Tarrant County paramedic with cancer stays on the job

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by CHRIS HAWES

WFAA

Posted on July 16, 2010 at 10:35 PM

Updated Sunday, Jul 18 at 6:28 PM

FORT WORTH — Veteran paramedic Ronnie Ferguson is fighting a vicious form of cancer. But throughout weeks of chemotherapy, he remained on the job, working extra hours, and committed to the patients he understands in a new way.

Now his fellow paramedics are stepping in to help him.

Ferguson has been a MedStar paramedic for 28 years, saving the lives of hundreds of patients. Today, it's his own life he's fighting to save.

Ferguson remembers how he learned of the doctor's diagnosis just before Christmas. "He said, 'Well I don't want to do it over the telephone,' and I said, 'Just tell me,' and he said, 'It's cancer.'"

First, Ferguson shared the news with his four children. Then he told his second family at Fort Worth-based MedStar.

"He was like, 'I got the Big C,' and I was like, 'What's the Big C?' and I was like, 'Oh, man," said fellow paramedic Laura Chapin.

Ferguson underwent surgery, but by the time his chemo started in March, he was back at work. Even as he grew too sick to eat, losing more than 150 pounds, he stayed on the job, feeling a new commitment to his patients.

"You try not to get attached to people or emotionally involved, but it's kind of hard to do when you can relate to what they got and you got," he said.

Ferguson has two more rounds of chemo to go, but he's out of vacation and sick days, so he has to stay home until it's over so disability benefits can kick in.

That's not enough to pay all the bills, so paramedics are stepping in, donating their own leave time.

"We know for a fact he would do the same things for us," said co-worker Nathan Chapin.

They are also holding a fund-raising golf tournament on August 19 at Southern Oaks Golf Club. "We just want to do more," said paramedic Jeff Popp. Participants should RSVP by August 9.

In a few weeks, Ferguson will find out if his treatment has kicked the cancer, and he is optimistic.

E-mail chawes@wfaa.com

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