So a while ago, I went to an emergency medical call that was about as perfect as an EMS call could be.
Picture this if you will. Our ambulance was in service. The system was at normal operating levels which are well funded and are adequate for our response loads 90% of the time. I had thoroughly checked and cleaned my ambulance and the equipment inside of it at the beginning of my shift and I had even gotten a chance to have a cup of coffee or two before the call came in. When the call did come out over the radio, it was merely a short walk to the ambulance for my paramedic partner and I. We climbed into our dual paramedic staffed, well maintained, state-of-the-art ambulance, and rolled out to the scene of the emergency which was about 8 blocks away through light traffic. We arrived within 4 minutes of the 911 call and were informed by our dispatcher that the residence was equipped with a “Knox Box” entry system so we could quickly gain entry. We retrieved the key from our ambulance, were able to open the Knox Box, and easily entered the residence using the key inside of it. While entering, we noticed that the resident had a “Vial of Life” sticker on the front door, which signified that the patient was most probably participating in our “Vial of Life” program, meaning that the patient had all of their medical information written down properly on one of our stock forms. In fact, we found the “Vial of Life” right in the refrigerator door, where it was supposed to be. The patient, an elderly person, had used a (Non brand-name specific) home emergency call button to summon assistance, which we also had recommended to him/her during the public outreach that convinced her to have everything else in place for our arrival.
In short, this patient had done almost everything right. He/She had paid taxes throughout his/her long time living in the district and had supported us in order to allow us to have quality, state-of-the-art equipment. He/She had supported us so that we could get good training as well. He/She had listened to us when we suggested that He/She wear an emergency call button as he/she got up there in years, had written down his/her medical information in the “Vial of Life”, had put the Vial of Life in the correct place, and had even installed a Knox Box on the home so we could gain access quickly.
So what wasn’t right with this call? The patient had been experiencing symptoms consistent with a stroke. In fact, it was an easy diagnosis from across the room type of stroke. The patient had noticed that he/she was possibly having stroke-like symptoms and had decided that it would be best to get cleaned up, get dressed, clean up the house a little, and call a neighbor over to see if he would take him/her to the doctor’s office before the neighbor convinced the patient to press the button and call us out to help. By that time… well let’s hope the doctors can work some magic.
With all of the bloggers, paramedics, EMTs, and everyone else out there harping about “BS” 911 ambulance calls, one would find it easy to overlook cases like the one above. I for one will come right out and say that I will gladly run 100 nonsense EMS calls rather than miss just one of the above… I don’t want someone to die or suffer further morbidity simply because they were too scared, or polite, or timid to call an ambulance.
I don’t know how to fix the problem, I’d just like to remind you all out there that our job is indeed to take care of people when they’re scared, when they’re sick, and when they’re just plain-ol’ stupid. We’re healthcare providers and it’s our duty. No exceptions.