EMTs keep Fairchild safe
By Airman 1st Class Ryan Lackey, 92nd Air Refueling Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 10, 2016
FAIRCHILD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- When emergencies happen and a call goes out to help the sick or injured, its emergency medical technicians who rush to the scene. Their calm exterior belies the pounding of their hearts, while constant readiness grants them the speed and discipline needed to preserve life in high-stress situations.
Despite constant work that is often stressful, these medical Airmen are quick to express a positive outlook and eagerness to be there for anyone who needs help.
“Being an EMT is an awesome job,” said Airman 1st Class Shawn Regina McMahan, 92nd Medical Operations Squadron EMT trainee. “You get satisfaction from helping people, but you also get an adrenaline rush from running out the door, knowing you’re jumping headlong into an unknown emergency.”
EMTs know that the greatest obstacle to saving lives is time. It may take five minutes or less for a patient to go into shock, bleed to death, or to suffer irreversible heart and brain damage, said Tech. Sgt. Thomas M. Hannes, 92nd MDOS, NCO in charge of ambulance services flight.
“You have to be prepared and open-minded, as the emergency may not be exactly what the caller says it is,” said Senior Airman Ashley Cox, 92nd MDOS EMT. “We might hear that somebody cut their hand and arrive to find the entire hand severed.”
Getting a critical patient into the hands of an advanced care facility is often the best chance of saving them. Fairchild EMTs partner with American Medical Response civilian paramedics to transport patients needing advanced care to local hospitals, but they must work fast to secure and keep patients stable until transport arrives, Hannes said.
All medics receive the same basic health care and life-saving training, with most moving on to specialize in various clinic or hospital areas. EMTs cannot specialize due to the varied nature of the cases they respond to, and are forced to continually exercise all aspects of the training they receive. This constant practice gives EMTs increased ability to react to anything an emergency call may throw at them, said Senior Airman Corey Justice Louis, 92nd MDOS EMT.
“The worst situation is when patients won’t respond to us,” Hannes said. “One moment they’re talking, the next they’re not and before we know it, they have defibulator pads on them.”
EMTs require more than just technical skills to effectively respond to emergencies, as calls may concern anything from suicidal ideations to panic over a hurt loved one, responders focus on the whole person and not just the problem itself.
“There was a call we responded to where a child had collapsed and was unresponsive. When we arrived, the panic stricken father carried the limp child out to us and put all his faith into us as EMTs to save his child,” Hannes said. “We were able reassure the father while also doing the right things to get the child to recover. Being able to do something like that makes me love this job so much.”
When not responding to an emergency call, Fairchild EMTs work out of the base clinic and assist its staff during the day. When the clinic closes its doors for the day, ambulance services moves to the fire department and the EMTs on call deploy alongside firefighters should an emergency occur.
“We also have a close relationship with our firefighter brethren,” Hannes said. “Working with them so closely has improved our response time and procedures.”
The ambulance services flight Airmen work 24-hour shifts with two days off in-between working days. However, the long days don’t seem to faze these Airmen and instead it brings them closer together.
“We are like a family here and that is another benefit of ambulance services, as being a smaller unit lets everyone get know each other,” Louis said. “When you work closely with someone for days at a time, you tend to build up a lot of trust easily.”
The ambulance services flight also covers all in-flight emergencies, survival school jump practices and fire department live crew training exercises.
“My expectations of being an EMT was that I was going to affect people’s lives and would be able to sweep in like Superman to save the day,” McMahan said. “I’m still in training, but so far I have already gotten a taste of saving people. I can go home each day knowing I made a difference to someone.”