Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Demise of "Hearse" Ambulances and Other Good Things

Anyone who ever watched Emergency when originally on network television or later in syndication understands how far EMS, among other things, has come in the fire service.  With few exceptions, medical responses have long ago taken the lead over fire calls.  Some contend the name fire department is no longer accurate.  While I understand these arguments, I’m not prepared to go that far—yet. However, if you’re a firefighter today, particularly a young one, you better learn to “like” EMS, or consider another profession, because it isn’t going away. 

The development of ALS while the most prominent and recognized improvement is far from the only change.  Ambulance services run by funeral directors with a red light tossed onto the roof of a hearse have, thankfully, gone the way of the horses.    Overall availability has improved as well. 
How much?  A lot.  When I was six or seven years old, some buddies and I were playing in the woods, jumping in piles of leaves and generally doing the things young boys did back then when no one had to be worried about us being kidnapped if we went ten minutes from the house.  One boy jumped into a pile over a bank and hit something hidden beneath the leaves, breaking his femur.  His screams of pain frightened the living hell out of the rest of us.  There was no thought of moving him, not because we knew not to, but because of fear.  Practically as one, we all started running for our respective homes for one thing; to get our mothers—it was the 60s, they were home. 
The group of mothers followed us back, and mine, being a nurse, promptly recognized the fracture for what it was.  An ambulance was called, but it wasn’t quite as simple as today.  The first due fire department where Dad was a member had no ambulance or any medical capabilities at all.  No help there.  The neighboring department had an ambulance, but they only responded outside of their first due area on nights and weekends.  Monday through Friday, eight to four, they didn’t leave the district.  In the next village over, the police department ran the ambulance.  They didn’t leave their town at all, regardless of time or day.  The only unit available was operated by the county Sheriff’s department.  The road patrol deputy had to respond to get the ambulance from wherever he happened to be, and then across half the county to where we were waiting.    This wasn’t a rural area either; the suburban town had a population in the tens of thousands. 
Almost an hour later, it arrived to transport the boy.  Luckily the break hadn’t hit the artery or he’d have been dead long before the unit arrived.  After an extended convalescence; most of a school year, he recovered. 
Good?  No, but normal back then, so yes, things other than just ALS have changed a lot.  As much as almost no one wants to be on the ambulance every shift,  I think everyone would agree things are better now.   

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