By ROBERT JUMPER
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Vice Chief Rich Sneed rode with “D-Shift” of the Tribal Emergency Services on Saturday, March 26. He stated that from the moment that he took office he had and has a goal of visiting all the tribal programs to see what they do and find out how the government, and particularly the Vice Chief’s office, might help to make services better.
This ride-a-long was two months in the making. Paramedics Lisa Taylor and Bob Dunlap approached Vice Chief Sneed early on about the prospect and when he arrived on Saturday, they were eager to show him the base. They took him in the training room and one of the topics of conversation was intubation, a procedure to create an open airway through the mouth or nose and down the throat into the windpipe of someone who is unconscious or cannot breathe on their own. Taylor and Dunlap described the procedure and showed the Vice Chief how it is done, using training tools at the base.
Their first call was a mild heart attack that required Taylor, Dunlap and Vice Chief Sneed to pick up the patient and transport the person to Cherokee Hospital’s helicopter pad to be picked up by Mission’s helicopter. While they were waiting on the pad with the patient, they received a call from the emergency room, who needed assistance with someone who was “crashing”, which, in effect, meant that they were dying. When they arrived at the ER, the man was in full respiratory arrest, which meant that they would need to perform an intubation. In the ER, Vice Chief Sneed observed as Taylor and Dunlap assisted the doctor using a video laryngoscope to facilitate the procedure.
Vice Chief Sneed described the conduct of the ER staff and paramedics as very professional and impressive. In discussing their ability to concentrate and be unemotional during a very traumatic event, Vice Chief Sneed said Taylor explained, “I think God just literally gives you this mechanism to just shut that off so that you can just do your job. She said there have been times I have worked on people, we stabilize them, get them ready for transport and think, ‘oh, I know that person’.”
He described it as “tunnel vision” in order to remain calm and do the job.
Vice Chief Sneed spent four hours with the Cherokee EMS. Several calls that the EMS receive are not actually emergencies and that is a cause for concern. When the emergency services are called for non-emergency situations, it takes valuable time away from true needs for emergency responses. If a situation is obviously not an emergency, the community can help by using personal transportation to get to Urgent Care or hospital facilities. Each call response costs the tribe between $1,000 – $1,2000. Obviously, if there is any doubt as to the level of seriousness of a medical situation, request help via 911.
“I came away with a great respect for our emergency services workers,” said Vice Chief Sneed. “The men and women of EMS are, as the syllabary on their equipment and seal states, ‘fast helpers’. They literally hold people’s lives in their hands. They are that front line of defense. They see it all. They see the really traumatic stuff…domestic violence…the effects of drugs in our community. They know firsthand the effects of narcotics on our community because they are dealing with people who are in respiratory failure because they have overdosed. And they are dealing with that and all the emotion and stress that goes with that. At the end of the shift, I told the paramedics that I had always respected them but it had just been kicked up by a factor of ten. I think it is a call of God. My take away is that our EMS workers are under-appreciated and underpaid. They have to know as much as a doctor and be able to perform in a mobile emergency room environment. Their choices could mean life or death to someone. They are great people.”