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  • Writer's pictureTony

The Importance of Rural EMS (Firsthand)

I am often asked about a paramedic’s life in the ‘big city’ where the call volume can be a bit staggering to the human imagination. However, I never forget that my roots are in a middle-Georgia small town where I grew up on a 50 acre farm. My life in EMS began in Butts County. I spent my entire career driving 50 miles to work each day from Jackson, Georgia and still live in the same general area. I love small community life and the people therein. It’s that living ‘where everyone knows your name’ which enriches my life.

How important is rural EMS to the citizens? Rather than give mindless platitudes, let me simply state that small town EMS has literally saved my life on two occasions.

In 2018, I had a massive heart attack in the middle of the night. Yes, a 100% block of the LAD of the anterior heart. The chest pain was minimal, yet my left upper arm felt like someone inflated a BP cuff to 200 mmHg and let it in place. I awoke and knew exactly what was happening to me. Let me say that it was a ‘One star experience and do not recommend’.

I walked out and asked my wife to call 911 for a cardiac event. My wife was a Med/Surg nurse and sister in law a CICU nurse both happened to be watching television at that time in our living room. To reiterate the point, I had a syncopal episode while seated in a chair. I would also point out that three nurses without any equipment or medications is what we Southerners describe as ‘useless as tits on a boar hog’.

Once EMS was notified, I staggered my silly ass into the garage to await their arrival. Why? I had at that moment 8 dogs in the main house; a point that the medics might find challenging because the hounds want to meet everyone and be in the midst of everything.

The EMS arrived and performed the cardiac care in an outstanding manner. The paramedic was calm and spent reassuring me that ‘everything is fine’. Here’s where being a paramedic/RN bites you on the ass. I watched my 12 lead EKG performed. It is less than comforting to see a massive ST elevation in V1, V2, and V3 with reciprocal changes in V4, V5, and V6. All hopes that the arm pain might have a benign point of origin vanished.

I looked at the medic with me and said, “Ummm, I believe we need a ‘Gasoline Drip’ right about now.”

The medic laughed and responded, “Yes, sir. I do too.”

The ride into the hospital was 20 miles. I had a cardiac cath at Spalding Regional Hospital that resolved the entire issue. However, had rural EMS not been there, I wouldn’t be here either.

My next ‘issue’ occurred on 10 June 2023 when I had a Wile E. Coyote moment at the top of a 10 foot ladder that resulted in an ‘open fracture/dislocation of the right ankle’. Properly stated, I damn near ripped my right foot off. Being the medical professional that I am, I simply laid on the ground and avoided looking at a body part semi-attached to me. Yes, I was out at the family farm in the middle of Nowhere, Georgia. My son called Butts County EMS. I now know for a fact that nothing is more comforting than hearing a distant siren getting closer to your location.

Let me say that the care given to me was impeccable from start to finish. Remember that part about not looking at the injury? You know it is going to be bad fracture when the paramedic excuses himself to vomit outside the ambulance. However, I will also say that my first experience with Fentanyl was wonderful. It was a 25 mile ride to Spalding Regional Hospital on a bumpy road and I didn’t give a damn.

Two surgeries and four months later, I have my foot attached and walk with what one might describe as a great ‘pimp limp’. Had rural EMS not been there in either case, I strongly suspect that I wouldn’t be either.

Rural EMS is an essential facet of any and all small communities when things go horribly awry and a medical professional is needed to render medical care and transportation. You, the rural providers, will always have my undying respect and gratitude for your service.

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