Ride in ambulance routine but deadly serious

on .

By Nicole Anderson

Posted Feb. 28, 2016 at 3:15 AM 

DURHAM — “Quick, there’s been a call, hop out and I’ll park your car,” shouted Amanda St. Martin, a paramedic at McGregor Memorial EMS.

It was Wednesday afternoon, and I had just signed up to participate in an ambulance ride-along with McGregor EMS, which is a volunteer, nonprofit organization that provides emergency ambulance service to the communities of Durham, Lee, Madbury and the University of New Hampshire. I arranged this ride-along in order to get the inside scoop on the care McGregor EMS's volunteers provide the community.

McGregor EMS offers CPR safety training and certification for schools, education for EMS professionals and CPR and first aid training for the public. With over 70 active EMT's, an Advanced Life Support team of 14 experienced paramedics, 20 advanced EMT's and EMT-intermediates and three fully equipped ambulances, McGregor EMS provides speedy and high-quality care around the clock.

While the McGregor EMS responders were trained volunteers, I was not. My adrenaline was pumping. It was my first time in an ambulance.

“Make sure you buckle up,” EMT crew chief Kyle Scarano, 22, a recent graduate of UNH, said to me from the driver’s seat.Across from me sat Eric Macdonald, another EMT and current UNH student.

Macdonald, 21, explained we were on call to transport a patient from Wentworth-Douglass Express Care in Lee to Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Dover.

“We go on calls to the express care a lot,” Macdonald said. “Usually, they’re not too serious. This is just an Alpha-level call, so we aren’t using lights or sirens.”

Macdonald said the dispatchers use the Medical Priority Dispatch System, which is a method of categorizing and prioritizing emergency incidents. The determinant level classification runs Alpha through Echo in terms of urgency. This Alpha-level call meant the patient was having sustained non-life threatening injuries.

As we pulled up to the urgent care center, Macdonald pulled a blue duffel bag out of a compartment at the front of the ambulance, explaining it was the “first-in bag” that contained most supplies they would need on scene.

Scarano, Macdonald and Brendan McAdams, 21, a probationary provider and paramedic student at the New England EMS Institute, unloaded the stretcher from the ambulance, guiding it through the hallways of urgent care. I followed them like a shadow, making sure to stay well out of the way.

The three men were professional and efficient, and it seemed they had the patient loaded back into the ambulance in a matter of minutes.

Due to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations, personal information regarding the patient was confidential, but it was clear the patient was in pain.

McAdams and Macdonald sat on either side of the patient while Scarano drove us to the hospital. They asked the patient routine questions such as what day it was, who the current president was and where we were at that time.

They measured the patient’s blood pressure, blood glucose level and temperature all while engaging the patient in a conversation about how they were feeling and the history of their condition.

The patient was disoriented and expressed experiencing a high level of pain, but maintained a good attitude.

“Do people like riding these?” the patient asked the EMTs, causing them to laugh good-naturedly.

“Well, we do, but the patients normally don’t” Macdonald said.After the crew safely transferred the patient into the hands of doctors awaiting the arrival at the hospital, they sanitized the stretcher and the ambulance equipment before the ambulance traveled back to McGregor EMS. The process was thorough and seemed routine.

I was struck by how level-headed the EMTs were, operating calmly and authoritatively in a potentially stressful environment. It was only when we were on our way back to the station that I learned how serious the patient’s situation was. While not life-or-death, the patient's condition warranted further care and attention. It shocked me.

“I’m surprised you got to see a pretty serious call, that doesn’t usually happen (when responding to calls from the express care),” Macdonald said.

Macdonald said the call easily could have been classified as more urgent than its Alpha status. However, because the dispatch call came from express care in Lee, McGregor EMS had no control over the classification.

After returning to Durham, Bill Cote, executive director of McGregor EMS, met us at the door.

“So what did you think?” Cote asked while praising the responders' work. “I get goose bumps, I couldn’t be prouder of these kids. It’s patient-centric care here.”

Although I am hoping this first ambulance ride will also be my last, after watching these McGregor EMS responders at work, I can easily say that, should anything happen, I know I would be in good hands.

Originally posted at http://www.fosters.com/article/20160228/NEWS/160229466/14436

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