A Heartfelt Journey
After a few false starts, Tri-C alum Gene Shimandle found his calling in emergency medicine
Like many students at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C®), Gene Shimandle started down several different paths before choosing which one to follow. As it turns out, all he had to do was follow his heart.
After graduating from Bedford High School in 1974, Shimandle worked full time for his father’s carpet and flooring business. But after just a year, he knew it wasn’t for him. Interested in law, he enrolled in criminal justice courses at Kent State University — where a heart-to-heart talk with a professor changed Shimandle’s career trajectory once again.
He took a job at Bedford Hospital, where he learned CPR. After performing the maneuver on a patient on his very first day, Shimandle knew he’d found his calling. Shortly thereafter, he enrolled in the EMT-Paramedic program at Tri-C’s Eastern Campus in Highland Hills.
Shimandle remembers one of his instructors, Fire Chief Joe Scharfenberg, saying to the class, “One sees clearly through your heart.” Little did he know how prophetic that statement would be.
Upon graduation from Tri-C, Shimandle became one of the first emergency technician-paramedics hired into Mt. Sinai Hospital’s Level I Trauma Center. His hard work, dedication and compassion soon resulted in a promotion to advanced cardiac life support director. He later served in a similar capacity at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.
“I knew my hard work had paid off — and Tri-C allowed me the opportunity,” he said.
At 50, Shimandle was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy and placed on the heart transplant list. Twelve years of medical emergencies, surgeries and critical life-flights later, he received the call he’d been waiting for — he was getting a new heart.
The following year, Shimandle walked 357 miles from his home in Northeast Ohio to the White House, encouraging people to become organ and tissue donors along the way. Upon reaching Washington, D.C., he had the privilege of sharing his story with U.S. Senator Rob Portman.
Today, Shimandle is an ambassador with Lifebanc and the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS). He continues to save lives by transporting patients for Physicians Ambulance.
“You are the creator of your future, so trust your heart,” he said. “As a toddler, you didn’t quit trying to walk after the first time you fell. You got up, and after a tear or two started again and did a little better. Tri-C opens doors, so walk on in!”