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Plans to be a paramedic push this senior to study

January 31, 2000|By BRUCE HAMILTON

Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series profiling nine members of the class of 2000. The Herald-Mail has been following the students since they were kindergartners at Conococheague Elementary School in 1988. The profiles will appear on the last Monday of each month through May

Catherine Gilchrist left Washington County as a child, but she could come back a lifesaver.

After a year in kindergarten, she moved to Frederick with her mother and they have lived there since. The 17-year-old can't remember much of those early days or the classmates she knew.

Gilchrist is now a senior at Frederick High School who anxiously awaits graduation. Last spring, she became certified as an emergency medical technician and has since responded to hundreds of rescue calls.

"I just thought it would be something interesting to do," she said. "There's never a dull moment."

Terrible accidents don't affect her. "I don't let it get to me," she said. Gilchrist shows little emotion, even when talking about an upcoming Bahamas vacation. "She doesn't get excited about anything," said her mother, Cheryl Cunningham.

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Because she's smaller than other rescuers at Junior Fire Co., Gilchrist often gets herself into tight situations.

"It's always, 'Cathy, climb through the back window. Climb in there while we cut the roof off,'" she said, showing her dry sense of humor.

Because a few nursing homes are near Junior Fire Co., its rescue calls often involve the elderly. That can make the job more difficult because patients sometimes misunderstand the medics, according to Gilchrist.

"Some of them would rather stay in their room," she said. Others fear they will taken to the hospital for painful or expensive tests. "They fight us a little bit," she said.

Gilchrist doesn't like homework or school, but she worked hard to become an EMT, according to Cunningham. She took a class twice a week for three hours, racking up 120 hours of classwork and 10 hours of field work.

She wants to be a professional paramedic and work either in Frederick or Washington county. But she must be 21 years old and spend another 2,000 hours in class. In the meantime, she plans to attend Frederick Community College.

Cunningham encouraged her to pursue a degree so she will have something to fall back on. Gilchrist said she may study toward a computer programming degree. Keyboarding is one of the few classes she enjoys at school.

"They are all pretty boring," she said. "Getting out is probably the best part."

Her favorite thing about school is the friendships she developed over the years, she said. Gilchrist used to play field hockey but doesn't participate in sports anymore. "I'd rather watch than play," she said.

Her least favorite thing about school was detention, which she got into a few times at West Frederick Middle School. "It was because she would rather watch TV than do her homework," said Cunningham.

When she was 5 years old, Gilchrist liked taking walks, learning about animals and listening to stories. When she was 11 years old, her favorite thing was pizza. Today the telephone, the computer, shopping and sleeping are her favorites.

"Mom still doesn't trust me with the credit card," she said.

Gilchrist has been attending church since she was 2 years old, according to her mother. She helps teach young children during evening classes at Maranatha Church of God, where she also operates a sound studio.

She doesn't always get along with her 10-year-old sister, Lindsey, she said, citing sibling rivalry. The family has a 4-year-old Dalmatian, Pongo. Their mailbox is painted like his spotted coat.

Gilchrist said her father, David Gilchrist, used to be a paramedic, but he didn't inspire her career choice. She doesn't see him often because he lives in Kansas, she said.

The family moved to Frederick after her mother remarried. Cunningham works at BioWhittaker and her husband, Lewis Cunningham, is a warehouse manager.

Gilchrist recently got her first car, a 1991 Dodge Spirit. After her parents' graduation present, a trip to the Bahamas, she is looking forward to moving out and being on her own. But her mother predicts a boomerang effect.

"Once she finds out how much everything costs, she'll be back," she said.

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