PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth EMS/Fire Department may be losing an important employee, but they are gaining a key volunteer.
A seemingly permanent fixture in the Plymouth firehouse — Assistant Chief John Grolich — is looking at his retirement, but he is proof that public service is in his DNA.
“There is some traveling that my wife and I want to do, but I plan on staying on as a volunteer,” said Grolich. “I think I still have something to offer and I’m going to try to help as much as I can.”
Grolich grew up in the firehouse — literally. His father was a long time firefighter for the city of Argos — the place where Grolich began his career.
“I grew up in the fire service,” said Grolich. “I saw how much it meant to my father and the reward he got from helping people. I knew when I was in high school that I wanted to be a volunteer fireman.”
Drafted into the Army and doing his service time, Grolich came home to continue serving the public. In 1972 he joined the Argos Fire Department, eventually becoming Chief for six years. He moved on to Plymouth in 1982.
“By 1985, I was full time in Plymouth and in those days, we were just advanced EMTs — which really means about all we could do was start an IV,” he said. “About 1987, Dave Houghton and I began to see the value of becoming paramedics. By 1990, we were certified paramedics.”
The job can be a difficult one, but Grolich has found it very rewarding nonetheless.
“Quite frankly, the re-wards aren’t tangible ones,” said Grolich. “There’s a great reward in serving the community but when somebody does come up and say thank you for something you’ve done — for helping save them or a loved one — those are very emotional, very deeply heartfelt moments and they make everything worthwhile.
“There have been many bad days, but even those can have their rewards. If you go on a call that has the worst outcome, you have to tell yourself that you at least gave that person a chance to survive. You come to realize that there is a superior power and you hope that maybe your efforts give that power a chance to look and see that maybe there is something more planned for this person.
“You have to prepare yourself for a real roller coaster ride of emotions in this work. For me, the highs always outweigh the lows.”
One high was a program that Grolich was able to put together to get portable defibrillaters on the streets of Marshall County.
“I’m as proud of that as anything else we were able to do,” said Grolich. “We participated in a study that showed that early defibrilation is a means of saving a person’s life suffering cardiac arrest. Around a half million people suffer ventricular fibrillation outside the hospital and this is the only means of saving them. We’ve been able to put 100 defibrillators in police cars and schools all over the county and we’ve saved at least eight people because they were there to use.
“It’s a great job because you can spend a lifetime learning,” said Grolich. “Every day you can learn something that the next day might save somebody’s life.”