Posts Tagged ‘Geoff Newton’

Coupeville football coach Tom Roehl holds the line during a summer camp workout. (Photos by Geoff Newton)

It was a different time.

For one thing, newspaper photographers were still using dark rooms and often had to come back at halftime of games to develop their photos to make deadline.

For another thing, small-town newspapers still employed full-time staff photographers…

Welcome to the rollicking early ’90s, a time when I was posing as a professional newspaper whiz kid, one with a business card which ID’d me as Sports Editor at the Whidbey News-Times.

There are rumors I even wore pants!

You can ponder that startling bit of background info, or just marinate in some non-David pics from that time.

I recommend the latter.

Wolf softball players head to the dugout after a strong defensive stand.

Nick Sellgren (second from left) helps a teammate feel the burn.

Troy Blouin gets creative.

Kit Manzanares hits the tape like a boss.

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Geoff Newton

I first met Geoff Newton back in my Whidbey News-Times days in the early ’90s.

I was a young Sports Editor with no college to my credit, making it up as I went along.

He was the larger-than-life photographer who took me under his wing, tried to teach me the ropes, and frequently shot me in the head with rubber bands when I wasn’t listening.

After we left the WNT, Geoff went full-bore into the medical field, and these days he’s a flight paramedic.

The following is his first-hand account from the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, which he allowed me to share with you.


I just finished up two weeks transporting patients in New Mexico and Arizona.

More than half of my flights were COVID patients.

We transported suspected, probable and confirmed cases.

Some of these people were critically ill and ventilator dependent, others on their way. Others just sick.

We treated everyone as if they were exposed or potential.

As I went through my hitch, it was hard not to start thinking about it.

All. The. Time.

So here are some thoughts as I try to decompress. Disclaimer: I have opinions too.

This virus doesn’t act like it’s supposed to act.

The average exposure to symptoms period is five days.

The sick patients are really sick. Wide-spread and diffuse pneumonia. They are profoundly hypoxic and refractory to high-flow oxygen.

We would make little steps upward on their saturations just to watch them slip back down.

BiPAP does not do anything except spray droplets. These patients need high PEEP and pressure support.

Their lab work is not what you would expect.

This thing is a scary beast. And the more I learn about it, the scarier it becomes.

Stop blaming the media for the frenzy.

This perspective will not be a surprise for those of you who know my background.

In one respect, the media is a reflection of the craziness of our society.

I mean, no one I am around admits to hoarding supplies, but someone is.

The big 24-hour networks wouldn’t exist if someone wasn’t watching.

But the media outlets sounded the alarm long before it reached our shores. The media, I believe, in part was responding to the slow reaction from our politicians who thought they knew better than the experts.

I know who the real heroes are (no, it’s not me).

It’s not the politicians. Or the CEO’s of big corporations.

Having worked on government contracts a time or two, I know a money grab when I see it.

The My Pillow guy is not a hero for finding a market and waving his bible.

No, it’s anyone in health care and emergency services.

I walked through an ICU last night filled to capacity with every patient on a ventilator.

IV lines running under the doors so that they didn’t have to don a hazmat suit just to adjust drip rate.

It’s a sobering sight.

Doctors, nurses, CNA’s, MA’s, RT’s, medics, EMT’s, firefighters — ouch, that hurt 🙂 — and even cops.

The front line is all around us. It’s hard to fight something you cannot see.

Every time I get a COVID transport I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Is my mask on tight enough?

Is this sweat-producing garbage bag I am wearing going to protect me?

What should I disinfect? Everything?

Every time you sneeze, cough, feel hot or cold, are not hungry when you should be, get a backache or headache you think, “Is this how it starts?”

I am allergic to sage, it turns out, so I have had a runny nose for more than a year. It is hard not to become paranoid.

And I can’t even imagine going home after my shift, wondering if I am bringing it home to those I love.

At least I have the luxury of washing EVERYTHING before I come home.

It is possible we are only seeing the beginning, or maybe not.

It is worth noting that it appears to be declining in the places hit first.

We just don’t know.

Health care is just trying to keep its collective head above water. Most hospitals look like war-time camps with little white tents, road blocks and plastic sheeting on the walls.

Some places are reacting more than others and some are slower to react.

The small hospitals are going to get, or are getting hit hard. Most are way out of their element.

And in the odd occurrence category: I had a guy in a pickup truck yell “thank you” to me as he passed by the other day.

I have no idea how he knew what I did since we look like janitors in our flight suits. But it was really nice.

So stay home if you can, have a drink and complain a bit.

But the next time you see a paramedic, EMT, cop, nurse, or ANYONE in scrubs, give them a hug … from a distance, of course.

You have no idea what is on their uniforms.

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The man, the myth, the legend … Geoff Newton.

A day that will live in infamy.

Holding on to the roof of the hatchback with my fingers turning white, a notebook clamped between my teeth to keep from swallowing my tongue, I looked fear in the eye and laughed that day.

Or screamed like a little girl with a turbo-wedgie.

Probably the latter.

Geoff Newton, the mad man at the wheel, was driving with one knee, loading his camera with one hand and twirling the dials on his police radio with the other, all while screaming “You’ll never catch me, bastards!!” at the fire trucks which futilely tried to keep up with us as we zigged and zagged down rutted back country roads.

He, an award-winning photographer, was hell-bent to beat everyone to what the radio was describing as a fire of epic proportions.

I, not even an official reporter for the Whidbey News-Times at this point, was hell-bent to keep from remembering my lunch in vivid detail, as I felt it storming up the back of my throat each time the car found the ground long enough to skid.

Mere moments before, we were on a leisurely afternoon drive to interview the new boys’ basketball coach at Oak Harbor High School.

Now we were reenacting “Smokey and the Bandit” … in a car built to go 30.

Holding the line on two wheels, we whipped around a twist in the road, narrowly missing a row of trees and found ourselves at the gates of Hell.

Then Hell went up in a blaze of gunfire.

No mere marshmallow roast, this was a raging inferno, with a house being ripped apart.

Toxic paint and ammo had been stored where the fire started, and they were gettin’ it on at the moment.

Huge clouds of eerily-colored smoke poured out of windows, generally followed by firefighters pouring out of said window.

All around us, gunshots cracked, ping, ping, ping, then a boom lifted part of the roof, which then came crashing back down. Audible profanity could be heard coming from multiple directions.

Geoff, a towering presence in the newsroom and my newspaper idol, strode into Hell with a skip in his step. Crouching in the bushes next to the inferno, he clicked away like a madman, daring the toxic smoke to try and invade his lungs.

The smoke declined the challenge.

Then the owner of the house arrived home and went running past me, screaming about his cat being inside.

The first firefighter missed tackling him, he dodged the second one, but then his foot caught on a loose board and he went face-down like he had been shot, his melon making a squishy sound as he connected with the ground.

Right behind me, up a tree — way up a tree — Sir Wellington, his cat, not being as stupid as the humans, sat passively watching the joint burn down. From his expression, any arson investigation should have started, and ended, with the sassy tabby.

Somewhere a lonely basketball coach sat in an empty gym, wondering why nobody loved him.

In a time before cell phones were giving everyone cancer, I was in a field in the middle of nowhere, flinching in unison at each new blast, along with the veteran fire captain who had set up shop next to me.

“I didn’t flinch! You better not write that, boy! I’m just really itchy today … the wife put too much detergent in my shirts again.”

Then, his foot would take off like a mad man, thumping in place. Apparently the detergent had gotten into his pants, as well.

Hours later, back at the newspaper, I found myself with the first front page story of what has turned into a scatter-shot, on-and-off 23-year newspaper career.

As I pounded away at the computer keys, our editor, Fred Obee, a dead-ringer for Wallace “Inconceivable!” Shawn in “The Princess Bride,” strode by the desk I was using, a lit cigarette already working in his mouth.

Surveying the 45 empty Coke cans scattered around my still-twitchy body, my face smudged with smoke, he laughed.

“First rule of newspaper club, boy. Always pack a clean pair of undies if you’re riding with Newton.”

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