A day in the life of emergency responders

Editor’s Note: Photojournalist Jewel Levy spent part of a day going on routine calls with Emergency Medical Technicians. The following is a recount of the day.

On the scene

On the scene. Photo: Jewel Levy

Emergency Medical Technicians are to be respected, admired, appreciated and most of all given way, their job saves lives.

They are people who arrive on the scene minutes after an accident or medical emergency and give immediate care to critically ill or injured people.

EMT work is literally a matter of life and death.

An automobile accident, a heart attack, a near drowning is a typical day in the life of an emergency responder.

Their jobs can be exhilarating – as when a child is born – and rewarding, but also depressing – as when someone dies – frustrating and dangerous at times.

‘It is stress and anxiety,’ says EMT Hervel Pusey, who has been on the job for 17 years.

‘Some days I go home feeling like I have made a difference. It is rewarding, the satisfaction of knowing that you have helped someone to live a longer life.

‘We have had patients die. It is part of our life and the job. It is never a good feeling to lose someone. At the time of loss we also try to talk to the family in a time of grief. My greatest fear is having a child die, life is cut short.’

‘To do this job you have to love and care for people and be able to leave it there when the day is done and go home to your family.’

As usual, an EMT officer never knows what conditions they might meet on any given day. This Friday morning call during the change of the 7am shift was no exception, although the results were good.

Dispatcher: ‘Medic 3 Central’

‘Yes, this is Medic 3, go ahead’:

Dispatcher: ‘Respond to a West Bay address in the vicinity of Hyatt – 13-year-old female complaining of dizziness, maybe hypo-glycemic.’

The day had started quickly for Cayman Islands Health Service EMT’s Julian Schoefer and Stacy Gibbs.

This would be Gibbs’ last call before coming off her 12-hour shift and Schoefer’s firsts call on the 7am-7pm shift.

The early morning silence was suddenly shattered by the piercing wail of the siren as EMT Schoefer hit the button as the ambulance sped out of the Cayman Islands Health Service parking lot.

After arriving on the scene, Gibbs and Schoefer determined the nature of the patient’s condition, established the cause of the problem and did whatever they could to assist the patient.

The patient, sitting on the bed looking a bit pale, was asked how she was feeling. Her blood sugar was taken, an oxygen mask applied to her face and she was made to lie down for a few minutes.

Throughout the situation the EMTs showed their proficiency by quickly and calmly asking vital questions of the teenager and parents, alleviated any fears of the situation being serious, and made sure the patient was out of harm’s way. ‘Do you want to go to the hospital?’ asked Schoefer,

‘I feel fine now,’ said the teen.

Because she did not want to travel to the hospital in the ambulance, her parents were instructed to take her in for a checkover.

Most calls do not end on such a light note.

Some calls like those unknown can be quite nerve wracking.

When responding to an unknown, EMTs might find themselves faced with a child who has swallowed bleach, or a man holding a machete to his mother-in-law’s throat.

After each call the crew makes its way back to the hospital with or without a patient.

Sometimes when it is returning the radio cackles.

Dispatcher: ‘Medic 3 Central’

Medic 3: ‘Go ahead’

Dispatcher: ’75-year-old bleeding profusely from head injury; person may have fallen.’

Arriving on scene EMTs found the patient in bed bleeding profusely.

Again the situation was quickly addressed, questions were asked and the elderly man was bandaged and made ready to be put on the stretcher.

But sometimes EMT can meet with some reluctance when it comes to elderly patients. This usually requires patience, coaxing, tactic and sometimes even calling the police to try and save the person’s life.

On arrival at a medical centre, the paramedics transfer the patient to nursing personnel and report their observations and treatment procedure to the attending physician.

Working on a 12-hour shift, each crew checks the unit to make sure that equipment, drugs and bandages are well stocked.

EMT’s are trained in the use of complex medical equipment, such as EKG heart monitors and are capable of administering drugs both orally and intravenously.

They risk exposure to contagious diseases as well as violence from mentally unstable patients. Emotionally, they must be able to cope with continually seeing people in distress or near death.

On a lighter side they get to respond to the call of a man having a few more beers before stringing up the last of the Christmas tree lights. Grandma dropped her fruit cake and broke her foot. A woman crying hysterically after saying her husband could not be dead because she had stabbed him lots of times before and he had never died.

EMT Pusey said he remembers responding to a call of a person slumped over the car wheel. When the ambulance arrived, the man who was busily chatting on his cellular phone said: ‘Who called you?’

Another one was a call of someone maybe dead at the dock. The person who was sleeping on the dock, got up and said, ‘What are you doing here? Something the matter!’

To EMTs it is all in a day’s work of saving lives.

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