Albert Kreitz is retired from years as a paramedic, but the work’s life-or-death experiences have never left him. He turned some situations into fiction, in a story called “Partners For Life,” while heeding lessons learned on the job.
This fall, the 61-year-old left Oregon’s Western Lane Ambulance District and Emergency Medical Services. Kreitz moved to the Everett area to be closer to his 6-year-old grandson, who lives in Burlington. Here, he found work as a security officer at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett.
Kreitz worked 26 years for Lane County, where he was based in the coastal town of Florence as a paramedic and public information officer. Starting at 20, he worked for an ambulance business in the Los Angeles area, and later as a paramedic in Oakland, California.
Some years back, he and co-workers were talking about their most extraordinary calls. “We’d tell stories back and forth, the craziest calls,” he said. “Somebody mentioned that you can’t make this stuff up. They said, ‘You ought to write a book.’ ”
Kreitz remembered a writing instructor at Northern Michigan University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in communications and English. “He said that if you wait for inspiration, you’ll never write,” he recalled. “So I picked up my laptop, went to Starbucks and started putting black on white.”
The result is his ebook, “Partners For Life,” available for Kindle on Amazon. It’s based on his early years as an emergency medical technician in Los Angeles, and his work partner there. “Even though it’s a novel, all the medical calls actually happened,” said Kreitz, who changed details to protect privacy.
He didn’t publish a print version, and said the book wasn’t meant to be a commercial endeavor. It’s mostly being sold to Facebook friends, he said.
“This book isn’t just about EMS. It’s about life,” said Kreitz, describing a zany plot that includes a character’s escape from a cult and capture by Oregon pot farmers.
The main character — Kreitz calls him an Oregon “country boy” — moves to Los Angeles, where his African-American partner on ambulance duty comes from a tough background in the city. “That was real. My partner was that person. We did not get along at first,” he said. “In the book, the partner from South LA ends up being the guy from Oregon’s best ally. They’re partners for life.
“That’s what EMS is about — life, family, losing people, emotions, the highs and lows, what it’s like to be a human being,” Kreitz said.
Wacky plot points were borrowed from his early years, in the late 1970s, with the Goodhew Ambulance Service. The 1976 comedy movie “Mother, Jugs & Speed” was inspired by that Southern California business, he said.
Kreitz grew up in northern Michigan, but was born and spent his early childhood in Germany. His mother was a nurse, originally from Czechoslovakia. “My dad came over here to teach,” Kreitz said.
Coming from Europe, he said he appreciates other cultures. He understands the difficulties immigrants experience, and said he has no use for those who are “anti-immigrant.”
From Michigan, he moved to Los Angeles and studied at night school to be an EMT. His paramedic training was completed at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. He moved there in 1981. Kreitz also worked in social services, and has a master’s degree from Northwest Christian University in Eugene.
To this day, he said he is haunted by one memory especially, a 13-year-old boy who died of a gunshot wound in Oakland. “This one bothered me the most,” he said. The boy’s last words were “I want my mom,” Kreitz said.
“I did everything I could to keep this kid alive. I started two IVs. We drove like hell. I watched this kid die before my eyes,” he said. “I thought, ‘You gotta be kidding me. This is a child.’ ”
There are many better memories. A mother, hurt in a car crash on Christmas Eve near the Oregon Coast, was flown to a trauma center in Portland, he said. “She had battery acid in her eyes. She couldn’t see,” Kreitz recalled. She later visited her rescuers, he said, and thanked them for making another Christmas possible.
“It’s like that, highs and lows. You lose people. You save people,” Kreitz said.
And those lessons learned? Kreitz said they came from Dick Straw, his paramedic instructor at Lane Community College.
“Treat everyone the same,” he said. “Oftentimes you deal with part of the society that isn’t well respected by most. There are drugs and alcohol.”
It was Straw, his instructor, who shared this: “I don’t care if a guy is wearing a three-piece suit or is drunk in an alley, treat them both the same.”
“I never forget that,” Kreitz said. “All humans, we all have the same heart. God created us all equal. I truly feel that.”
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@herald net.com.
“Partners For Life,” Albert Kreitz’s novel about a Los Angeles paramedic, is available for $3.99 as an ebook for Kindle at Amazon.com.