Every week seems to be dedicated to some cause, and this is National EMS Week. I don’t know what Emergency Medical Services are like in your community, but let me tell you something about ours. The majority of our city Fire Department personnel are fully trained and certified paramedics, and the balance are all EMTs. The city ambulances also serve the rest of the county when advanced life support is needed. The rest of our rural county of 1,299 square miles is served by a patchwork of volunteer fire departments, each with a number of volunteer EMTs who work hard to keep up their training. My guess is that 80% of our calls are medical. Part of that is due to the aging population, part is due to the danger inherent in various work environments, and part is due to stupidity (as in the day I fell off a ladder and broke every bone in my right ankle). We are half way through May and we are up to around 2,000 medical calls so far this year in a huge area containing no more than 55,000 persons.
I know more than a few people who have not called 911 when they should because they figured they could get their loved one to the hospital faster than having to wait for the ambulance. Our average response time within the city runs between three and five minutes, and when the rig pulls up the hospital has arrived. Assessment, stabilization and treatment start immediately. Now and then I’ve comforted hysterical family members wondering why the ambulance is just sitting there and not tearing off to the hospital, lights, siren and all. The answer is that their loved one is already being treated and everything is under control. Over this last weekend, along with the ordinary calls, there were overturned, hypothermic rafters plucked out of a freezing mountain stream, a hang glider retrieved from the canyon where he crashed head first, a young horse rider stabilized after being thrown onto her head and neck, and a couple of severe heart attack victims who were dead on Saturday but alive today. As I write, my guys are being called out to a patient on blood thinners who has begun to hemorrhage. Medic 2 is on the way, and she will be OK.
That’s a part of what happens in my small country town. What goes on in yours? You might want to take a moment to offer a sign of thanks to your local EMS providers, and remember to keep them in your prayers.
CP, Chaplain, Walla Walla Fire Dept.