At an age when most people are settling down to enjoy their golden years, a longtime South Brunswick resident continues to serve the community he holds dear, as he has for the last half-century.
Rev. John Maltby, 77, is about to begin his 50th year of service with the Monmouth Junction First Aid and Rescue Squad.
"For me the best part of my time on the squad has been the people I work with and the people whose lives you can have a positive impact on," Rev. Maltby said. "Sometimes it's just a senior citizen who's apprehensive and in pain. So you go their home and talk to them while you get them to the hospital and help them to feel comfortable. It's rewarding to take what can be a frightening time and help to ease them into the hospital with some tender, loving care."
Rev. Maltby first moved to South Brunswick from upstate New York 53 years ago, and began what was to become 50 years as pastor with
"One of my role models in the church when I came here was active volunteering for the fire department and first aid squad, which I had always had an interest in going back to World War II. I used to go with my parents to civil defense classes, so I always felt a strong interest in it," Maltby said. "One of the church elders was active volunteering so he sponsored me, and when I started he turned over his jumpsuit to me so that I'd have a uniform to wear."
Maltby wouldn’t end up going on his first call with the rescue squad until Jan. 1963. The call was for an elderly woman who had passed away in her home from natural causes. Along with fellow volunteers Capt. Bill Zimmerman and Roger Potts, Maltby went to the home and began attempting to resuscitate the woman on the way to the hospital.
"I was desperately trying to save her life thinking I was doing some good," Maltby said. "When we got to the hospital she was pronounced dead and I was pretty bummed out. So Bill said to me, 'well we knew she was dead when we got there but you were trying so hard to save her we didn't want to tell you she was dead and ruin your day.' So my first call was very memorable because I was so gung ho trying to bring someone back with oxygen, but I found it takes a little more than that."
For his most dramatic call during his time on the squad, Maltby said it was a near-tragic coincidence that led him and his fellow volunteers to save a life.
Maltby and his wife were heading out to meet with his tax preparer at an office in Somerville when an emergency call came through. Because the usual ambulance driver was tied up at a conference, Maltby said he decided to miss the appointment with his tax preparer and head to the scene of the emergency.
"As I'm pulling up to the house I see a man walk out the front door and it was the tax preparer I was supposed to meet," he said. "His wife was gasping for air and having trouble breathing."
The first responders took action using a technique where a trachea tube was put in to supply oxygen to the woman's lungs after she became unconscious.
"My job was to squeeze the bag on the command of paramedics to keep oxygen in her lungs, and it was successful," Maltby said. "We got to the hospital and a paramedic put his arm around me and said we just saved a life, and I just started crying. She was a sweet lady who lived on for another couple years.
"When she did pass on two years later my late wife and I went to her viewing and I remember thinking that I had a small part in adding two years on to her life. But those were two important years. So I always think about that when it comes to doing volunteer work or doing what's on my own agenda. I was happy I did the right thing that day."
Between the tragic and the horrific calls that an EMT must sometimes face, Maltby said there were also circumstances that occurred which he now looks back on with a laugh. One such instance happened after a wedding, where the guests had gathered in a South Brunswick home after the reception had ended.
The EMT’s responded to the home on reports of a woman having chest pains and trouble breathing.
"This woman was sitting against the wall and it sure seemed like she was having a heart attack," Maltby said. "Our female captain sized up the situation, went into our kit to grab a pair of surgical scissors and told us to go into the next room to keep people calm.
"When we walked back into the room the woman was sitting up in a chair good as can be. Our captain used the surgical scissors to snip the corset the woman had been wearing, because apparently she consumed too much at the wedding and lost the room to breathe. So that was an unexpected happy ending."
In his younger years, Maltby said he would typically go on 250 emergency calls a year. But as age and health issues have caught up with him, Maltby is down to about 90 calls a year. As he can see the end of his volunteer service to South Brunswick in sight, Maltby said he would like to continue with the squad for the next three years, health permitting.
"I can see the handwriting on the wall, as our caseload goes up, the number of volunteers go down and the government takes over more of the operation," he said. "This has been going on for a quarter-century, with regulations and requirements making it very hard for volunteers to give the time to meet all of that stuff. I think in the future we'll have to rely on paid outfits more.
"I look back on how simple a concept it used to be, when our community took care of our own people, but now there's fewer volunteers to take care of everybody. It changes to where it will never be like it was before."