Tag Archives: public transit bus driver

Omnitrans bus driver brings calm to chaos

Omnitrans coach operatorCoach Operator Jeremy Aragon was headed downtown on Route 14. When he brought the bus to a stop, he noticed a woman preparing to disembark. Without warning, she appeared to go into a seizure, falling and hitting her head on the rear step.

Passengers rushed forward to try to move her, but Jeremy intervened, warning them that they could potentially injure her. After checking to make sure she was still breathing, he contacted dispatch and requested immediate medical assistance. Jeremy stayed with the woman, telling her that she appeared to have had a seizure and that help was on the way.

“I knew the most important thing I could do at that moment was to monitor her condition so that I could keep the emergency medics updated,” Jeremy said. “I had trained as an EMT so I knew what information they needed. I also cleared the other passengers from the coach so they would have room to do their work without interference.”

The woman seized twice more before the emergency crew arrived, just minutes later. Thanks to Jeremy’s quick action and ongoing updates, the EMTs were well prepared for the situation. The woman explained that she was epileptic and had not taken her medicine for three weeks because she was waiting for a doctor’s prescription. Hooking her up to an IV, the team was able to stabilize her and safely move her from the coach to the ambulance.

Later Jeremy received recognition from Omnitrans for his calm handling of the crisis. But what no one realized was how close to home the situation had been for the young driver.

Omnitrans bus driver

“I kind of knew what to expect,” he admitted. “My mom was epileptic also. It was actually the weirdest thing. As a child, she was hit in the head with an anchor that was hoisted up by a cherry pick. And it caused her to have horrible, full blown grand mal seizures all her life. I’ve been taking care of her since I was three years old. So I’m a bit used to seizures and how to calm them.

“The best thing that you can do is turn them on their side and just rub them. Sometimes they can be disoriented, or even a little bit violent, coming out of it without realizing it. They’ve lost consciousness and don’t remember exactly what happened. Sometimes they have indications, like they’ll start getting hot flashes.

“My mom would stand up, because she could feel them coming on, which is the worst thing you can do. But that was just my mama. She’d say she was hot, and you could see it in her eyes. I’d go, ‘Mom, sit’ –but then she would just go into it. I would try to guide her, even at 3 or 4 years old, putting my arms up to break her fall. There were times when nobody was around, and she would go into a seizure. I would go downstairs to call the paramedics, and they would come out. Then I would do all the wrong things, like answer questions for my mama because I was protecting her.

Jeremy shrugs and smiles. “But you know, it raised me into a responsible young man. I wouldn’t change a thing. My mom is very special to me, and I would do it all over again for her. She tries to do so much for me, even now. When we go over to visit her on Sunday, she’ll have cooked like a 12 course dinner for us. My wife loves her too and goes over to help her out. My mom hasn’t had a seizure now in almost five years, and she’s been totally off the medication for three. The doctors say that she’s basically cured. It’s pretty amazing. God works miracles, I guess.”

Coach operator brings calm to chaos

Jeremy came to Omnitrans two years ago, on the recommendation of a friend at Riverside Transit Authority.

“I’m blessed in a lot of ways. Omnitrans has been everything I hoped for and then some. And my background has actually helped me quite a bit with my customer service and leadership skills. As an EMT, you learn how to bring order to chaos. Before, I had been doing caregiving for elderly patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Going from that to someone who knows what they’re saying and doing gives you a very different perspective on life and people–how we all connect with and treat each other. You learn how to go into any situation and bring calmness to it as soon as possible. The more calm the situation, the better the outcome for the person you’re dealing with, as well as everyone else. Sometimes it just takes gentle talk.”

Jeremy aspires to become an Omnitrans field supervisor, and feels that his ability to assess and diffuse a situation will be an asset. Although he is confident in his ability to handle a crisis, he admits there is one situation he hopes never to have to handle.

“My biggest fear is a baby,” he laughs. “I don’t ever want to have to deliver a baby on a bus. Even just thinking about the equipment I’d need makes me nervous. And there’s no stopping it. I’d almost have to take action. I had one passenger come up to me and say, ‘Hey I’m pregnant and on the way to the hospital.’ I told her, ‘Ma’am, please hold off on the contractions until we get to your destination.’”

Jeremy grins. “She had a pretty good laugh at that, but I was still relieved when she got to the hospital.”

 – Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Omnitrans Coach Operator Lorina Le’Roy

Do company wellness programs really make a difference? It did for Lorina Le’Roy who was honored this month as the Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for her dedication and caring in her role as coach operator and for her contributions in creating a positive workplace environment.

When Lorina had her health numbers checked at the Omnitrans Wellness Fair two years ago, she was surprised to learn that her blood pressure was high and her blood sugar was out of control. The health care representatives from Kaiser suspected diabetes and recommended that she schedule a visit with her doctor as soon as possible. Since she hadn’t had a complete physical in some time, Lorina took their advice and decided to go ahead and set up a full checkup.

During her medical visit, Lorina happened to mention to her doctor that she was suddenly lactating for no apparent reason. The doctor immediately brought in two specialists who explained to her that lactation not associated with pregnancy or childbirth is often a sign of a brain tumor.

A CAT scan showed that Lorina had a benign tumor about the size of an eraser tip in the front crease of her brain. The doctors told her it was very normal and not something she should be afraid of. They did want her to come in every six months, however, to be sure it didn’t get any bigger. If they started to see growth they could give her pills to help shrink it or they could go up her nasal cavity to remove it surgically. They tested her vision and cleared her as safe for driving.

“I go for an MRI every 6 months, and so far everything’s been fine,” says Lorina. “I don’t worry about it anymore. It’s the diabetes that worries me. I found out I had high blood pressure, needed to take cholesterol pills, was diabetic and had a brain tumor all in that one day.”

It was a wake-up call that she needed to start taking care of herself.

“My diabetes was uncontrolled for the longest time. I finally got it under control by eating healthier and walking . A lot of us girls around here just recently started exercising, and there’s about 11 of us who have bet going on.  Whoever loses the most weight gets a spa treatment. Sometimes it’s hard and I’ll call one of the girls and say I’m not doing so good. She’ll say I’m not either—and we talk and laugh. It’s good because I know it’s not just me. We all struggle with our weight–especially bus drivers—because we sit all day long. You sit and snack and most of the time don’t eat healthy. I was telling one of the girls that it’s funny how your lunch bag is too small for healthy food. Yet when you eat crap it’s the perfect size. My lunch bag is always overflowing because I bring an apple, a pear, carrots and a salad.”

“The Omnitrans Wellness Fair really opened my eyes. Thank God I went. Everything was really out of whack, and I never would have known. I was ignoring a lot of symptoms. For years I had been telling my doctor that I was having migraines. We tried all kinds of treatments but nothing worked. At one point he even wanted to give me shots in my skull! No way was I ready for that! It turns out my migraines were actually caused by the tumor.”

In addition to making healthier lifestyle choices, Lorina found she had a renewed sense of purpose.

“When you find out something that horrible about yourself, you want to somehow make things better.  For me, it became about work. At the time, morale was very low. People were coming to work always down, never really feeling alive. My whole thing was to try to uplift everybody. You start thinking what can we do to make the world better? How can we make it happy? How could we make everybody one?”

“It started with cleaning. I’ve always been a cleaner. You know how it always makes you feel better about yourself when you clean your house your car? First I did the windows in dispatch, then the tables in the drivers’ room. Then I went to the kitchen and thought we really need some condiments in here. I starting buying small things for the lunchroom: condiments, napkins, forks spoons and knives. It’s the kind of thing most people really appreciate. Occasionally the supplies run low, and people will ask where this thing or that is. But then it makes me feel good because they say ‘Where’s Lorina? She hasn’t been to work because it’s empty in here.’” Lorina laughs.  “I did it mainly for me. Some people tell me it’s a waste of my money. But it’s not. It’s important to me and makes me feel good.”

“It’s why I like doing the decorations. It’s a way for us to mark the holidays. Years used go by and nobody could remember what we did last Christmas. We all work, work, work , work and then we lose track of things. Especially last year around this time, when a lot of drivers were working seven days a week. Some of them just work, go home and go to sleep. They’re not going to the store or out shopping and it’s easy for them to forget the holidays are coming up. So this is a way to just boost up everybody and get them involved. It does make a difference. The Christmas tree decorating contest we recently did was so much fun for everyone, that they’re already talking about what they want to do next year! It’s really created a sense of community.”

“It is so exciting to get Employee of the Quarter. What really blew me away was that a lot of drivers really wanted me to have that award–it me feel really loved and supported. I’ve also gotten to know a lot of people from all the different departments by doing the potlucks and decorations, and I really enjoy that.  We never really interacted a lot before, and now we do. We’re all Omnitrans, and we do this job to help serve our community. It’s a good feeling.”

Omnitrans CEO Scott Graham (left) and Board Chair Alan Wapner (right) present Lorina with the Employee of the Quarter Award

Having worked for Omnitrans for more than 16 and ½ years, Lorina believes there are good opportunities here for people who might be having a difficult time finding work or who don’t want a traditional desk job.

“I would recommend being a coach operator to anyone. It’s actually a great professional career for someone who might not have a lot of education but who needs a good paying job.  If you enjoy driving and have great people skills, this is the job to come to. If you can drive a car, you can drive a bus, you really can. “

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Coach Operator lends a hand to stranded riders

One night after his last run, Omnitrans coach operator Earl Roberts was doing a final bus check before going off shift when a supervisor asked if he would mind transporting a young woman with a small toddler who had missed the last Route 14.  Without hesitation, Earl agreed.

“Being a father and grandfather, you think about your own family being in that situation. You can’t leave children stranded like that. And while I was driving the young lady to her stop, we came across other people who had also missed the last bus. So I pulled over and picked them up too. I ended up doing the entire round trip that night. People were grateful for the help, and I didn’t mind,” Earl smiled. “But I did remind them to check the bus book and get familiar with the schedules because this was definitely an exception. We can’t normally do a special run like that.”

A coach operator with more than 30 years of experience, Earl describes his life as simple and happy. “I’m not an exciting person. I don’t scuba dive or skydive or climb mountains or anything like that. I like to read, garden, go for a drive along the coast with my wife, or just spend time with my family.  I like working for Omnitrans and take pride in my career. Being a coach operator combines two of the things I enjoy most—driving and working with people. My father taught me his work ethic, and it’s something I’ve always tried to follow. He said son, you work hard, take care of your family, go to church and live by the Golden Rule.”

“Basically I try to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. It’s a learning experience both ways. If you’re good to people they will generally be good to you. A lot of times passengers ask me: ‘You having a good day, coach operator?’ I always smile and say yes. I decided a long time ago that there is no such thing as a bad day. I always have good days. Realistically, let’s face it, sometimes bad things can happen on good days. But every moment is what you make it. It’s your attitude, your outlook on life–that’s what makes the day.”

Earl was honored this month with an Omnitrans Going The Extra Mile (G.E.M.) Award  for his exceptional service to our riders.  He regularly drives Routes 3, 14 and 20, where he makes it his mission to get a smile from his passengers. If you see him, be sure to give a wave or say hello. And if you ask him what kind of a day he’s having, he’ll always break out into a grin and tell you it’s a good one.

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Email Juno Kughler Carlson at  juno.carlson@omnitrans.org