Glen “Opa” Wahrmund, EMT-B Ambulance Driver

Woman’s AirCare 3 – Houston, TX

How would you summarize your job?

I work for REACH Air Medical Services out of Santa Rosa, California. We have a helicopter and two ground ambulances that we contract with the Woman’s Hospital of Texas in Houston. I like to say I’m one of the pilots, but I fly on the ground—I’m an ambulance driver and an EMT. Woman’s Hospital has a lot of high-risk patients, and I help out with our medical intensive care transport teams. We have a specialized medical team that cares for high-risk OB patients during transport to the hospital. For babies and children in critical condition, we have Neo and Pedi Intensive Care flight teams.

What did you want to be when you grew up, and what are some highlights from the time between then and now?

I thought about being a doctor, but I got into music and went off to Sam Houston State University as a Music Education major. Then a cousin talked me into going into dentistry. Not having taken any chemistry or biology in high school, I went down like the Titanic. I also majored in fraternity, and I got an A+ in that. So I have a college education, but I do not have a sheepskin.

I needed to go to work, and a good friend got me a job with GMAC. You know, the “Give Me a Check” company. I collected car notes from people who were behind. After a few months of that, I saw an ad for an ambulance manager trainee, and in March of 1965, I went to work for a man who had one ambulance. He saw to it that I took the standard and advanced American Red Cross courses and became an instructor in each.

In August of 1966, I bought an ambulance company, and my wife and I ran it for 26 years. My wife’s name is Bertha, but she goes by Bert. We got married on August 13, 1966. I’d been talking to her for several months on the phone and finally got up the nerve to meet her. So I got a wife and two children and bought a house and a business all in 15 days! We ran that business until 1992 after growing it into the largest ambulance company in Houston, with five ambulances.

I’m 75 years old. You don’t find many old farts like me who stay in this service this long. I’ve been in EMS for 50 years. I do look forward to retiring, though. My wife and I have a piece of dirt with three houses on it for sale. When we sell that, I’ll retire. We also have a house on six acres in Shiner, Texas (home of Texas Kool-Aid, AKA Shiner Bock beer) where I will retire. I have a 1927 Model T Ford sitting in the garage just waiting on me to restore it.

NOTE: 1) Glen obtained his EMT certification in Texas as a member of the state’s second EMT class in June of 1971.  2) In 1983 Glen had the privilege as Vice President of the Texas Ambulance Association to help write Senate Bill 385, which to this day is the foundation of the state’s EMS law 3) In 2008, Glen was honored with the EMT of the Year Award, which was presented at the Greater Houston EMS Council Awards Banquet.

Why did you choose REACH/Woman’s AirCare?

First off, I have tremendous respect for Randy Wideman here at Woman’s Hospital. He’s the Director of Transport, and he requested that I switch over to REACH. It’s been wonderful; this is a great company to work for.

On the path that led to where you are today, what were your top three supportive and/or motivational influences? They can be people, institutions, life events, anything.

  1. My mom and daddy, Sarah and Edgar. When daddy passed away at 96, they’d been married 72 years. Every day, I realize more how smart my daddy was. Of course, when I was a kid I thought he was crazy and did not know what he was talking about. I grew up with two brothers. We lived in the country, so we had chores. We fed the animals, we did the mowing, things like that. I learned a lot from having those responsibilities.
  2. My uncle, Oscar Black. He was one of my mother’s brothers. Oscar had a big influence on me. Starting when I was around 15, I went to his place in Las Cruces, New Mexico, for three summers. He had a Ford Tractor Dealership. That’s where I got a lot of my mechanical abilities. I’d gotten my driver’s license when I was 14 years old. My mama said I couldn’t get it, but I told her she’d already signed when I got my learner’s permit. So I got it, and I drove all over the place in New Mexico.
  3. Mr. Mike Russell. We had been friends for a long time, and at one point I loaned him some equipment to start North Star EMS. Then I went to work for him. I learned a lot from him businesswise, and I learned what it feels like to have someone really trust you and depend on you to do the right job. He’s the one who put me at Woman’s Hospital a little over nine years ago.

What do you appreciate most about your coworkers?

I love the people I work with; our team is just terrific. We all have different personalities, different experiences, but we know we have a job to do so we give and take. I may get a night of sleep when I’m on shift, and I may not, but that’s a part of the excitement. I just really love caring for people and knowing that we’ve done the very best that we can do, especially when we’re working with the small rural hospitals.

Open mic:

One of my philosophies in life is, “The thing that costs the least and does the most is just a pleasant smile.” Like I said, I’m 75 years old. I’ve stayed in it this long because God has given me the gift of being able to help save people’s lives. I don’t work on Sundays anymore, though; I sing in the church choir. Every year I sing in The Messiah, and I just love that.  If I did not have—Jesus, my loving wife and my ability to work with people, life would not be worth living.