By Liz Beck
Pembina County 911 Coordinator
A dedicated team of people and strong community support “has helped Drayton Volunteer Ambulance Service to stay as strong as we are,” said Rob Boll, a long-time ambulance member and EMT-I. Bill Tuttle, another long-time member, trainer and EMT-I for the service, “gives credit to those employers who recognize the importance that their employees play in providing emergency medical service (EMS) in their community.” He added, “the service wouldn’t be here, if employers didn’t allow employees to take emergency calls.”
Patients show appreciation for the ambulance service too, through donations or memorials, and sometimes gifts. According to Rob Boll, “One particular patient offered the service to use a portable unfolding aluminum ramp to aid in getting him down the steps of the house. We’d struggled for so many years with getting people down stairs.” Boll continued, “when this patient was in the hospital, he said to his wife ‘the crew really liked that ramp, we should give that to them,’ and he made sure the ambulance crew received it as a gift. The Ambulance Service ordered a second ramp for the second rig. The ramp is so much more comfortable for the patient, and they feel stable while they’re going down.”
The volunteer team contributes countless hours training, applying for grant dollars, maintaining equipment, and meetings to review ambulance calls. In addition, Dr. Susan Thompson, their Medical Director, holds monthly meetings with the services, in order to review protocol. Emergency responders bring the best level of patient care to people they support.
The State Division of Emergency Medical Systems in recent years has sought legislative funding to assist rural ambulance services with grant dollars that each service must apply for. According to Tuttle, “Up until a few years ago, financing has been an issue before the EMS rural funding grants. It’s been a godsend for us, because it allowed us to pick up equipment, to better provide patient care. It used to be when we went out on an ambulance call, that we would have to call the fire department to help us load our patients, just to get them into the ambulance. We’d then call ahead to Altru in Grand Forks….so a crew could help unload the patient. With these ‘power lift cots’ now, basically 2 people can do a lot of it, and without injuring a responder.”
The ambulance service has also been gifted through the Leona Helmsley Foundation, with a ’12-Lead Heart Monitor’, which according to Boll, “measures what’s going on with the heart, and results can be transmitted to the hospital via a modem so the doctors can see it.” Symptoms that often call for the use of a 12-lead include fainting or collapse, seizures or chest pain. Tuttle added, “We’re trying to educate the public to call early, don’t wait. From the patient’s house, we can send results of the patient’s heart right to a cardiologist in Grand Forks, who can usher a prompt to get the patient to them quickly.”
The aid of a new ‘LUCAS device’, or CPR heart pumper, enables ambulance volunteers to administer CPR without becoming physically exhausted. The LUCAS device automatically delivers 100 chest compressions per minute or two 2 compressions per second consistently. Boll said, “for a while, I was really nervous about what happens when 1 or 2 people show up on a call where CPR is needed, because of the timing, you know, during harvest or planting.” This frees up the EMS workers hands to help the patient in other aspects such as giving the patient medication or getting the patient ready for transport.
The CPAP breathing device is another invaluable piece of medical equipment used in emergency response. It blows air into the patient’s lungs to hold the air sacks open continuously. Boll said “For a lot of people, it can completely reverse their shortness of breath, within a minute.” On a recent call, Tyron Garro, a new member, said “we used the CPAP with the nebulizer for the patient, and I think that was the difference between him making it and not.”
Boll said, “It makes a real difference to have an ambulance in our town that can take people to the hospital. You can see it in their faces, and how their symptoms can improve just when we come.” When talking about getting new equipment or a new ambulance, he added, “Our community deserves to be proud of things, because it’s their stuff, too.”
If you think you might want to be a part of an effort to support the Drayton community by working with the ambulance service, or have questions, please feel free to contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org, and someone will get back to you. People from all walks of life, or any age, are welcome.