Paramedics trained to get there fast and keep everyone calm
As a critically injured man was being flown to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center Wednesday afternoon, Rutherford County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics rolled the stretcher back to the waiting ambulance.
At 4:30 p.m. EMS received a 911 call of a stabbing on Old U.S. Highway 74 near Ellenboro. Just minutes later EMS, Ellenboro firefighters and Rutherford County rescue members were at the scene.
In addition to the paramedics, EMS supervisor Kaleb Johnson, Training Officer Justin Moore and EMS Medical Director Dr. Bob England, were also on the scene where the man was transported from one emergency vehicle to the helicopter.
Wednesday was another busy day for EMS, said Operations Manager Terry Baynard.
"Even if there are not calls, we're always busy," Baynard said.
Johnson, who operates one of the department's Quick Response Vehicles, had been on three or four calls before the stabbing call. He answers all acquity calls with the ambulances.
Becoming a paramedic is not a job for everyone, 24-year-old Caleb Alberts, field trainer, said at the base Wednesday afternoon.
"A person can't just come in off the streets and do this," Alberts said.
"It is more of a calling, not just a job," Johnson said.
Alberts grew up wanting to be in emergency services and after training joined the Rutherford County group. He also worked with the Hickory Nut Gorge rescue.
Alberts is one of 41 full-time paramedics. There are 30 part-time crew members.
There are five ambulances (trucks) and a crew of 11 people on duty at all times.
Two trucks ae based in Spindale and one in Cliffside, Bostic and Hickory Nut Gorge.
Inside the EMS base in Spindale are dorm rooms for the paramedics who are on duty 24 hours. "This is our home a third of our life," said Johnson.
Alberts echoed his remarks.
"It's my second home and this is my second vehicle," he said of the ambulance.
Baynard, Johnson and Alberts talked about the "true emergency" calls and the non-emergency calls such as headaches or toothaches.
Chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke symptoms, trauma, a fall, choking, allergic reaction or motor vehicle accidents are all reasons to call for an ambulance.
EMS also responds to all house fires to be on stand-by for fire victims or firefighters who often need medical help at the scene.
However, EMS receives dispatches on a regular basis for headaches, toothaches, minor cuts and bruises.
"We answers all calls," Johnson said.
If EMS is enroute to a minor injury call and there is a true emergency elsewhere, they can divert to the emergency calls. But if EMS has already arrived at the scene, they must first attend to the minor injury. "Otherwise, it will be abandonment," Johnson said.
They respond as quickly as possible. The ideal time to arrive on a scene is eight minutes or less.
"But this is a big county," Johnson said.
Ambulance drivers are allowed to "go as fast as you need to go with due regard," said Administrator/Office Manager Sandra Thompson, also trained paramedic. Everyone who works for EMS is trained for any emergencies.
"If you are the one calling 911, we're not going to get there fast enough," Johnson said.
Once on the scene, EMS personnel has been trained to remain calm regardless of the situation.
Alberts said EMS teaches a paramedic to go into a chaotic scene and be able to calm everyone else down.
"When you are on the scene, the emergency is over," said Baynard.
"The situation is not, but the emergency is," said Johnson.
Johnson said when Cromer Curtis was airlifted to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center recently because of a heart attack, Mrs. Curtis was in the parking lot as her husband was being loaded.
"I held her hand. That's what she needed until her friend got there. I just held her hand," Johnson said.