Emergency workers mourn loss of boy

It’s hard enough for a family to lose a child, but a whole community of loved ones and medical workers felt the loss when 7-year-old Dustin Walkowicz died.

Paramedics were often at the Walkowicz home on Orchard Mesa because Dustin, who had Down syndrome and a chronic lung infection,  often needed hospitalization. Dustin died Feb. 15 with a severe infection in his lungs.

Emergency workers were called to the home more last year than any other year in his young life, said his mother, Sandy Walkowicz.

But Dustin wasn’t a child one could easily forget, and paramedics and firefighters with the Grand Junction Fire Department’s Station 4 forged a bond with the child and the family.

“For the most part, we see people at their worst and only for about 20 minutes, and you don’t get that attachment,” Grand Junction Fire Department paramedic Jody Hudson said. “To do this type of job, you can’t have those type of attachments, but (Dustin) was like one of our own.”

Family members said they were grateful when a number of emergency workers, including all of the Orchard Mesa station crew, and other health care professionals who saw Dustin over the years attended his funeral as a show of support.

Some time later, on Friday, many of the crew from Station 4 again visited the Walkowicz home. They gave Sandy Walkowicz a gift card to purchase something nice for herself. She tended to her son constantly and said she rarely left the home with Dustin because she didn’t want to run the risk of an infection further breaking down his weakened immune system.

“When they came, they made me cry,” Walkowicz said of the visit. “You think everybody’s forgotten. It’s nice to know that Dustin did that to people.”

Dustin enjoyed riding with his father, Scott, in the family’s boat. He also loved seeing himself on home videos.

“He wasn’t that hard to please,” Sandy Walkowicz said.

Dustin is remembered for always smiling, even through the pain, his mother said. Photos around the home show him always with a broad grin, one more reason workers were so endeared to him.

“They appreciate their jobs and enjoy what they do, and it shows,” Sandy Walkowicz said. “I appreciate these guys to no end.”


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