Colorado paramedic dies of COVID-19 after volunteering on New York's front lines
Paul Cary, 66, was 'one of the first people to volunteer to do this,’ says his colleague
When the call came for paramedics to volunteer on the front lines of New York's coronavirus crisis, Paul Cary didn't hesitate.
The 66-year-old drove 27 hours from Colorado Springs, Colo., to New York City on March 28 to offer his services in one of the country's hardest hit areas.
He reported for duty on April 1. A month later, on April 30, he died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
"Paul saw the need and he was one of the first people to volunteer to do this," Royce Davis, Cary's colleague and fellow volunteer paramedic, told As It Happens host Carol Off.
"He saw the need and he's going to do it. That's it. That's embedded in him. That's how he is."
New York City had 171,723 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and 19,107 confirmed and probable deaths, according to the city's health department.
The state of New York is the epicentre of the pandemic in the U.S., with more than a third of the country's nearly 70,000 confirmed deaths.
Arrived by ambulance fleet, left in ambulance procession
Cary arrived in New York as part of a fleet of private ambulances responding to the COVID-19 crisis. He left in a procession of ambulances and fire trucks honouring his memory.
Davis was there for both.
He drove up to New York at the same time as Cary. The two got to know each other in New York, as they shared meals and conversations.
Davis was a pallbearer this weekend at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where Cary's coffin, draped with an American flag, was loaded onto a plane headed for Denver.
"It was surreal. It was just really beautiful," Davis said.
Cary was a father of two and a grandfather of four.
He spent more than three decades as a firefighter and paramedic in Aurora, Colo., before retiring and joining the private ambulance company Ambulnz.
"Paul made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and will forever be remembered as extremely dependable and completely devoted to his work," Ambulnz said in a statement.
The Aurora Firefighters Protective Association said that Cary had a passion for emergency medical services and was instrumental in helping shape their department's service into a world-class system.
"It was not surprising to hear that Paul had volunteered and was helping those in need up to the very end," the association said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also praised Cary for his sacrifice during his daily coronavirus update on Friday, vowing that the city would never forget him.
"There's something particularly painful when someone does the right thing, a fellow American comes from across the country to try and help the people of New York City and while working to save lives here gives his own life. It's very painful. It's heroic," the mayor said.
Cary's family has asked for privacy, but issued a statement saying they are devastated by the loss.
"Our family grieves his loss, and knows that all his friends and family will miss him greatly," the statement reads.
"He risked his own health and safety to protect others and left this world a better place. We are at peace knowing that Paul did what he loved and what he believed in, right up until the very end."
Davis says Cary worked tirelessly on the front lines until he became sick himself.
He spent three weeks in New York racing coronavirus patients from hospital to hospital depending on where there were beds available.
He spent his final days on a ventilator in one of those hospitals, Montefiore Medical Center, where he died on Thursday.
"Paul, like I've said, was a very humble man, so he didn't do anything to stand out. He just came to work," Davis said.
"I'm going to remember how Paul was and his dedication to service and how humble he was, and I'm going to try to live the rest of my life in that same way."
Written by Sheena Goodyear with files from The Associated Press. Interview with Royce Davis produced by Katie Geleff.