did he imagine that would be the start of a 40-year (and counting) career as a first-responder in which he’d be the one making dramatic rescues and inspiring future generations of professional and volunteer emergency rescue crews.
“I never saw myself doing anything else though, not really,” Henn, 58, said during a recent interview at his “home base” at the Tunkhannock Ambulance station on Bridge Street. “It’s hard to put into words how much I love what I do.”
It’s not hard to see how much he loves it, though. When talking about everything from how he got his start to the most memorable runs he’s been on — delivering a baby in a Pizza Hut parking lot, hover crafting in to rescue a man suffering a heart attack at 3 a.m. in a flooded campground, barely making it out of the river during a drowning call to name a few — to changes in equipment and procedure through the years, Henn’s face beams with pride and his blue eyes light up.
“You’ve got to be a little bit crazy to do this,” he admits.
During the day, he’s a professional paramedic with Trans Med Ambulance in Luzerne. He started there eight years ago when Trans Med bought Northeast Paramedics, the company Henn and his friends created and ran for 10 years. When he’s not working, he’s often volunteering as an EMT or with the swift water rescue team he helped launch under the Tunkhannock Ambulance organization.
His resume currently lists him as Tunkhannock Ambulance rescue captain, EMT, driver, rescue diver, rescue technician and water rescue technician and previously listed him as past president, chief, assistant chief and dive rescue captain. He was a firefighter for Triton Hose Company for 15 years, is co-founder of the Wyoming County Dive Team and a former volunteer EMT and paramedic for Luzerne County Back Mountain Medic 1.
And if the rescuing wasn’t enough, he’s had a hand in relocating and rebuilding the volunteer ambulance company’s station and building some of the organization’s most important equipment.
“Here’s the thing though, I could go on and on listing this stuff, but everything I’ve done has been done alongside a lot of other really great, dedicated people who give as much as I do,” Henn said. “You don’t do anything in this line of work alone, including taking credit. I am who I am because of my family, my friends and the people I work with.”
Henn and his wife, Susan, have two children, daughter Nicole, 27, and son Paul, 25.
As he looks to the future, Henn is more involved in training new paramedics and rescue volunteers than he is in the physically demanding tasks that need doing on many of the rescue calls, he said. And while he’s concerned about a nationwide decrease in the numbers of new volunteers, and more onerous regulations and requirements of them, he’s driven to ensure the next generation is ready to take over.
“Sometimes it’s hard to hold myself back from jumping in and doing it myself, but hey, one day I might be the guy laying on the stretcher looking up at one of these new guys,” he said. “So it feels good to help them learn and love it like I do.”
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