Many of us don’t think about what we would do if we were involved in a car crash or an accident of any kind. Who would be there to care for us? What care would they and could they provide?
I think about this often as my more than 20 years caring for trauma patients has made me distinctly aware that you never know when something unplanned will happen to you.
This fact became hauntingly clear one day about ten years ago. I was driving into Burlington on the interstate headed to work. There was no advanced notice when I came upon a small car facing north in the south bound lane with glass and parts thrown around the scene.
I was the first one on the scene and fifteen years of trauma and ICU experience could not prepare me for what I saw. The occupant was thrown to the passenger side and was severely injured and clinging tenuously to life. The occupant was bleeding from an open head injury and was barely breathing. I immediately called 911 and waited.
There were so many things that I wanted to do for this patient, but all my normal tools: suction, dressing, and such weren’t available to me. I improvised with things I could find near the patient, but shortly thereafter the ambulance arrived, and the occupant was pronounced dead. There was nothing that could have been done due to the massive trauma the occupant had suffered.
I returned to my car and continued on to work, shaking and rethinking what I had done and what more I could have done. This was the day that made me truly appreciate the service that all of our EMS providers give to us on a daily basis. I have had many interactions with EMS, but this drove home the nature of the situations that they deal with on a daily basis.
Did you know that 36 percent of EMS providers in Vermont are volunteers? These are folks who have other jobs, but so strongly believe in caring for others that they work additional hours for no pay to be there when that call comes in. We have 180 agencies licensed in Vermont, but we also have several agencies in New York that transport patients here to the UVM Medical Center every day, some directly from the scene. We have deep appreciation for all of these agencies and the excellent care they provide.
May 17-23, 2015, is National EMS Week. This is an opportunity for all of us to say thank you to our first responders for all they do. The tagline for this week is “EMS STRONG,” which is truly fitting as these providers are some of the toughest and most resilient people I know. They are dedicated to YOU and all the others that they haven’t even met yet.
Jennifer Gratton, BSN, RN, is Trauma Program Manager at the University of Vermont Medical Center.