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Former CRS chief remembers his service

February 13, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

For more than 20 years, Frank Murray routinely ran across the street from his home to respond to emergency medical calls with Community Rescue Service, an organization he led for 10 years as chief.

Now, the 500 block of East Franklin Street is quiet since Community Rescue Service moved to Eastern Boulevard. Murray, who still lives at 518 E. Franklin St., doesn't even have a scanner anymore.

Murray is confined to a hospital bed in a back bedroom with chronic, progressive multiple sclerosis. A disorder of the nervous system, MS took its toll on Murray, 60, in the years before treatments were developed that now can retard its progress.

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"It's hard dealing with this," Murray said. "I started out on a cane, went to a walker and then a wheelchair."

Now on oxygen and too weak to leave his bed, Murray depends on the care provided by his wife, Noelle, and caregiver Debbie Kegarise, who comes in about five days a week.

Even though his body has failed him, Murray's memory is long and, for the most part, intact. A good day is one when he gets a visitor who can share some of those memories with him.

"I really enjoy visitors, but I don't get too many," Murray said. "I love to talk about the old days of CRS."

Murray was 17 when he began volunteering with fire and ambulance crews in Bloomfield, N.J., where he grew up. Drafted by the U.S. Army, he served at the former Fort Ritchie in Cascade from 1965-67 as a communications officer.

When he got out of the service, Murray went to work for AT&T and made Washington County his home.

His association with CRS was natural and all-encompassing. Murray's wife and family got used to him running out at all hours on ambulance calls.

It was in his early years as CRS chief that Murray noticed pains in his lower back. When they didn't go away, he went to the doctor to see if he had a slipped disc. The diagnosis came back as MS.

He worked for eight or nine years after that, then the loss of motor function came on suddenly.

Murray said he remembers an accident call in which a man was trapped inside a truck. Responding with a CRS ambulance, Murray began establishing an IV in the patient, something he had done hundreds of times before.

"I never missed an IV. I did it by touch and, suddenly, I couldn't rely on my touch anymore," Murray said.

He didn't know then that it was the MS, but he knew it was time for him to get out of the emergency medical service.

When he clipped a mirror backing an ambulance into CRS headquarters, it was his last call. Murray stepped down as chief in 1990.

The father of two and the grandfather of six, Murray said he remembers the calls involving children the most vividly.

"One day, I was coming out of Richardson's Restaurant on the Dual Highway when I encountered a woman who told me I had saved her baby's life," Murray said.

Although he didn't remember the woman or her name, he said he immediately recalled the incident.

"You tend to remember addresses when you are driving an ambulance to a call, and I remembered what street they lived on and what the house looked like," he said.

With memories like that, Murray said he gets through the days because he knows he made his mark.

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