There was a time when if you were mangled in a car crash, police or passers-by would heft you into a car and drive you to the hospital. And maybe you arrived alive. The same with a heart attack. Most likely you didn't arrive alive.
Now, heart attack victims or grieviously injured people get hospital-grade treatment from highly trained responders on the way to the hospital.
Upper Pine Fire District responders and family members celebrated EMS Week on May 20 at the district administration building. Around 80 percent of Upper Pine's calls are for medical issues. The district started paramedic-level response last summer. Paramedics are trained and authorized to perform advanced life support beyond what EMT Intermediates can do.
Chief Bruce Evans presented the Medical Director's Award, chosen by Medical Director Tony DeMond, to Joel Claus. The award goes to a responder who has done somethng outstanding or discovered an additional medical condition in a patient.
"You guys are rock stars!" Claus said. "I love working here."
Evans presented the EMS Provider of the Year Award, chosen by fellow responders, to Beau Reber.
Evans also announced that the department will send Fire Captain Cate Harding to paramedic school. She'll be gone for six months.
"As we look back at the year, I think we've done an outstanding job of patient care," Evans said. He cited the successful response on a cardiac arrest at Vallecito, which he said "is almost unheard of in a rural environment."
For perspective, he showed a documentary, "Making a Difference: the History of Modern EMS." With photos and film clips, it showed how critically injured or heart attack patients were handled before the first efforts at emergency medical response started in the mid 1960s. Patients were transported in police cars or private vehicles with no regard for things like spinal injuries.
The first experiments with mouth-to-mouth breathing techniques in the 1950s involved volunteer victims who were paralyzed with the nerve toxin curare and couldn't breathe on their own. The first defibrillator weighed 45 pounds.
In 1965, more than 50,000 people died in highway crashes, prompting passage of the federal Highway Safety Act and creation of the Highway Trafffic Safety Administration. Heart attack deaths were another category that needed better emergency response. Back then there were no standards for ambulance personnel. Some worked for funeral homes. And there was no 911 to call. Every community had a different phone number to call in an emergency.
In the late 1960s, the first coronary care responders, who called themselves paramedics, were in Miami, Fla. They were trained firefighters. The 911 system started, and emergency medicine was recognized as a medical specialty. The Department of Transportation created an actual EMT curriculum. Emergency medicine got a big boost in 1971 with the popular TV show, Emergency! There were only 12 emergency rescue units in the entire country then.