South Houston EMS Chief Rita Camarena was born in the back of a pickup truck in 1976. The man who delivered her—Mike Telschow—also founded the South Houston EMS.
She was born and raised in South Houston and pretty much also in the South Houston EMS.
Camarena started working for the department when she was 15 through a high school program called Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA). When considering which health field to explore, she was drawn to EMS.
She started volunteering with South Houston EMS as part of her schooling. She enjoyed it and took the next step. At 18, she became a certified EMT with the agency.
And her boss was Chief Mike Telschow.
“He’d always tell me that he delivered me,” Camarena said.
The reminder was always kind and friendly but with a joking tone that let her know he was the boss.
She continued to volunteer with the agency—and with Telschow—before transitioning with the rest of her colleagues to a paid position about 20 years ago.
Now, she is chief of South Houston EMS, a department of the city of South Houston. She manages a staff of 22 to 25 employees.
“It fluctuates,” she said.
The EMS agency held its 6th Annual Crawfish Boil in March, a fundraiser and a community event that she credits Assistant Chief Anna Aina-Stine for starting and organizing each year.
“It’s just something different, and it brings the morale of our department up,” Camarena said. “The kids hang out with each other.”
The EMS agency has grown and evolved since Telschow retired in 2001. Camarena stayed and continued to advance in the department.
She still remembers Mike Telschow’s influence on her career and life.
“He always told us, ‘People come into your life, and you never know what they mean to you until they’re gone. He meant a real lot. You know, I learned a lot from him.”
Telschow passed away in 2005.
She responded to the medical call at Telschow’s home.
“That was my call. It was like the beginning to the end,” Camarena said.
“It opened a book and closed a chapter.”