Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department’s assistant chief Baxter Mercer will receive a Community Outreach award at the Fourth Annual No One Left Behind awards banquet Nov. 9 at Ryan Middle School in Fairbanks. He is one of many first responders in the Interior who will be honored.
Mercer had no idea this award was coming and only learned of it when Chief Rob Graham announced it at a recent weekly training session. In his normal humble fashion, Mercer said he could think of other first responders who deserve this honor more than him. But this time, the honor is his.
A regular blood donor, Mercer has contributed 5 gallons of his type O-negative blood since 2012. Ironically, that service ended up saving his own life.
Back in 2014, he went in to the Alaska Blood Bank to make his routine contribution, but they couldn’t accept it because his heart rate was lower than 50 beats per minute. They sent him home with a heart monitor. After analyzing the results of that monitor, doctors gave him an urgent message: Come to town immediately, but do not drive yourself.
It so happened that Mercer was already on his way. When he got the message, he was driving an ambulance, delivering patients to Fairbanks. He took care of those patients, and then reported directly to the heart center. It turns out his heart was stopping at 5- to 7-second intervals and he needed a pacemaker to regulate his heartbeat.
That explained some of the faintness and fatigue he experienced over the past couple months, which he had attributed to age and stress.
“If Bax had not been a devoted blood donor, he would have never had this checked out,” said his wife, Renee Mercer.
With a pacemaker in place, Mercer can now continue his year-round, 15-plus years of volunteer service to the local fire department. He does a little bit of everything. He uses his skills as a mechanic to keep ambulances and fire trucks running. He often responds to ambulance calls and drives patients 120 miles to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital regularly. He pulls fire hose, he extricates victims from car wrecks. Sometimes, he oversees the whole operation as incident commander of entire emergency scenes.
“If every fire department could have a Baxter Mercer, it would be guaranteed that their fire department would run more smoothly, more efficiently and with better camaraderie,” said Fire Chief Rob Graham.
The ceremony honoring Mercer and others happens every year, thanks to a collaboration between Fairbanks North Star Borough School District and Fairbanks Rescue Mission. Exceptional first responders in law enforcement, firefighting, dispatching and emergency medical services are all honored. The annual banquet also helps serve some of the community’s most vulnerable residents. All proceeds, after expenses, go to the Fairbanks Rescue Mission.
The entire event is planned and implemented as a service learning project for the North Pole High School and Lathrop High School JROTC Cadet Corps students. Tickets are $50 and can be purchased online at www.nolbfairbanks.org. The banquet takes place 5-9 p.m. Nov. 9.
2019 No One Left Behind award winners
Colin Field, University Fire Department
Daniel McFaul, Eielson AFB Security Forces
Peyton Foy, Eielson AFB Security Forces
Dave VanArsdall, Fairbanks Fire Department
Dalton Gregg, Fairbanks Fire Department
Cameron Huff, UAF Police Department
Tara Bird, UAF Police Department
Triston Allen, Eielson AFB Civil Engineering
Alexander Stewart, Eielson AFB Civil Engineering
Cory Nichols, Eielson AFB Medical Group
Bruce Milne, North Pole Police Department
Baxter Mercer, Tri-Valley Volunteer Fire Department
Andrew Wixon, Fairbanks Police Department
Ryan Holland, Fairbanks Fire Department
Mark Plummer, Salcha Fire & Rescue
Matt Thompson, Salcha Fire & Rescue
Jennifer Winkler, Fairbanks Fire Department
Timothy Abbott, Alaska Wildlife Trooper
Robert Nunley, Alaska State Troopers
Teresa Dobbs, State Trooper Dispatch
Erika Roberts, State Trooper Dispatch
Monroe Mize, State Trooper Dispatch
Brennen Kraemer, State Trooper Dispatch
Timothy Wolff, Alaska State Troopers
Lee Bruce, Alaska State Troopers
Reach columnist/community editor Kris Capps at email@example.com. Call her at the office 459-7546. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMKris.