Harlingen first responder spends decades saving lives, shares passion for helping the community

Local News

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — October 28 was National First Responder Day. Their jobs are more important now than ever, but also very different. 

One man who has been saving lives in the RGV for decades tells us he got started and what it’s been like working through the pandemic.  

Though it wasn’t what he originally planned to do, Valley native Rene Perez discovered his calling as a first responder more than 30 years ago.  

“It was really one of those accidental type things,” Rene Perez, director of patient transport services for South Texas Emergency Care Foundation said. “I was just taking EMT classes just to kind of learn how to do CPR and first aid.”  

Through those classes, he fell in love with the work and continued his education to become a registered nurse paramedic. 

Perez says he has the greatest job in the world, despite the stressful life or death situations.  

“Some days are great and there are some days that are not that great,” he said. “But we have to deal with that and continue providing that care and taking care of our community.’  

And while he was already used to long hours, when the pandemic hit the need for first responders increased, further emphasizing the shortage of healthcare workers in the Valley.  

“Our own crews started getting sick too,” he said. “That put a big stress on all of us because our friends were sick and we had a responsibility to continue to respond to calls.”  

He says things have since improved, allowing them the chance to catch their breath. And while there have been tragedies, he’s unable to forget, he also remembers the joyful moments.  

“Those times we’re able to help people — when you’re able to resuscitate somebody in cardiac arrest or they’re on the verge of dying and you’re able to bring them back,” Perez said. 

He encourages anyone interested in helping others consider becoming a first responder.  

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