RGH paramedic receives top honors from colleagues

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

Unexpectedly thrown into a dangerous situation, Shawn Varnell reacted quickly without thought to his own safety.
His actions earned him statewide honors at a recent professional gathering.

An emergency room paramedic at Roosevelt General Hospital, Varnell was busy taking care of patients when the flashing lights of police units caught his attention the night of Feb. 21. Upon opening the door to enter the patient waiting room to call his next patient, he encountered an individual that had pulled up to the ER in his vehicle and came running through the waiting room. It was at this moment, that Varnell tackled the individual and kept him from entering the ER, according to a statement that was written by Matthew Foster, an emergency room physician at RGH.

“I really didn’t think about it, I just reacted,” Varnell said. “I was thinking I’ve got to stop him and stop him now.”
Varnell did stop him and police officers showed up quickly to arrest the man.

“I thought it was truly a courageous and heroic thing he did without regards to his own safety,” Foster said.

Earlier reports had indicated that this particular individual could possibly be armed and dangerous. Police believe individual was attempting to enter the ER to gain access to a patient whom the individual had allegedly kidnapped and assaulted earlier in the day, Foster said.

“This guy could have really wreaked a lot of havoc,” Foster said. “If the guy had started shooting, it could have been really bad.”

Unbeknownst to him, Varnell was nominated for the Region III EMS Provider of the Year by Foster for his actions during the incident.

The award was presented to him at the convention that was held on April 28, at the Ruidoso Convention Center. Varnell received the award in front of a crowd of over 1,000 people from the medical community, they said.

“I was actually kinda speechless. It was totally unexpected,” Varnell said.

Working as a paramedic for the past eight years, Varnell has seen his share of things, some good and some bad, he said.

“When the emergencies roll in, you can really see some interesting things,” Varnell said.