Douglas “D.J.” Sanders was named the 2022 Star of Life for LifeNet, Inc. in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Born and raised in Hot Springs, D.J. graduated from Lakeside High School in 2002.
“I was a senior in high school on September 11, 2021. I was inspired seeing people helping people during that time,” he said.
At the age of 17, a cadet program at the Garland County Sheriff’s Office kicked off his career path to becoming a first responder.
“Through the program, I spent time observing in the juvenile jail, the adult jail, and the radio room. I also got to do ride-alongs with a deputy. When I got into the radio room, I fell in love with it. There was technology, and the 9-1-1 system was exciting to be able to operate,” D.J. recalled. “A dispatcher is the first first-responder ‘on scene’. I did one ride along with a deputy and the rest of the time was in the radio room.”
In 2002, D.J. accepted a paid dispatch position working in Hot Spring County, Arkansas. Three years later he accepted a position dispatching for the Hot Springs Police Department. In 2009, he started dispatching part-time for the Garland County Sheriff’s Office, and in 2012, he took a part-time position as an Emergency Medical Dispatcher with LifeNet, Inc.
“I was working as a law enforcement dispatcher and was looking for ways to advance my career. I had decided against being a police officer, so I looked for an alternative form of emergency services. I had become phone friends with the dispatchers at LifeNet. When there was a part-time dispatch position, I took it. EMS became my new career. Being able to provide medical assistance to someone in need is an amazing feeling,” he explained.
One of the requirements for working in dispatch at LifeNet for D.J. was going to EMT school.
“I had spent 12-years working behind a desk. After I obtained my EMT and started working part-time on the ambulances, I realized my desk now had a windshield. That was a good feeling. I felt like I had freedom,” he said. “Yes, you have to run calls, but you’re driving around and moving and getting to meet new people. No day is the same. The look of relief on someone’s face when they see that help has arrived is priceless to me. That’s what keeps me doing this job.”
A drive to grow within the EMS industry inspired D.J. to go to paramedic school.
“I had thought about going into a management role in the future, so I went to paramedic school to enhance my knowledge base and be able to move up the ladder in management,” he said.
In 2020, D.J. was promoted to an Operations Manager (OM) role at LifeNet.
“This is going to sound so cliché. I love my job. My job is my life. I put the ‘life’ in LifeNet,” he said. “I enjoy being able to serve others. I do not really have hobbies because my job is my hobby. My co-workers are my friends. If I can be here supporting our crews, I want to be here.”
That attitude is exactly why D.J. was nominated by his peers to be the 2022 Star of Life.
“D.J. goes above and beyond to help his co-workers. He works on a truck regularly while taking care of his OM duties. He is kind and caring to patients, going above and beyond standard patient care. He doesn’t dismiss the concerns of the crew but seeks a solution even when he is tired or busy. He is the epitome of what a LifeNet paramedic and supervisor should be,” one person wrote about him.
“He is the epitome of what we strive to represent. He is kind, caring, and always goes above and beyond for his crews and coworkers. He honestly cares for our wellbeing. He is always a phone call away. He is the person we should all strive to be more like. Need help? He’s there. Need a shift covered? He’s there. Having a bad day and need someone to talk to? He’s there. Need dinner because you have been busy all day and haven’t even been able to grab a bite to eat? He’s there,” another person wrote.
“We lost one of our own in September. It’s a call no crew member or supervisor should ever have to make. I had to call DJ from the scene to break the news to him. He showed up shortly after I called, and he immediately began taking care of others. He made the calls that needed to be made. He made sure we had the resources we needed. He then went to help notify the family, all the while checking on his crews to make sure we were ok, too. He shouldered everything with a smile on his face and love in his heart. You see to DJ we are family, and family takes care of family. I admire the man he is and think we should all become more like him,” another wrote.
When you can get D.J. to take time off, he enjoys spending time with his family and his dogs. He is always up for a good road trip and seeing new places, as well.