A First Person Account: Ride Along With A Volunteer Crew

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It’s Friday afternoon on a Memorial Day weekend: the official start of summer. As the Hamptons gears up for the business of play, we’re battening down our hatches for the onslaught of humanity. Today, Southampton Town’s population swells from 50,000 to 200,000.The thought of all that traffic tightens my stomach. I glance at the pager and repeater on my kitchen counter. No chirps, but my belly tells me one’s coming. With two summers and 300 calls under my belt (and I’m a newbie!), I listen up.

BEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEPBEEP!

There it is.

As I load my gear and grab my keys, Dispatch squawks: “Southampton Town Police for Southampton Volunteer Ambulance: MVA, County Road 39, by the Hess Station. 2 PI. FD on scene, Delta Response.”

Translation: MVA=motor vehicle accident. 2 PI=2 injured patients. FD is called to manage the accident scene safety, or to provide heavy rescue—maybe the car hit a utility pole, and they are clearing live wires from the road; maybe the passenger compartment was crushed and we need the Jaws of Life to cut heavy metal for patient extraction. Delta Response=life-threatening injury.

Book it to the Barn. We’re rolling fast!

“7-14-99, en route to the Barn.”

I turn on my flashing green courtesy lights, roll out of my driveway and listen for other members to sign on. All volunteers: grandparents, young marrieds, returned “snowbirds” and non-budging tough birds, business- and tradespeople, students, retirees—they’re leaving work, families, the grocery line to make their way to the Barn, our HQ on North Sea Road, where we assemble and roll the rig (ambulance) to go help.

7-14-80, in our First Responder vehicle, is already on scene: “Be advised: Infant PI, heavy rescue extracting driver, Medevac en route.” That’s a helicopter for transport to Stony Brook University Hospital’s Trauma Center.

Volunteers chime in—nothing like an infant and trauma to re-prioritize a first responder’s day. “967, Southampton Ambulance has two crews assembled.” We converge at the Barn in a parade of flashing green lights, grab turnout gear, board the rigs and prepare.

I used to think ambulances were good for cutting through traffic. Now that I ride, I’m grateful for the cars that pull over to the right, stop and let us pass—and amazed at the clueless morons who don’t. In summertime, getting on scene is half the battle. Someone’s medical outcome depends upon how quickly we respond—and we need drivers to respond to us!

By now, we’ve donned gloves and readied portable suction, in case of trauma and fluids that might compromise an airway. We’ve staged the Trauma Jump Kit to manage bleeding, collars to immobilize necks and to manage spinal injury. As we consider splints, 7-14-47, our ALS (Advanced Life Support) provider, readies medications and fluids to manage pain and stabilize blood pressure to minimize shock.

Once we stop and know the scene is safe, our helpers will grab backboards, headblocks and straps for spinal immobilization. What we don’t know yet is, why did the car crash? Was the driver texting, speeding, drinking or distracted? Or did the driver suffer a heart attack, or a diabetic or other medical emergency, which may have contributed to the crash?

We arrive and assess the scene: two-car impact, rollover, roadway secured, no dangers. Our patients were in a car hit by an oncoming vehicle, whose driver appears unharmed and is talking to police. An EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) and a helper assess his condition to determine if he requires medical care.

7-14-80 attends to the other driver, a mom. Her airway is open, breathing is adequate. He manually stabilizes her head. 7-14-51 grabs a helmet and calls for a longboard and Sager splint. He palpates her face, neck, ribs, arms, pelvis and legs, checking for deformity, swelling, bleeding, pain or abnormal movement. We secure her neck with a collar and, with a helmet and blanket, protect her from sparks so that the fire department crew can cut through metal to remove her car door.

Remarkably, the infant’s rear-facing car seat is intact. Crying tells us his airway is patent. 7-14-56 assesses his vitals, palpating from bottom to top, smiling and cooing to reassure. The baby calms down as she pads cotton blankets to stabilize his neck and head. He is stable, no apparent injury and good to go. As she packages him for transport to Southampton Hospital as a precaution, I see him curl his finger around her outstretched hand.

His mother is a priority patient; she has suffered multiple fractures in a high-speed impact: left femur, pelvis and facial trauma have earned her a helicopter ride to Stony Brook Trauma Center. Carefully, we extract her from the car and place her on a longboard. 7-14-51 applies the Sager splint: its gentle traction prevents the broken ends of her femur from rubbing together and potentially piercing her femoral artery. Immediately, her pain subsides.

We load Mom onto the rig, and 7-14-47 administers IV fluids to stabilize her. As we reassess her vitals, I assure her that her son is fine, on his way to Southampton Hospital. Police contacted family to meet him there.

Luckily, the helipad is nearby, secured by FD heavy rescue, and “the bird” is just minutes out. The bird lands, flight medics board our rig to take assessment and assume patient care from our team. Once they’re satisfied, we wheel the stretcher out and board our patient. Off she goes.

As the thwopthwopthwop recedes, we radio Dispatch and place our rig back in service. By now, our other rig has reached the hospital and placed the infant in its care. We notify the Southampton Village crew placed on standby to cover Southampton Town that they can now return to their lives.

And, after paperwork, cleaning out and restocking the rigs, so can I.

And I want to tell my family how much I love them. And, to EMS responders everywhere—thanks for all you do.

The call number 7-14-99 belongs to Adele Kristiansson, a Water Mill resident who is a volunteer EMT for the Southampton Volunteer Ambulance Company.

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