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Recognizing those who stand ready to respond to medical emergencies
Being involved in a motor vehicle accident, suffering a stroke or heart attack, getting hurt in a sporting event -- they're all traumatic experiences, but worrying about getting timely help usually isn't part of it for most Nebraskans.
That's because Nebraska has nearly 7,500 licensed EMS workers across the state, 80 percent of them volunteers, ready to respond to nearly any situation.
May 20-26 is National EMS Week, a good time to pay tribute to these valuable, vital members of our community.
It's no small commitment. The first Emergency Medical Technician course, EMT-Basic, requires two 75-hour courses worth five credit hours, as well as 10 hours of required clinical time for the second course. Upon completion, they have had training in dealing with shock, heart problems, breathing problems, strokes, burns, diabetes, drowning and accidents.
Of course, if you're involved in an emergency, it's likely the people responding have mastered far beyond the basics, qualified as paramedics or more.
"This is stress at its highest," said Dr. Joann Schaefer, chief medical officer for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. "It takes a special type of person who can go through the elation of saving a life and the sadness of losing one, and come back and start all over again the next day. These folks care about the people in their communities, and we thank them for their dedication."
The City of McCook has a full-time fire chief, seven full-time firefighters, a full-time administrative assistant and 27 volunteer firefighter/EMS providers.
All full-time firefighters, as well as the fire chief and five volunteers are paramedics.
The McCook Fire Department's EMS response area covers approximately 320 square miles, from the Kansas-Nebraska border to about 16 miles north of McCook, west to the Red Willow-Hitchcock County line and about four miles east of McCook.
In 2011, the department responded to 714 EMS calls as well as 157 fire calls.
Nebraska EMS personnel responded to 164,733 calls last year, more than 13,000 of them involving children.
"When there's a child in distress, it's important for first responders to have the proper equipment and training to handle the situation," said Dean Cole, DHHS EMS program administrator. "Dealing with children is a little different than dealing with adults. Children are smaller, and many times there's actually more than one victim, the child plus his or her parents. That's why we've made pediatric education a priority."
The state provides life-like mannequins for child-related emergency training, conducts workshops across Nebraska and works with Children's Hospital in Omaha on specialized pediatric training for both basic and advanced life support.
In addition, the state provided funding for 459 training sessions last year for scenarios like ATV accidents, sports injuries, farm emergencies, traumatic brain injuries, school bus accidents and hoarders (confined space rescue). More than 7,500 people took part.
To observe EMS week, the McCook Fire Department is conducting an "EMS for Children Day" from 4 to 6 p.m. today at the McCook Fire Station, 526 West B. Activities include blood pressure checks, an ambulance display, infant car seat checks and bicycle safety.
Attend if you can, but whenever you can, offer a pat on the back and word of gratitude to those who have sacrificed so much to be ready to come to our aid.