Larry Spencer is one of those people who is so positive that they can find the good side of anything and this native of New Orleans can even find the good side of Hurricane Katrina.
For all the pain and suffering the storm caused after making landfall on August 29, 2005, it set in motion a positive chain of events for Larry and his family and placed them exactly where he believes they were meant to be.
Larry Spencer spent 7 years as a New Orleans firefighter and he will tell you he loved fighting fires and helping people. As Hurricane Katrina was bearing down on his beloved hometown in 2005, he made the decision to stay and help but insisted his wife take their 3-month-old daughter and get out of harm’s way. She had relatives in Houston, so Larry wanted her to go there. She wanted him to come with them. They argued about it but, in the end, he stayed and she left with their daughter.
He and about ¾ of the New Orleans Fire Department rode out the storm in a hotel on Canal Street. He says, “When the storm hit, I can remember seeing palm trees and things just flying through the air. At the hotel across from us, you could see the windows busting open. My biggest concern was that our windows would bust open but thank God none of that happened.”
Afterward, the firefighters staged at a military base and an evacuated nursing home. From those bases, they ran rescue operations around the clock with assistance from firefighters who came from as far away as New York City.
Larry remembers rescuing a woman from the second story of her home. They had to cut through her burglar bars. When they finally cleared the way to get her out, she asked what they were going to do about her husband. For the first time they realized that the whole time they had been talking to her and reassuring her, she had been holding her dead husband keeping his head above the water.
Larry worked for more than a week straight helping to rescue people and during that whole time he kept trying to call his wife in Houston. Larry remembers that “All the phone lines were dead, so I couldn’t call my wife and she couldn’t call me. She didn’t know if I was dead or alive or what happened. We had this little argument and then I didn’t hear from her and she didn’t hear from me. My first call got through about a week after the storm. I walked to the top of the Mississippi River Bridge to try and get a higher signal. That’s when I finally got in touch with my wife. She cried. I cried.”
He traveled back and forth between Houston and New Orleans for months. His wife had rented a three bedroom apartment that was shared by 13 family members. Finally, he decided it was time for him to move to Houston.
He tried to get on at a fire department here only to find out that departments were looking for firefighters who were also EMTs. His wife, Scharlotta, who was a registered nurse found a good job at Memorial Hermann in the Woodlands. While searching for a job, he began his EMT-Basic studies at Lone Star College/North Harris. He says, “A spark was ignited! I can still help others! I became extremely interested in emergency medicine.”
After obtaining his EMT-B, he was offered a firefighting job but got extremely ill and ended up in the hospital. At that point, he decided he would be a medic and went back to school to get his EMT-Intermediate. He worked at a couple of transfer ambulance services and landed another job in telemetry at Memorial Hermann in the Woodlands.
As he was finishing up his EMT-I studies, he decided he wanted to do 9-1-1. Larry says, “One of my instructors keep saying you would do well with the red shirts. I’m like red shirts, what you mean red shirts? He came to find out that red shirts were Cypress Creek Medics. He actually ended up doing some of his clinicals at CCEMS, as well as the Montgomery County Hospital District and the Harris County Emergency Corps. When he got his EMT-I certification he applied at all three.
In February of 2010, he went home for Mardi Gras to visit his parents and that’s when he got a call from CCEMS H.R. Manager Jim Van Hooser. Larry was ready to drive straight back for an interview, but he says that Mr. Van Hooser told him to stay and spend time with his family. They set up an interview for later in the week.
Larry believes working at Cypress Creek EMS was just meant to be and he has no plans to go anywhere else. In fact, he talks so glowingly about CCEMS, he’d be a really good recruiter.
Here’s what he says about Cypress Creek…“Man, I ‘m going to be honest with you and this is no sales pitch, I love it. I love it here. I’ve got a great partner (Paul Adams). This is a great company for me to work for. I don’t plan on going anywhere. They’ll have to tell me to leave before I’ll go. I just like helping people. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. “
Larry remembers when he was about nine years old his dad told him if he wanted to succeed in life he needed to treat people the way he wanted to be treated. That advice stuck with him and is part of what drives him today.
Larry says, “When I was doing the firefighting I was helping but when it came to the EMS, I was coming face to face with the person that needs me the most at the time. It’s more personal. You know, I hate to see people go through things, but I love being able to help calm them down. I can talk to them and show them my compassion and feel their pain. I treat all my patients the same. Like I said, I just love helping people.”
Larry started working at CCEMS in March 2010. He’s worked at Stations 54, 501, 57, 56 and now 512. He’s been partners with Paul Adams for 2 years. He still works an extra job at Memorial Hermann in telemetry which involves watching multiple heart monitors and alerting the nurses at the first sign of trouble. Larry says it has helped him in his EMT job because “I see some rhythms that I don’t see too much in the field.”
Larry’s wife Scharlotta continued her studies and is a Nurse Practitioner at a Hospice. She is now working on her doctorate. In 2007, they bought a brand new house and their daughter, Journee, is a student at Hildebrandt Intermediate School in the Klein School District. They visit family in New Orleans as often as possible, but Spring is now their home. As it turns out, Hurricane Katrina brought the Spencer family and Cypress Creek EMS some good fortune.