When I started in EMS, the term “EMS Sports Pages” referred to the Obituaries. It was where we turned to see how our critical patients did. Get pulses back on a cardiac arrest or bring in an unresponsive patient with multiple trauma from an MVA or a seizing patient with left sided paralysis, you checked the obit section each day. It might be day three or day five or sometimes, day 13, but in most cases, youâ€™d recognize the name,and youâ€™d feel a little down. Never see the name and youâ€™d wonder if maybe it appeared on a day you didnâ€™t check. Followup at many of the hospitals was hard to get.
This was around the time Rescue 911 was on TV. In that show heroic rescues were reenacted, and afterwards the victims came by the EMS station for a celebratory picnic with their rescuers. We didnâ€™t have a station. We went from street corner posting to street corner posting. And we never got a picnic.
Once I got called for a stroke. I found a man sitting on a neighborâ€™s garbage can, where he had been talking to them after driving up in his car, when he suddenly slumped over. We went lights and sirens to the hospital following the stroke protocol. I dug his ID out of his wallet and was shocked by the name. It was the same name as a man I had treated in cardiac arrest a year before. He had collapsed outside at his landscaping job. We got there quickly and shocked him out of v-fib. Iâ€™d gotten pulses back, but never thought anything more of it. I just assumed he had died or was a vegetable in some nursing home. To make it an even better story, his massive stroke turned out to be a TIA and he was talking to me before we even reached the hospital. He was in fact the same guy. At the hospital I met his family and they said they had tried to get in contact with me. They had gone to the fire station with a fruit basket. They said they had left it there with a message for me. I never got the message or the fruit. At least that day in the ER we had our little reunion. We all shook hands and hugged, and smiled a lot.
Some of the local fire departments have been a bit of sore point for some of my coworkers. My co-workers would save a patient or deliver a baby only to see the fire department first responders on TV or in the newspapers being honored for the very call with no mention of the primary care-givers. To the firefighter’s credit, their departments had good PR programs. You let the community know what you do and the money will be there at budget time.
Iâ€™ve been a part-time EMS coordinator at a local hospital now for almost eight years in addition to being a full time medic. A couple years into the job, I started putting out a monthly newsletter. It has been my goal to highlight cardiac arrest saves, and more recently STEMIs and good stroke care. Every now and then I add an anaphylaxis or overdose or baby delivery. Sometimes I ask the crews to take a picture in front of their vehicle. I asked one older medic once for a picture, but he declined. He said it was his job and he shouldnâ€™t be honored for doing something he was paid to to do and that he was expected to do well . I had to respect that. Still, I am glad others have been willing to share their photos. Some of the stories in the newsletter have led to TV spots and community honors. With patient reunions Recently I went from a two page to a four page newsletter, which I hope I can keep up. The pages are not just not highlighting great calls, they have educational matter, announcements of protocol changes and upcoming events, but I am going to try to increase the number of stories and expand the type of calls I put in my new EMS sports pages.
EMS is like sports. Some days you are phenomenal, other days you are average, and sometimes you strike out. Yet few of us need the cheering crowds. Most of us get our daily rewards in the give and take with patients, the thanks you get from them when you get them safely to their destination, doing better than when you found them.
I think good work deserves recognition, and if EMS is shy about it, it still needs to be celebrated because it raises the publicâ€™s esteem for what we do, and that will lead to a better system for all.