By Jacob Mathias
I feel a little less useful after this week’s Portage County Emergency Services Citizens’ Academy.
Our class once again met at the Stevens Point Fire Department Station No. 1. We were scheduled to learn about our local emergency medical services-the paramedics, EMTs and first responders who show up on your worst days.
It wasn’t an action-packed class like our firefighting or deadly force sessions, but it was, at least for me, one of the most eye-opening. Just the amount of knowledge these men and women need is mind-bending. They have to somehow be nurse, doctor, field surgeon and pharmacist all at the same time.
If you have a heart attack or serious injury, they’re on the phone with hospitals, running an EKG, administering drugs and filling out paperwork at all hours while sitting out in the cold, rain, sleet and snow. They work in a world of controlled chaos when everything is on the line.
Learning the scope of a paramedic’s job gave me a new appreciation, not only for all they do for our community, but also for how much less stress I actually have in my own life. I’m definitely giving myself a mental check next time I complain about my job.
For example, a large part of a paramedic’s job is to maintain an unconscious patient’s airway. There are multiple ways to do this — none of them pleasant — and I assure you they are not procedures I could perform on another human. SPFD Assistant Chief Joe Gemza demonstrated these methods to us in one of the more interactive portions of the evening.
Gemza demonstrated how to intubate a patient. Basically, you have to force a tube down a person’s trachea so air can be pushed into the lungs.
I was given the opportunity to practice intubating on a dummy. It did not go well.
I managed to break the patient’s front teeth while consistently missing the trachea and poking the tube into the esophagus instead.
So, if this was a real person, rather than a tube full of life-giving air, they’d instead have major dental surgery and a prolonged sore throat.
I’m sure that with practice, I could learn how to do this, but I’m not sure I have the capacity to actually perform it on a human. That’s what makes our local EMS so special. It’s certainly not a job just anyone can do and I’m grateful those who can choose to do so.
Stay tuned next week as I continue my education at the Citizens’ Academy.