Sam Roach: Many talents, many jobs

Tom KingOur Town Heroes, West Knox County

Sam Roach is a full-time critical care paramedic and firefighter at Rural Metro Fire. The same Sam Roach is a full-time RN and paramedic in the emergency room at Parkwest Medical Center. And this same Sam is an adjunct professor at Roane State Community College. And if that’s not enough, he’s also respected as a superb trainer for his fellow Rural Metro first responders.

And he’s only 29 … and just getting started.

He’s the son of a Kentucky coal miner, Jerry, who passed away in 2018 on Thanksgiving Day at the age of 80. “He was my hero. I adored my dad. We knew he loved us all and was proud of what I’m doing with my life.”

Emergencies are his life five to six days a week, every week. That covers his work on his 24-hour shifts at Rural Metro and the 12-hour shifts at Parkwest. He wedges his teaching gigs in there somewhere, along with sleep and the rest of his life.

“Time is the one luxury I don’t have in my life,” he says matter-of- factly. “Yep, I’m driven to help people and my community. It’s what we all do. It’s who we are. It’s me.”

His life and work scream in capital letters – STRESS. He discusses it head-on. “I think inherently there is a stress component that is very prevalent within both jobs at Rural Metro and Parkwest. I do get stressed sometimes, but I also try my hardest to make sure to notice the signs and do what I can on days off to decompress. It’s something I have to be ever vigilant of because I cannot let it ever get in the way of my goal, which is helping people.”

During high school he says he made a decision to enter the world of emergency services. He graduated from Anderson County High in 2012, and in 2013 he began work in what was then Rural Metro’s EMS Ambulances (today it’s AMR) and worked there for five years. “I had thought about teaching biology or history in college, but in high school something just told me to be a firefighter and do the work I do now.”

Reared in the New River community in Anderson County, he spent many a day hanging around the Medford Volunteer Fire Department in Lake City.

“My grandmother and mother lived in Lake City and I used to go to what was then known as Kesterson’s Market. They had a community corkboard and I saw a notice about an Explorer post at the Medford fire department. That’s where this life I have today started.”

He says he talked with the firefighters, learned a lot about the jobs (like washing fire engines, among others) and a lot about the firefighting business.

His first earned his EMT license at Roane State in 2012 and then his certifications as a paramedic in 2014. In 2020 he earned his critical care paramedic certification. His fire training was in the Karns Volunteer Fire Department Fire Academy in 2017. Keep in mind, he was working fulltime on the ambulances during this time.

 In 2018 he moved to Rural Metro Fire and recently was working at Station 27 on Strawberry Plains Pike. But this past Saturday (01/28/23) he began a new assignment at Station 17 on Northshore Drive in the Rocky Hill area.

He’s all about learning and in December 2022 he graduated from Pellissippi State Community College as a Registered Nurse. “Rural Metro was incredibly supportive of me getting my RN license,” he said. “It will help me in my work here and at Parkwest.”

As a Rural Metro trainer, he teaches classes on pre-hospital trauma life support, emergency pediatric care and advanced medical life support. At Roane State he teaches EMT-basic and EMT-advanced. Now that he has his RN license, he’s already planning to fill those hours – he has applied to nursing schools at the University of Tennessee, the University of Kentucky and Tennessee Wesleyan to earn his bachelor’s degree in nursing. He hopes to begin classes next fall.

Considering his busy life, how does he remain organized and always in the right place at the right time? “I have a calendar book that is my bible and it goes with me everywhere I go. I have an organizational system that works for me but explaining it to someone is not easy. I will add that there’s never a dull moment in my life.”

Roach loves to talk about his three families. Rural Metro is one, he says, noting that when he and his husband, Marcus Navarro, were married in the Missionary Baptist Church in Cades Cove on Dec. 9, 2019, half of the church’s pews were filled by his fellow pros and friends at Rural Metro. He also considers his ER co-workers and others at Parkwest his second family and of course Navarro and his birth family.

“My work drives me …. the people and the community I am dedicated to helping drive me, along with my Rural Metro family and my Parkwest family and Marcus. I am a very lucky man,” he says. “I love everything about my work and my life.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia

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