Paramedic/firefighter Marybeth Rood is a veteran of almost 30 years with Rural Metro. Her partner and driver at Station 25 in Mascot is Kevin Cate, in just his fifth year as a firefighter/EMT. Theirs is a young partnership, but one she calls a “fun partnership.”
She’s 53. He’s 27. Both have hearts full of love for the profession, dedication to emergency services and to those they rescue and help. And in Rood’s case that means animals as well.
In late September 2020 they were in the midst of a 24-hour shift and in training away from the station. A call came in from a factory in the Eastbridge Industrial Park in Mascot, five minutes from the station. “We jumped in the engine and got there in 13 minutes from where we were training,” Cate said.
A 52-year-old man was in full cardiac arrest. The factory’s emergency response team was working on him when Rood and Cate arrived. “They used an AED on him five times. We started oxygen and Kevin intubated him into his lungs and we put a heart monitor to show us his heart rhythm and did CPR. We shocked him 12 more times. After 30 minutes the ambulance took him to Fort Sanders Regional.”
The man lived for two weeks, Rood said, but died of a massive stroke. This time, she knew how it turned out. Most times they never know if their patients live or die. “That’s a very frustrating part of this job.”
Cate began his career as a 5-year-old. His now medically retired father, Eddie, was a Rural Metro firefighter/paramedic and assistant chief of technical rescue for the Knox County Rescue squad. “When he’d leave the house on calls, I’d hide in the back seat and go with him and watch,” Cate said. “That started when I was 5.” He graduated from Carter High School in 2010, and the subdivision he grew up in is next door to Station 25. “I absolutely knew this was my career,” he said.
This young man and wife Caitlin have three little ones (ages 2 to 4) and a fourth due in December. They live in the Carter community. And then there is this: “I hear all the calls at home and even when I’m off duty I answer the calls to help out,” he says.
Rood jumped in and said, “To me that’s a hero.
“He’s just a puppy,” she says of Cate. “He’s a wonderful firefighter and has your back every single time we go out. He’s also my driver and anyone who can drive me in this huge engine and not terrify me is a big plus. He’s good, really good behind that wheel.”
Rood began with Rural Metro in dispatch. After five years there she spent 10 years in ambulances, when she earned her paramedic certification. Then she decided to attend Fire Academy. One firefighter laughed at her: “You don’t have what it takes to make it.” She made it, all 5 feet, 1 inch of her.
Rood is a familiar name around Rural Metro. Her husband, Jeremy, is a battalion chief working out of Station 36 on Emory Road. They met working in dispatch. “I hated his guts at first. Most arrogant man I’d ever met. He walked into dispatch and propped his feet up on my desk eating fries. Then I fell in love with him,” she said.
Rood also is well known in the animal rescue and rehabilitation world of East Tennessee. She founded Mountain Tails Wildlife Rehab and rehabs rabies-carrying animals at her House Mountain home. She currently has three infant raccoons, nine foxes, three beavers and 20 raccoons. She has a massive 450-gallon water tank for the beavers. She had 97 skunks but they have been released.
In their line of work memories can be gruesome and painful.
Here is a Marybeth memory that shows another side to an emergency services professional.
“We had a lady who lived in our area and we got a lot of calls to her home. She fell a lot with her balance and breathing issues. We got to know her and love her and she knew our names. She could not stay balanced even to wash her dishes and cook, so when we were there, I’d wash her dishes and we’d fix her something to eat. She was so sweet. We’d be riding by her house and just stop in to check on her. She stuck with me. When she passed away, we all cried like babies.”
Tom King has served at newspapers in Georgia, Tennessee, Texas and California and was 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.