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Friday, May 25, 2012

GAZETTE NEWSPAPER -Work is never predictable for fire/EMS personnel

Daniel J. Gross/The Gazette 
Firefighter/paramedic Kelli Cooke (left), 31, of District Heights Station 826 removes a medical emergency box from the medic unit ambulance Wednesday after receiving a call for a woman suffering from chest pains in District Heights.
Daniel J. Gross/The Gazette 
Firefighter/paramedic Kelli Cooke (left), 31, of District Heights Station 826 removes a medical emergency box from the medic unit ambulance Wednesday after receiving a call for a woman suffering from chest pains in District Heights.

Things are rarely predictable for Prince George’s County paramedics. One minute they may be in the middle of training, That was the case Wednesday morning for Dave Snyder and Kelli Cooke, two firefighter/paramedics of District Heights Station 826, who say the ever-changing duties were the reason for joining the county’s fire/EMS department the next minute they’re jumping into an ambulance for an emergency.Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department officials are using National EMS Week — May 20 through 26 — to highlight the hard work and dedication of emergency responders to show that “it’s not just a job; it’s a calling,” said Mark Brady, chief spokesman for the department.
First declared by President Gerald Ford in 1974, National EMS Week was established to promote safety and honor the dedication of those who provide day-to-day lifesaving services.
On Wednesday, Snyder and Cooke had just started a training session when they received a call for a resident suffering from chest pains.
“That’s us,” said Cooke, 31, of Brandywine, while leaving the exercise and heading to the scene.
Although Snyder and Cooke were on paramedic duties during their Wednesday shift, they double as firefighters as well and switch between roles depending on the day’s staffing or call volume. The two said they typically respond to about 10 to 15 calls during a 24-hour shift, which is done once every four days.
So far this year, the District Heights station has responded to more than 4,000 fire and EMS calls, adding to the roughly 130,000 calls the county responds to throughout each year. Brady said based on population, the county’s fire/EMS department has a slightly higher call volume than others.
Brady said about 80 percent of the county’s calls are for emergency medical service.
In the call during training Wednesday, the patient’s chest pains were caused by bronchitis, the paramedics said before returning to the station to continue their exercise — only to be called out again.
The 11 a.m. call was to Forestville for the report of an unconscious person. The paramedics arrived to find a man lying on the side of a road unresponsive. Paramedics placed him on a stretcher and loaded him into the station’s medic unit. As the man regained consciousness, Snyder checked his vitals and asked him questions to check his coherence.
“Do you know where we’re going? Do you know where you were before?” he said to the man, who could not answer either question.
Snyder, 30, who commutes to District Heights from Allentown, Pa., said they have previously transported the man, who has been tested for seizures.
Between responding to calls, Snyder, Cooke and the crew of 28 firefighter/paramedics that staff the station spend time maintaining the apparatus, cleaning the station and staying up-to-date with training.
Snyder said he has been with the county’s fire/EMS department for six years and said he decided to become a firefighter and paramedic because several of his family members are also firefighters and said he wanted to do something different every day.
He said he chose the Prince George’s department after serving in the U.S. Air Force at Joint Base Andrews in Camp Springs.
Like Snyder, Cooke also has family in the fire/EMS service and wanted a career that brought a new pace each day.
“There’s never a boring day. We’re not sitting behind a desk,” she said. “There’s never anything that’s the same.”
Lt. Mike Glaubitz of the District Heights station said paramedics are responsible for handling a high number of calls each day while maintaining their knowledge of the field.
“The EMS call volume is so high here that it takes some of the best skilled people to put up with that call volume and maintain the skills and provide the service,” he said. “It’s definitely unique.”
Sometimes a small sign of appreciation from someone who has been treated for a medical emergency can be the reason to come to work, Snyder said.
“Even calls that are considered to be somewhat simple, just for them to say, ‘Thank you,’ that’s good to hear,” he said.
Cooke said the work feels rewarding when treating someone with a medical emergency on the way to the hospital and seeing them recover.
“It’s neat to see something all the way through, to see that we actually made a difference in the patient’s recovery,” she said.
djgross@gazette.net

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