NIC English Instructor works as volunteer EMT; releases new book
An interest in medicine was not in Gala Muench's blood. Even as a child she had to hide any cuts from her mother who would immediately become a second patient from passing out at the sight of blood.
Muench is a writer and artist with a master's degree in English. She writes poetry and most recently fiction and non-fiction in addition to teaching English at North Idaho College and Lewis-Clark State College for the past eight years.
Born into a family of artists, Muench never imagined she would hear the call to help her community by volunteering as an Emergency Medical Technician. But she heard the siren loud and clear.
Muench and her husband, an artist and NIC Social Sciences instructor, first decided to volunteer as EMTs when they moved in 1992 to a 140-acre ranch and hay farm on Harrison Flats, an hour south of Coeur d'Alene. The Muenches' lives were already full with teaching, writing, and raising hay, but there was no hesitation when the two decided to volunteer for Harrison Community Ambulance.
“We work hard and play hard,” Muench said. “It's a wonderful life.”
The Muenches saw a need in the rural community. Despite its small population of 274 people, Harrison bustles in the summer months with tourists on the area's highways, backcountry, and waterways, providing a demanding need for emergency services to cover the 624-square-mile service area of Harrison Community Ambulance.
“I became an EMT because I wanted to be able to help others in a life or death moment, not just to survive, but thrive,” Muench said. “It's a great honor for me to help someone in need, to give them a chance that they otherwise wouldn't have.”
The seven-member crew of Harrison Ambulance expanded over the past few years to include 44 professional volunteers. Muench volunteers 25-35 hours per week as an EMT for Harrison Ambulance while teaching a full load of five courses between NIC and LCSC as an adjunct faculty member. Muench also writes grants for the all-volunteer ambulance crew, last year helping the group to purchase its second ambulance for $98,000.
In 2004, she received the prestigious Maxine Christensen Service Award for her outstanding dedication and service to Harrison Community Ambulance. In 2003, she and her husband were specially honored when the Harrison Chamber of Commerce presented the VIP Award to Harrison Community Ambulance.
“Being a volunteer EMT is gratifying, yet very challenging,” Muench said. “It's not for everyone.”
Providing emergency services can be traumatic for technicians if they don't work through the emotions behind the professionalism once the ambulance run is complete.
“You must have strong empathy for the patient, yet at the same time distance yourself to provide professional medical care,” Muench said. “It's a delicate balance that requires a blend of skills, compassion, and quick thinking—actually the same skills that make a good writer. Both activities require immersion in the moment, keen observation, and imaginative resourcefulness—a kind of consumed detachment.”
That's why she is grateful to have the gift of writing, not just as a therapeutic outlet, but as an experience that forces a person to learn what is important in life.
“In these story-poems, I hope others will see with new eyes the world we often take so much for granted,” Muench said. “Being an EMT makes you recognize the preciousness of every moment. You see man's tenacity to survive, despite all odds. Doing this kind of work and seeing that heartening spirit makes you believe in the true worth of humanity.”
Those eye-opening EMT experiences coupled with stories of nature and mankind's encounters with natural beauty comprise Siren Song, a book of poetry written and designed by Muench.
“Siren Song celebrates nature and life in rural Idaho,” Muench said, adding that the book reflects not only from her experiences as an EMT, but also her home life in the country and her passion for writing and art. “Siren Song celebrates the preciousness of life.”
The book is available at Hastings on Appleway and The Bookery on Sherman Avenue in Coeur d'Alene. Muench will do a reading at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 10 at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane, where the book is also available. For more information, contact Muench at 665.5434.
And if by chance some wintry night
Long after I am but a breeze
Wish on the brightest star you dream
And that star will be me
Gala Muench, “Think of Me,” Siren Song.For More Information
NIC English Instructor Gala Muench at 665-5434
Posted: Friday, March 4, 2005