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Running toward danger, 20 years later

By Pete Levine ·
Running toward danger, 20 years later
Christopher Osborne (Member-provided photo)

It was a middle-of-the-night chance encounter that led Never Quit Service Award winner Christopher Osborne to a 20-year career as an EMT. It happened on his birthday, Jan. 18, 2001, when Osborne heard a loud crash near his home in Sacramento, California. He had been awake that rainy night, unable to sleep because of a college exam he had the following day.

“I heard a loud boom,” recalls Osborne. “There was a lot of lightning. I looked outside. I lived next to I-5, and I could see there were lights off the freeway facing the wrong direction.”

The flashes of light Osborne had seen were not lightning; they were the lights of a tractor-trailer that had fallen from the interstate. The crash was the sound of the cab as it plummeted from the overpass above.

Osborne didn’t hesitate. He left his home and ran toward the scene of the accident.

“It was really raining and muddy outside. I ran [the length] of a few football fields,” to where the semi had landed. Osborne could see that the entire cab was destroyed. “I started yelling for the truck driver. I found him in a creek. He was still conscious.”

The man was in bad shape: an open compound fracture at his elbow, a bad laceration underneath his left eye and trouble breathing. Even without the medical training he has now, Osborne knew it was a life-or-death situation.

“He thought he was going to die. He probably would have if I hadn’t found him. I asked if he had kids and he said he did. ‘You have to stay alive for your kids,’” said Osborne, who held the man’s hand as they waited for emergency services to arrive. “I helped load him onto the ambulance gurney. He didn’t want me not to hold his hand or leave him.”

The man was lifted onto the ambulance gurney and whisked away to the hospital. Osborne returned home. Two days later, he received a call from UC Davis Medical Center, the Level-1 trauma center where the man had been taken.

“A nurse called me and said the driver wanted to talk to me in person. I went, and the first thing the nurse said is: ‘You know you saved his life.’ Then I talked to him. The driver said: ‘I owe you my life.’ A month later, I looked into the EMS program at Consumnes River College, applied there and went into [their] fire program several months later.”

Osborne, a member of United EMS Workers-AFSCME Local 4911, has always been someone to rush toward danger, the type of person who will pull over when he sees a car accident on the road.

“I can’t explain it,” says Osborne, who now works as an EMT-field training officer for American Medical Response in Yolo County and also serves as a fire captain for Suisun City Fire Department in Solano County.

It’s not just bravery that’s been the hallmark of his career as an EMT. It’s the fact that, according to his work partner, Travis Hunter, who nominated him for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award, Osborne is always going above and beyond.

“I could not ask for a better partner,” Hunter wrote in his nomination. “Christopher gives over 110% every day. He’s a wonderful asset not only to the emergency medical services field but to others around him as well.”

Hunter added that not only is Osborne an incredibly competent and hard worker, but he brings a “caring and compassionate bedside manner” to the job as well.

“Christopher doesn’t think of himself as a hero or someone that deserves praise or recognition. He is a very humble and a service-oriented person. He was truly born to help others,” Hunter says.

Unlike the man whose life he saved at the dawn of his career, Osborne doesn’t always get the chance to follow up with the people he serves. Nevertheless, two decades later he remains motivated by what he calls “little wins.”

“When you deliver a baby, when you save someone’s life in a car crash, when you save someone in cardiac arrest … those little wins make up for all the losses,” he says.

Osborne is a firm believer in peer counseling to help dampen the toll the job can sometimes take. He also relies on the power of family, friends, travel and a good sense of humor to keep him steady.

Along with a hobby of collecting rare comic books, Osborne is still charging toward danger 20 years later. And he doesn’t plan to stop.

Never Quit Service Awards

Know a co-worker who goes above and beyond to make their community better? Nominate them for AFSCME’s Never Quit Service Award.

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