Students handle EMS duties at Ohio universities

on .

The Plain Dealer

Cleveland Plain Dealer 

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio ? It?s almost midnight and Katy DeGirolamo is about to brush her teeth when she hears a crackling over the walkie-talkie.

The voice on the other end says a student has suffered a head trauma. DeGirolamo quickly grabs the medical bag resting on the floor next to her desk and rushes out the door.

Her mind is racing as she sprints down a flight of stairs. This is the first head trauma she has ever responded to.

?Sometimes when you get a call, you don?t know what to expect when you get to the scene,? DeGirolamo, 20, says. ?But you have to keep your composure. You can?t freak out.?

A crowd has already gathered outside the student?s dorm room when she arrives. DeGirolamo makes her way into the room where two other student Emergency Medical Technicians are already working on the injured student. There is blood on one side of his face. She gets to work checking his temperature, pulse and respiration rate.

The team determines that the student doesn?t need to go to the hospital and treats him in his room.

DeGirolamo is one of 36 students who volunteered this fall with John Carroll University?s student-run Emergency Medical Services. Depending on their level of training, the students can perform an array of medical services including applying splints, performing CPR, using a defibrillator to shock a heart and assisting in childbirth. They?re trained to call in an outside EMS service if more care is needed than they can give.

Many college campuses across the country have their own emergency numbers and the first people to respond to an emergency are students. Some colleges, like the University of Dayton, even have their own ambulance to transport patients to hospitals. Other Ohio colleges with a student-run EMS include the University of Cincinnati, Cedarville University, Miami University and Case Western Reserve University, which just started its program this fall.

When Case students Ari Rabkin and Joseph Grover arrived on campus two years ago, they were disappointed the university, which has schools of medicine and nursing, didn?t have its own student-run EMS squad. The two students were EMT volunteers with fire departments in their native Maryland.

After many meetings with numerous administrators and staff, the university gave its approval in April to form CaseEMS. The group is starting conservatively, with students volunteering only on the weekends from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

John Carroll began its EMS program four years ago and answers about 100 calls a semester. The service runs seven days a week from 3 p.m. to 9 a.m.

Being part of the university?s EMS team is good training for DeGirolamo, a junior from Canton who wants to become a doctor. She got interested in medicine after surviving bone cancer, which required her to undergo chemotherapy and have a knee replaced with a titanium plate.

Most students who volunteer with a college EMS want to go into a health field. Marta Fabrykowski, 20, assistant EMS chief at John Carroll, is no exception. She plans to go to medical school.

Two years ago, with only minimal training, Fabrykowski got her first taste of action in a medical emergency. On her way driving home to Solon, she witnessed a five-car accident. She quickly got out of her car, determined who needed help first, then crawled into the back seat of an elderly man?s car and started giving him CPR. He died before paramedics arrived.

?It was a horrible beginning to my EMS career,? said Fabrykowski, an art history and French major. ?But uplifting that I knew what to do in that situation.?

Copyright 2005 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.

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