You talk with Dan Anderson. You talk with people who know Dan Anderson. You talk with people who work with Dan Anderson. And you think to yourself: “How can anyone not like Dan Anderson?”
Anderson, 58, is the youngest of seven children reared by mother Edna and father James in the Oak Grove community of Knoxville. Today, he lives next door to his 87-year-old mother in the same community and maybe 100 yards from his boyhood home.
His life is all about non-emergency and emergency services, 26 years as a master firefighter/advanced EMT at the Knoxville Fire Department’s (KFD) Station 16 in Holston Hills and seven years at Lifeguard Ambulance Service. Both are full-time jobs and he works on his off days at one or the other. “I sleep more at the stations than I do at home,” he says.
Since 2006, Lifeguard has provided non-emergency transportation and care for convalescent home-bound patients, nursing home patients, veterans, those going to chemo/radiation treatments, VA appointments, hospice care, those needing to get to and from dialysis treatments, to rehabilitation appointments, out-patient procedures, to doctor’s and dentist’s offices and to hospitals.
Lifeguard also transports Alzheimer’s patients and is a big supporter of Alzheimer’s Tennessee. In 2019, Anderson was honored with the Caring Hearts Award from Alzheimer’s Tennessee.
“Dan is just an all-around great guy to work with for those we transport,” said Kristin Davis, Lifeguard’s operations manager at its headquarters on Dutch Valley Road. “He makes sure it’s done right and he really connects with our patients on a personal level as well.”
Lifeguard is part of parent company AMR, which also owns Rural Metro Fire here. Davis says their 12 fully-equipped ambulances serve Knox County and all of the surrounding counties as well and back up AMR’s 911 emergency calls when needed.
Dan does stay busy away from his two jobs. He and his wife of 30 years, Kalisha, have six children, including two sets of twins, and five granddaughters, and two of those are twins. Their twin 14-year-old sons attend Holston Middle School. Twins run in his family. But so does heart disease. His father died of a heart attack at 42. Congestive heart failure took two brothers – Wendell when he was 46 and James at 56. Four years ago, Dan got a pacemaker and does cardio exercise daily.
Anderson and the family grew up in the Oak Grove AME Zion Church on Washington Pike and it’s a major part of his life today. He has been president of the church board of trustees for the past 10 years.
His job at Lifeguard is very different from his KFD job. “What I like and love about working here is that we get to know our patients as friends. They become family.
“I’ll take the same person to and from their dialysis appointments three times a week and ride with them in the back of the ambulance and get them settled where they live. We connect and I take pride in that.”
He added: “When we get them home or back to the nursing home or assisted living, I want them to feel better and to have enjoyed being with us. We celebrate their birthdays and other days with them. Many don’t have any family and we become that family. What’s really nice is when we get cards from them.”
One part of the job he really enjoys is shuttling our veterans. “We have a lot of veterans and it’s so neat and fun to hear their stories and learn what all they went through in the military,” he said. “I really enjoy spending time with them. It’s an education.”
Davis, Anderson’s direct supervisor, shares more thoughts about him: “Dan is an awesome employee. … We have several patients and family members who request him to come back for future transports. He also will do whatever he feels led to do to care for his co-workers. I have seen him give money, clothes and furniture to his co-workers who are struggling. Dan is a faithful man and demonstrates his relationship with the Lord in his daily walk.”
To learn more about Lifeguard, click here.
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and has been the editor of two newspapers. He writes this Monday column – Our Town Heroes –for KnoxTNToday.com. Suggest future stories at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 865-659-3562.