My first Winter Carnival on the job
Brian and I joined the volunteer fire department at the same time. At 18, he was already focused on his goal to be a physician, attending classes at the local university.
To expand his portfolio, Brian was working as a part-time emergency department technician at the flagship community hospital.
I spend Christmas Eve evening as the ambulance crewmember in charge on the VFD ambulance, Brian was working at the hospital.
It was a dry and warm day, almost hitting 60 degrees. Was above freezing that night, much warmer that the night we ran the sports car crash on the parkway (story here).
Carrying people to the hospital
Advanced First Aid was the certification required to ride as the crewmember-in-charge. Gasoline and oxygen were the two primary elements of care.
Already experienced the thrill of a 90+ mile-per-hour transport doing chest compressions in a low-top Cadillac ambulance. My shoulders were firm against the ceiling as the backboarded patient was on the stretcher. That 472 cubic inch motor was strong!
Our new Ford/Swab modular ambulance came with an advanced resuscitation tool, a Brunswick HLR 50-90 oxygen powered mechanical resuscitator. Bought a second one for the high-top Cadillac
pontiacambulance provides a video of the operation:
When the fire company responded to assist on a cardiac arrest, they would place the patient in a "Reeves" flexible stretcher.
The plunger would be further secured with triangular bandages tied to the sides of the Reeves stretcher.
The fire company prided itself on the speed and smoothness in applying the HLR machine. It was one of the skill drills frequently performed in the station.
Ambulance runs after 11 pm were dispatched over the "red phone." It was less disturbing than striking the station's tones, turning on the bunkroom lights and activating the volunteer pagers.
Fire companies were rarely dispatched with the ambulance. The ambulance would need to call for assistance once arriving at the scene. A little tricky, since none of the ambulances were provided a portable radio.
"Husband is gurgling in the bed"
That was the information dispatch gave me over the red phone at 4 am Christmas morning.
We were still responding to the incident when our fire company was toned out. The wife called back and used one of the few trigger phrases for an automatic fire company ambulance assist – cardiac arrest.
Many of the lights were on at the house and front door was open. She was doing CPR when we ran up the stairs with oxygen, suction, bag-mask-valve and aide bag.
Following the HLR protocol, we got him off the bed and into a larger room. Suctioned his airway, placed an oral airway and started two-rescuer CPR with the bag-valve mask.
By time we were in a rhythm, I could hear the faint sounds of a wailing Federal 2QB.
I assured the wife that we were doing everything possible for him, and that another crew would be arriving soon to move her husband to the ambulance.
If we had not called dispatch, or were not standing at the ambulance, the fire company assumed CPR was in progress.
Two of the guys pulled out the HLR machine and Reeves. The engine driver would re-position the ambulance for rapid departure, then set up the stretcher.
The performance was great. Smooth packaging and quick movement to the back of the Ford/Swab ambulance.
We were getting pulses with compression throughout the transport.
Once we got him on the hospital gurney, the physician looked into the wide and fixed pupils with an ophthalmoscope. The vessels radiating from the optic nerve showed coagulated blood, appearing as a railroad train.
The appearance of "box cars" in the back wall of the pupil were a grave prognosis. It was used as an indicator of death when ambulances delivered pre-paramedic cardiac arrest patients.
Ran into Brian, who was looking a little shell-shocked. This was the fourth or fifth patient he had to wheel to the morgue since 11 pm Christmas Eve.
We had done everything we knew in 1971.
In re-telling the story, I feel like Squad 10 Firefighter Johnny Gage after he "rescued" an electrocuted lineman in the two hour pilot of the Emergency show.
I wonder if there would have been a different outcome if we had an AED?
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward
If you are working, may your day be boring. I hope that it is full of food, laughter & joy.
Please spend a minute thinking about our brothers and sisters in the armed forces that are deployed in hostile, desolate or dangerous environments.