Health & Spirit

Twin Cities paramedic works magic — literally — when responding to emergencies involving kids

Precious Fondren, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Health & Fitness

"It was the first time in my career that I felt completely powerless," he said.

"We did what we could and, despite all that, he still died. I don't think anybody wouldn't be affected by it."

Remembering the fear he saw on faces all around him, Mazurkiewicz decided he needed to develop a new strategy for working with kids.

"Kids like to jump around fire trucks. They like to crawl all over the back of police cars. But then you show them an ambulance and most go, 'I don't know about that,' " he said, shaking his head.

"I want to make it, not necessarily fun, but more relaxing."

So Mazurkiewicz started taking magic lessons from Larry Kahlow, a popular Twin Cities region magician and owner of Eagle Magic Store in Burnsville. Mazurkiewicz now has a full suitcase of tricks.

"I started doing more tricks on calls and realized I could actually use these to break through to kids," he said.

Last fall, his partner, Joseph Odell, nominated him for Allina's Commitment to Care award, given to people with an all-encompassing work ethic. He won. "Just watching Ivan interact with these people, it's clear the award fits him."

Odell added that it's not just magic that demonstrates Mazurkiewicz's ability to connect with patients. He's also learned phrases in Somali to comfort those he meets as an emergency responder.


"He feels like when he at least says 'hello' in Somali, that makes them a bit more comfortable to talk about what's going on," Odell said.

Mazurkiewicz recalls how one magic trick, called "the lightning buggy," helped a boy with autism who was struggling emotionally on a bus ride. "I eventually got him to sit with me on the bus," he said. "I taught him the magic trick and he was happy again."

Mazurkiewicz said it's never been his intention to receive awards for his work, but it is an acknowledgment that his tricks do make a difference.

"Even the people I work with," he said, "are noticing that there's a benefit to doing this for patients."

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