At the regular monthly meeting of the Cypress Creek EMS Board of Directors on July 31, 2019, Board President Greg Marwill presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to long-time volunteer and board member Jim Cravens.
Mr.Cravens’ history with CCEMS began in the mid-70’s when Conoco tranferred the geophysicist from Lafayette, Louisiana to Houston. The Corsicana, Texas native had lived in Houston once before when he attended the University of Houston, where he also played football.
Now, he was returning with his wife, JoAnne, and their 5 children. Jim had served his community in Lafayette as a reserve deputy sheriff. He also wanted to serve here, but how?
JoAnne provided the answer. She’d seen the Cypress Creek EMS station (an old, used trailer) across from the Northwest Medical Center Emergency Room and had signed him up. After all, their house was within half a mile. He’d learned advanced first aid in the Army and he had more medical training at Conoco, because his team frequently worked out in the middle of nowhere. Now, he was joining CCEMS on the ground floor about a year after it was officially founded.
Jim says the medic seed may even have been planted as early as grade school. A girl in his class was prone to seizures. Whenever it happened his teacher called on him (the biggest kid in the class) to carry her to the school nurse’s office. No matter how he became a medic, though, Jim became a volunteer in September of 1975. At that time, the Harris County Emergency Corps was staffing the day shift and volunteers covered overnight. The uniforms were gray..
A year or so after Jim moved his family to Spring, a new job with better pay lured his soon-to-be partner Dave King from his home state of North Carolina to our area. He and his wife, Betty, had four children. He too had been a reserve deputy and was looking for a way to serve. He also thought it would be a good way to make friends in an area where he and his wife had no family and no friends. But, what would that service be?
One day, a trip to Allied Bank in Spring provided the answer. Dave struck up a conversation with a deputy working a second job there. The officer told King about a relatively new ambulance service that was looking for volunteers. King had been a Navy medic during the Korean Conflict and his current job involved selling medical supplies. It sounded like a good match. Dave King was in.
It was now 1977. The partnership with HCEC had ended, but the partnership between Cravens and King was just beginning. CCEMS was now on its own with the day shift staffed, in part, by stay-at-home-moms whose kids were in school. The night shift was covered by the volunteers who had day jobs like Jim and Dave.
The two men first met during EMT training. After they worked a few shifts together they both decided it was a good partnership and worked together as often as possible. Dave King says, “We worked together so much that Jim could stick his hand out and I’d put what he needed in it and it was the same when I put my hand out. We each knew what the other one was thinking and it was just smooth.”
It wasn’t long before their partnership became friendship. They started hanging out together outside of work. They went hunting together. Plus, their wives hit it off and became the best of friends. Holidays and birthdays were celebrated together.
Both men became volunteers very close to the beginning of Cypress Creek EMS. The organization had been formed in 1975 by citizens concerned about the lack of reliable ambulance service in the growing neighborhoods around FM 1960. The main impetus behind CCEMS was a man in the Cypresswood subdivision who died of a heart attack waiting for an ambulance. After that, some of his neighbors took action which resulted in the formation of CCEMS. (See more on the history of CCEMS here.)
In those days, your emergency choices were an ambulance out of Houston that could take an hour or more to arrive, if at all, or a private ambulance company. At that time the private services were unreliable and provided no medical care. They were for-profit “scoop and run” operations and they did not like the fact that a volunteer, non-profit EMS service was cutting in on their ambulance dance. Dirty tricks were common. Cypress Creek vehicles were sabotaged with sugar in the gas tank. The private services rushed to grab and load patients without regard to whether such action might do harm to a patient. (For instance, one with unknown spinal injuries.)
King and Cravens both love Cypress Creek EMS, partly because they helped get it off to a good start, partly because of the sense of family at “the creek,” and partly because they wanted their own families, friends and neighbors to have the best possible prehospital emergency care in case of an injury or illness.
Later on, while still volunteering as medics, King and Cravens would also be asked to become members of the Board of Directors. King worked his last ambulance shift in February of 2007 and Cravens pulled his last shift in May of 2010. Mr. King Served on the Board right up until his death on July 10, 2017.
Along the way they trained their fair share of young medics who still work for Cypress Creek, who have, in turn, served as mentors for other incoming medics and so on. Medics who were brought along by King and Cravens include Information Technology Director Toivo Sari and Human Resources Director Jim Van Hooser. Mr. Cravens also served as board president several times, leading Cypress Creek through a period of incredible growth.