Jud’s joy: Eagle County paramedic heading to Italy to help coronavirus relief efforts
'Working in a disaster area, it’s an area of comfort for me'
Jud Miller has been with Eagle County Paramedic Services since November, but he has been a medic for 18 years and has been working in emergency medical services for 21 years.
On Saturday, Miller, 41, is leaving his wife and two young sons to head to an emergency field hospital in Italy for one month with Samaritan’s Purse, a humanitarian aid organization responding to the coronavirus in Italy.
“Working in a disaster area, it’s an area of comfort for me because I’ve done it a number of times,” Miller said while taking a break from packing on Wednesday. “When I think of a disaster area or where people are suffering, dying or hurting, it’s just the way God built me that I want to go in because it doesn’t stress me out and it doesn’t get me worked up. When I see people that are desperate in their darkest hour, I just want to do something to bring light to them.”
In 1999, Miller stumbled upon his first disaster relief trip in Nepal. There was a mix-up in communication where organizers were under the impression Miller was an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor), but we he was still able to go despite letting them know he was an EMT (emergency medical technician).
“So I got to go for several weeks and hike around Nepal to set up clinics in villages,” he said. “That got the bug in me.”
Miller has been happily married to his wife, Tara, for 14 years. They met at a church in Leadville, where Tara grew up and Jud attended Colorado Mountain College. She would soon move to Denver to attend Colorado Christian University.
“He just kind of followed me to Denver,” Tara said.
The Millers now live in Central City, a decent commute for Jud into Eagle County.
When Tara first heard of her husband’s desire to go to Italy for one month, she admitted she didn’t like the idea. However, with faith in God, she opened up to the idea.
“I’m really proud,” she said. “This is Jud’s joy to go serve, and it’s time for me to just pull back and let him go and do his job.”
With a solid support system locally, Tara is OK with her husband being gone from the family.
“I said what are you looking forward to most?” she said. “He said, ‘The day I get home.’”
In addition to the family blessing, Miller is tremendously grateful to Eagle County Paramedic Services, and the community, for supporting and allowing his decision.
“I know I’m new, but I’ve been in EMS a long time,” he said. “The citizens of Eagle County are really fortunate to have such a world-class organization.”
Eagle County Paramedic Services has always been at the top of Miller’s list for places to work, so when the rare opportunity opened up, he was grateful to get in the door.
“The only way I could do this is with the support of Eagle County Paramedics,” he said of his upcoming trip to Italy.
When Samaritan’s Purse reached out about a month ago, Miller willingly declined because he knew his expertise was needed locally.
“Because of the diligent pre-planning that the county and paramedic service did to prepare for the worst, we were prepared for the worst, and I think we’re seeing the COVID numbers trending down,” he said. “So as far as staffing goes, the paramedic service is in a good place to have me go.”
And Miller thinks his time overseas will be a benefit to not only those in Italy but the local community as well.
“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a win-win because I’ll come home with a lot of new knowledge and expertise in treating those people,” he said.
In addition to returning home to his family, Miller said he’s looking forward to returning home having done everything he can.
“They’re in a very hopeless place,” he said of residents in Italy. “When this emergency field hospital showed up, faith was restored, and I’m happy to be a part of that.”
In Italy, Miller will be working in a “military-grade” temporary hospital outside of the Cremona hospital in the Lombardy region, helping doctors treat people.
“It’s kind of remarkable,” he said of the opportunity. “I didn’t expect to get the green light, and this wouldn’t be possible without Eagle County Paramedic Services saying yes and supporting it.”
Before he leaves, Miller said he’s been enjoying the nightly howls at 8 p.m.
“I’ve seen it. It’s really inspiring,” he said. “It makes me feel like we’re all on the same page and in this together.”
On Saturday, Miller will fly from Denver to Charlotte to New York City to Rome to Milan. He’ll return May 19.
His sons, ages 5 and 7, are already asking their mother when they can go help, too.
“We got these little boys who are already biting at the bit, ready to go,” Tara said.