Featured Story

Music, medicine and giving back to Shelter Island: TJ Dalton is the EMT of the Year

There are many advantages to being part of an Emergency Medical Services department in a small, close-knit place like Shelter Island, Timothy (TJ) Dalton said recently.

Colleagues know each other well, not just from the job, but many have grown up together and see each other at social events, or around town and at community gatherings.

Working in emergency situations, Mr. Dalton said, you communicate through a kind of learned shorthand, knowing well everyone’s skills and personalities that make the job of rendering assistance and care to those in need smoother and more professional.

But there is one challenge that departments in largely populated and geographically wide communities don’t have to face. “We’ll answer a call and show up where the person who needs immediate medical help is a relative, a family friend, someone we went to school with. Even a best friend,” Mr. Dalton said. “Sometimes we see them having the worst day of their lives. It can be hard. We have to let our training kick in and do our jobs, at the same time keeping our emotions in check.”

Mr. Dalton was named EMT of the Year at a gala awards dinner at Gardiner’s Bay Country Club on Oct. 5, for his service to the community.

He is one of the captains of the EMS, which means he is in charge of a “rescue truck,” maintaining it in good shape, and making sure all equipment needed for emergencies is ready.

His vehicle is stocked for any mass-casualty emergencies and also for fire rescue and water incidents, with special gear to set up for on-scene firefighter rehabilitation, such as smoke inhalation.

He joined the EMS about a year ago. A lover of the  water — he’s a certified dive master and surfer — and the outdoors, he had taken a wilderness Emergency Medical Technician course run by the SOLO School in New Hampshire.

“When I finished, it just seemed natural to join the EMS at home here,” he said.

EMS Chief Mark Kanarvogel said Mr. Dalton is a worthy recipient of the award. In his short time with the EMS, “He’s answered almost every call,” Mr. Kanarvogel said. “He’s got the right temperament, he’s calm, has the right attitude and is 100% into doing this job.”

Mr. Dalton’s dedication can be seen by his having clothes at the EMS headquarters on Manwaring Road. “TJ’s answered calls while he was out on his bike,” Mr. Kanarvogel said. “He leaves clothes at the barn so he won’t have go for a call in bike shoes and spandex.”

A man of many parts, Mr. Dalton, 30, has a Masters degree in music from Stony Brook University, specializing in classical guitar. He’s taught guitar and music, and has been part of the Stony Brook Baroque Ensemble, and has taught and performed across the country.

He especially likes giving seminars on the music to students and at retirement homes, with instruction, master classes and performances.

Currently he works for Musicivic, Inc., an online organization that is involved in teaching and community work, where he assists in video production. Music and medicine have always been twin passions, he said, beginning in high school. In college, he decided that music had won out to study for a career.

“My life was good, and music is great, but I needed something more, to give back to the community,” he said, which led him to the EMS. He’s currently in “paramedic school,” he said, in a course managed by Northwell Health in Nassau County. It’s a 15-month course to become a certified paramedic.

His colleague, Cathy Rasmussen, a lieutenant in the EMS and a past EMT Volunteer of the Year, said, “TJ will be an amazing paramedic,” noting that honoring him recently for his dedication and service was an easy choice.

He stands out, Ms. Rasmussen said, because of “his bedside manner,” always in control, “and for less serious cases, he can assure them that they’re going to be OK, and get them in a better mood. He’s cool, calm and collected.”