Willow EMS And Rescue
There is an Ambulance and Recue truck located locally in Station 12-1.
Some emergency personnel are trained and operate all equipment including ambulance, Rescue, Fire Engine, and Tanker. All attend required training to keep skills needed for operations they are involved with.
If you would like some information about how an EMT sees the system click the Read more... link for an article written by Virgie.
VOLUNTEER EMERGENCY MEDICINE IN ALASKA
EMT Willow Ambulance Service
Did you ever wonder where the Medics come from when you dial 911? You know, those dedicated people who know the risks but are willing to throw on a snowsuit over pajamas when the beeper goes off and run. We’re your neighbors, pastors and/or parents who are trained how to assess an injury, comfort a screaming baby or calm a hysterical teenager who has just witnessed someone special slaughtered by trauma. Emergency situations do not discriminate for age, religion, wealth, race or gender. They just happen and lives change forever in a split second.
Risks are as varied as the calls. We take precautions against AIDS and TB, get our hepatitis shots and watch for lice and other strange critters that look back and make life miserable. Folks under stress often create unique risks and hazards for everyone and training is our only armor. Fortunately, those incidents are rare. The majority of the time, we are welcome and assisted by everyone involved including the patient.
The up-side is knowing we may make a difference between some innocent soul living or dying. Adrenaline starts pumping when the beeper sounds and off we charge into a situation that may be the complete opposite of the announced emergency; such as a gun in the face or something else that really gets your attention.
Today’s protocols on personal situations such as abuse or a suicidal person give emergency personnel a little edge. In the “good old days,” the medic would simply rush in and the chance of getting shot along with the victim was very real. Today, we wait for law enforcement to pave the way.
Depression is always a tricky situation. Is that person depressed with himself or is he depressed with the world - of which you are a part of? If threats are made
or weapons announced, we wait until the scene is safe because our training dictates we are Number One and Number One can’t help anyone if we are incapacitated.
Any trauma scene must be evaluated automatically, carefully and quickly when the medics and rescue teams arrive. Gas on the road? Hazardous material? Call the fire department to spray the road and eliminate the hazard. Is that snow still unstable where the victim is partially buried? The rescue crew moves in with the medics hot on their heels. Watching for the family dog protecting it’s owner(s) can be a problem because our primary focus is the patient and dogs can come from nowhere.
Did the gunshot victim shoot himself or did someone else? If someone else did, where is he and does he still have the gun? Law enforcement must be there ahead of the medic and already know the answers. The child with bilateral bums did not get those burns accidentally. Who is responsible? The treating physician and police will have to sort it out, then Child Custody must be notified. But the medic has to be astute enough to recognize child abuse in order to quickly assess the situation and react accordingly. The same criteria holds true for abuse of the elderly. The overdose. Quick! Where are the pills? Gather up all you can find and try to identify them. How many, what kind, prescription or street drugs? The wife’s injuries are not consistent with falling down the stairs. Maybe the concerned husband hovering in the doorway has a baseball bat behind
the door and is ready to bean the EMT who recognizes the type of injury and says the wrong word. All in a day’s work. The priority is to make sure the scene is safe, evaluate and treat the patient, then transport him or her to a higher level of care without passing judgment.
Dispatchers are a key link in the whole chain of events. They never see the patient or victim but are extremely versed in how to phrase the problem in the fewest possible words so the Medics will know exactly what they are walking into. Dispatchers can’t help but get emotionally involved at times and go home to give the kids an big hug.
One of the problems dispatchers face is they can only relay what they are told. That in itself leads to some very interesting situations. Dispatchers sit attached to Mother Switchboard by an umbilicus in the ear surrounded with blinking lights and maps and we all share frustration and elation equally. They also have my undying gratitude.
Our link to transporting major trauma, heart attacks and other life threatening injuries or illnesses is Life Guard Air Evacuation. Both the Medics and dispatchers work very closely with Life Guard and the benefit for all involved is enormous. A two hour transport turns into a thirty minute ride, sometimes straight into surgery or in the case of stroke or heart attack, new drugs can be administered which save lives.
At the receiving end of the chain is the Emergency Room physician. Most of them respect the EMT’s knowledge and judgment and it can be a learning situation for all involved. However, occasionally you run into the physician with absolutely no sense of humor and to say that he’s fair game is mild. When the time comes to get even, anything can happen.
An Alaskan crew was dispatched to pick up an amputee laying in the snow. Not knowing what to expect, they responded Code Red. Was he the victim of a hit and-run or what? Adrenaline, remember? Arriving at the scene, the crew recognized the victim immediately. It was a local character who was a tad bit soused, got to horsing around, broke his artificial leg, fell off of it and landed unceremoniously in the snow. He then proceeded to make snow angels and sing Christmas Carols to alleviate his boredom while waiting for the ambulance.
The crew loaded him, put the leg on the gurney with the foot pointing down and roared off to the hospital. The doctor spotted the disjointed leg and frantically jerked the blanket off before he realized he’d been had while the crew slithered out the door and disappeared.
Emergency personnel, be they in the field or emergency room, quickly develop a rather warped sense of humor. Some call it macabre, we call it survival. Emergency medicine makes us realize we may not be as tough as we thought we were and how very fragile and precious life is. Without a rather warped outlook, there are times we could not handle the tragic aspect of what we do. We’re so grateful for successful outcomes, it’s suddenly all worthwhile and kind of makes up for the other kind.
Whatever the outcome, most of us go home knowing someone remembered to take the bread out of the oven or start dinner. Our families are as much a part of our support system as anything else. They encourage us, suffer with us after a bad call and help when they can, such as performing traffic control to keep us safe. My husband with the disappearing veins even offered them when I learned to start IVs. I was very proud of the job I did on him.
No medic is perfect. We make mistakes and question our own abilities at times. Sometimes things are said or done by one of us that are misunderstood or just plain stupid. Sometimes we have mechanical malfunctions in the ambulance and when we’re asked how the run went, the best thing to say is “Nobody died,” because the suction didn’t suck, the electrical system quit in the back of the ambulance during a code, or the radio didn’t transmit. Anything can happen and does.
There are times we fight amongst ourselves. Stress does strange things and we all have our own way of coping. Sometimes egos have a bad habit of getting in the way of good sense. However, we are trained to work as a team and can put differences aside in a heartbeat to pull together. If one of us is out of line, he or she is told later and we talk it out. If there’s a problem with our technique, our trainers go over it with us. The education and training never ends and that’s the way it must be. There is rare companionship in volunteer emergency medicine and I’m proud to be part of the team.
Postscript: Since originally writing this piece, my husband became a medic, one son is a medic and firefighter, and his wife is a medic. Now, whoever is last out the door gets to turn the oven off and make sure the door is locked. How things have changed!