Last May senior Michael Hylton signed on as one of the 120 trained volunteer EMTs that make up the Tuckahoe Volunteer Rescue Squad, an organization that responds to 4,500 911 calls a year in Henrico County. The squad, which operates out of two stations across the county, is 100 percent volunteer. “We do the exact thing as the paid guys, only no one gets paid,” Michael says.
Once or twice a week after leaving campus, Michael heads over to the squad’s Horsepen Road station—the only one that is staffed 24/7—where he covers a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift before returning to school the next morning. “Calls usually start to pick up around 10 p.m. and slow down at 3 a.m., so I usually get some good rest,” he explains. Michael will often pick up additional 12 or 24 hour shifts on weekends and on school holidays, accumulating more than 800 on-duty hours and responding to more than 300 911 calls in the past six months.
Michael’s interest in becoming a first responder started with his older brother, Josh Hylton, who served as a Chesterfield County Police Officer for five years before joining the FBI. Then in March of 2016, he read an article in The Pine Needle
about class of 2016 graduate Alec Hale’s experience serving the Tuckahoe Rescue Squad. “Alec’s story is what prompted me to contact the squad—they set me up with my EMT course and I ended up joining them as a result,” says Michael.
Completing the training was a long and time-consuming process. Michael attended evening courses on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. for six months—as well as a few Saturdays. He rode along with the squad at least 10 times before completing the course, gaining critical on-the-job training and practical experience.
“I did it because I wanted to learn more about emergency medicine and thought this would be a cool way to do so,” Michael explains. “I knew I wanted to join a squad with a lot of patient contact where I could learn as well as serve the community around me — that’s why Tuckahoe was the right fit.”
After passing both the state and national EMT tests, Michael started with the squad as an attendant. His initial role was to help with patient care in the back of the transport vehicle. Fast forward about three months and Michael was promoted to squad leader, where he is responsible for all patient care on the ambulance and on the scene of an emergency.
“As a squad leader I help the driver navigate to the scene, determine what type of call it is, the details, manage the resources that have been dispatched to the call, and then coordinate all patient care once we get there,” Michael explains. “I’ve seen everything from cardiac arrest to traffic crashes, psychiatric situations, assaults, to just your general illness…there have been a lot of heroin overdoses recently.”
For Michael, running with the rescue squad is not only about service—it’s also about community. “[The squad] is just like a family,” he says. We all have the same job skills and the same certifications…we all meet at the station and hang out like any other group of friends, only we’ve got to be ready at any minute to respond to an emergency.”
Just as Alec Hale's work with the squad motivated him to serve, Michael hopes his experience will inspire other Saints to get involved. Junior Evan Knight has already joined him for a ride-along, and he hopes more will follow. “We’re always open to having guys try it out,” says Michael. The Tuckahoe Volunteer Rescue Squad operates a fleet of six advanced life support ambulances, two advanced-support quick-response vehicles, and a utility van. The equipment is staffed by 120 professionally trained and certified volunteer EMTs and paramedics who respond to 4,500 911 calls a year.
Learn more about the Tuckahoe Rescue Squad and what it takes to be an EMT on its website.