Johnson County paramedic loves medicine and racing

BY KRISTEN EAST | MAY 07, 2012 6:30 AM

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Cory Bonnett loves being behind the wheel.

That passion ultimately led Bonnett to his position as a field supervisor for the Johnson County Ambulance Service.

Bonnett, 43, a North Liberty resident, said becoming a paramedic was the logical career path after competing as a teenager in stock-car and dirt-track racing with his friend and having an interest in medicine.

"He needed help with the car, so I just started helping out," he said. "Once in a while, I got to race it. My aspiration was to be a driver, but that never panned out."

Though he occasionally raced, Bonnett said his father, who drag-raced in Bonnett's hometown of Eddyville, Iowa, gave him a passion for working on cars when he was younger.

"I was around it quite a bit," he said. "Messing with cars was always a hobby of mine."

Bonnett said he didn't race or work on cars as much in order to study when he started college. He attended Ellsworth Community College in Iowa Falls for a year, then transferred to the University of Iowa in 1988 to study nuclear medicine.

Bonnett's uncle, the fire chief of Eddyville for roughly 50 years, also inspired Bonett's interest in emergency medical services.

"I was interested in EMS after seeing him do what he did," he said. "I saw a few car accidents … and it piqued my interest."

One of Bonnett's college advisers suggested he become a paramedic because of his interest in both medicine and racing.

"My adviser asked me what I wanted to do with my life and I told him I really wanted to race, but I really liked medicine," he said. "He suggested I become a paramedic because I could [do both] and drive at the same time."

Bonnett started working at the Johnson County Ambulance Service in 1991 as a staff paramedic responding to emergency calls. He became a field supervisor in March 1997.

Steve Spenler, the director of the service, said Bonnett is well-respected by his coworkers.

"Cory is clearly dedicated to Johnson County Ambulance Service and works to make the service the best it can be," he said. "Cory takes pride in delivering quality patient care, and over the course of 21 years, he has made a positive difference in many lives."

Responding to emergency calls and checking equipment during 16- or 24-hour shifts are part of his routine, but Bonnett said he enjoys taking care of geriatric patients the most.

"[Elderly patients are] really interesting to talk to and they appreciate that you're there to help them," he said. "They're the ones that really need the help when they call."

Becky Loyd, also a field supervisor at the ambulance service, said Bonnett puts the patient first.

"He lives the life," she said. "He's a very nice person, and we enjoy working with him. He's [also] very dedicated to the employees."

After working as a paramedic in Johnson County for more than 20 years, Bonnett said, he is thankful to have had the opportunity to incorporate both his passions into one career.

"I never thought you could make a living doing [both]," he said. "But obviously, I have."

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