Our Kind of People

How two of the Coast’s best lifesavers wound up in the same ambulance

Two of the best in Acadian’s lifesaving business once were partners in an ambulance on the streets of Jackson County. And they could be riding together again.

But first, Tyler Niblett, the Louisiana/Mississippi EMT of the Year, has to finish the company’s paramedic training program. That’s a path Coty Peardon, his former partner and the Louisiana/Mississippi Paramedic of the Year, already has been down.

And it’s a path that for both has been more than an little circuitous.

Niblett began in Delaware; Peardon in north Georgia.

Peardon jokes that he was tricked.

“I sort of got tricked into it. I started out, I was going to business school and I was going to work at one of the banks in my hometown,” he said. “A girl I was dating in high school, her parents were paramedics. Well, they invited me to go on a camping trip with all the kids from the local ambulance company, and it turned out it was actually a scouting group that was EMS based.”

He went on a few ride-alongs with the Explorers, the group that helps introduce young people to police, fire and emergency medical services careers.

He was in line to sign up for business courses in college when he changed his mind, he said, and signed up for emergency medical services training instead.

“I liked helping people on a regular basis,” he said. “And I was pretty good at it.”

He had just finished high school when he saved his first life.

“A lady came running up on my porch screaming, ‘My house is on fire,’” he said. “I was the only one home so I ran to the door. I was able to get in there and managed to get the fire out.”

He was badly burned in the process but after he got out of the hospital, he said, he met the person whose life he saved.

“Those are the best ones — whenever you truly make a difference and you get to talk to the person later and get to find out what kind of person they are and what kind of life they lead,” he said. “Then it’s almost like you can look and say this is the life that I have saved, the time where I made the difference. It’s almost like looking at one of your children.”

After working awhile in north Georgia, he came to Hurley with his wife, Amber, who grew up there. They have three children.

Niblett was a teenager when his father was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“Within nine weeks, he lost his battle,” he said. “During that nine weeks, I got to deal with everyone from doctors to nurses to paramedics and EMTs.”

One day, his father had a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in one of the arteries in his lung.

“He collapsed in the shower,” Niblett said. “My dad was a pretty big guy and I sure as heck wasn’t going to be able to get him out of the shower, so I called 911. When they showed up, the relief I had, I wanted to be able to give that back to someone else.”

He moved to Mobile from Milford, Delaware, to live with his mother.

“My junior year of high school I joined the Mobile Fire and Rescue Explorers and started doing ride-outs with the fire department there,” he said. “They have ambulances and I got to experience that, fell in love with it and said this is what I’m doing right here.”

They want Explorers here

They both, it should be noted, remain big boosters of the Explorer program. They want to see an Acadian Explorer Program in South Mississippi. As they’re making the rounds of schools trying to get teens interested, they also spread the gospel of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

CPR already is saving lives on the Coast. Acadian earned the American Heart Association’s Mission: Lifeline Gold Award.

They said the AHA president said he didn’t want to have a heart attack but if he had one, he hoped it was on the Coast because of the excellent ambulance services there. Peardon and Niblett say it can be even better.

“The goal is to get around to all the schools to teach CPR,” Peardon said. “We want to get a schedule down to teach every single student basic first aid and CPR. Maybe eventually one day, no matter where you go down in this area, there will be someone who has known or does know CPR.

“They’ll be able to do something to help until we get there.”

Law enforcement and fire department personnel can begin assessment and treatment if they arrive first. When the ambulance team arrives, it is in contact with the hospital and can begin exchanging information. By the time they reach the hospital, a heart team is ready for the patient.

“Ten years ago, the odds of saving someone when their heart stops, of getting to restart, if they were not in the hospital it was less than 1 percent. In hospital it was maybe 10 percent,” Peardon said. “We have in our area alone, a 22-percent save rate.

“In 10 years, we’ve gone from less than 1 percent to 22 percent.”

Why us, they wonder

Even after all they have done, they were surprised they were honored. When asked what made them stand out, they laughed.

“We’ve been asking that question,” said Peardon.

We’re not quite sure,” said Niblett.

The first step was a nomination from the other paramedics and EMTs in Jackson County. Then they all voted on the nominees. Peardon and Niblett won. Then they were interviewed by the president of the company, the vice presidents and other field personnel.

“They ask protocol questions, policy questions, anything we should know to do our job,” Niblett said. “Then they ask more personal questions. What would we change? What got us into this?”

In the end, for the first time in the company’s history, the EMT and Paramedic of the Year came from the same truck, that’s ambulance in their parlance. It’s the night shift truck in Pascagoula, where they receive about six to eight calls a shift.

“There is probably one car wreck a shift,” Peardon said. “The rest are pretty much going out to people’s houses for chest pains, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, things like that.”

Niblett says his job looked so good, his mother, Kristen Lyndall, made a midlife career change and joined Acadian. Now she and Niblett ride together — to Acadian’s National EMS Academy in Covington, La.

When he’s not going back and forth to paramedic school, Niblett is on what he jokes is the “retirement truck,” a day shift job in a sparsely populated area. If all goes as planned, he’ll graduate in July.

After they became tops in the company, Acadian nominated them for the Stars of Life, which they received in Washington, where they also lobbied for the ambulance business and met with House members and senators.

What the future holds

So one day, could the best in the business be reunited?

“I don’t know, we’ll see what happens when I get my gold patch,” Niblett said.

“Get him out of paramedic school,” Peardon said.

And there’s one other possible sticking point.

“I don’t know if I want to move back to nights,” Niblett said. “I like getting home in the evening, eating dinner with my girlfriend. But I’d love to work with Coty again, I have a lot of respect for him.”

For now, they’ll hang out on their days off, ribbing one another like brothers.

“He’s like a brother to me,” Niblett said. “His wife is like family. We like her more than I like him.”

“That’s all right, we like Shelby more then we like him,” Peardon said. “We say if they break up, we’re keeping Shelby.”

About the series

Our Kind of People is a feature in the Sun Herald and at SunHerald.com that spotlights South Mississippi people whose life or work is an inspiration to others.