Joella Bobak Brooke Heiple COVID vaccine

Joella Bobak, an Upper Yoder and West Hills Regional firefighter and emergency medical technician, gets her COVID-19 vaccine from Brooke Heiple, a certified nurse practitioner at Richland Family Health Center in College Park Plaza on Thursday.

After surviving a cardiac arrest, Joella Bobak doesn’t want to take a chance with catching COVID-19.

The emergency medical technician and firefighter was among the region’s first emergency responders to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Thursday.

“It was an incredibly good motivator,” Bobak, 52, said after receiving the injection Thursday at Richland Family Health Center in College Park Plaza.

“We all know people now who have been affected by COVID-19 and who have lost family members,” Bobak said. “This is something we can do to change things. Let’s do it right now.”

She and her husband, Peter Bobak, are active in both Upper Yoder Volunteer Fire Company and West Hills Regional Fire Department. Peter Bobak also got his first dose of the Moderna vaccine on Thursday at the Richland clinic.

Peter Bobak, 62, said there are many unknowns when responding to an emergency and helping any victims.

“With what we do, we have to be safe if we are going to be treating other people,” he said. “The ones you know have (the virus) are one thing. The ones that you don’t know, you don’t know.”

Joella Bobak said she was contacted by another firefighter who said the Richland Family Health Center was looking for first responders who wanted to get the vaccine. She didn’t hesitate to sign up and hopes she can encourage others in the fire service family to lead the community effort.

She credits that family with saving her life when she went into cardiac arrest seven years ago.

“I owe those people everything,” she said. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.

“If this is one way I can repay them, by God, I’m going to do it.”

Brooke Heiple, the nurse practitioner who gave the couple their injections, said she was thrilled her facility was able to begin protecting the first responders. As a former emergency department nurse, she appreciated their contributions. 

“They are really the unsung heroes sometimes,” she said.  

Randy Griffith is a multimedia reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at 532-5057. Follow him on Twitter @PhotoGriffer57.

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