By Tommer Roush
I am on call 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for one week, 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next week and the third week off, then I start again. I am also a lieutenant firefighter, so really I am on 24/7.
I live with a pager on my hip waiting for a call. When I park my car I think about where and how I park, to cut down on my response time. On night shift, my pants, shirt, socks and shoes are next to my bed. During some shifts nothing happens, during other shifts it seems as though I will not have time to sleep.
One night at six o’clock, when I am just sitting down for dinner, the pager crackles to life, saying, “stand by for page.” I get up from the table. My wife says to be careful, my kids give me that, “you’re leaving” look.
“Lopez fire, Lopez aid, motor vehicle accident, injuryies involved, on Center Road,” comes over the pager.
I am already in my car driving towards the address. I am on aid this week so I will go directly to the scene via my personal vehicle. En route, I am considering all the possible scenarios. Why did they crash? Is there an underlying medical issue? What injuries will we find from the crash? Is it a head injury, spine injury, is it life threatening? Will our aging ambulance start or will I have to get the back up? At the same time I have to consider our fire response. Will our Engine 44 roll? How many firefighters will be available? Will we need to stabilize the crash vehicles, if there is a fire, will the engines and tenders work correctly? Some are as old as I am. Approaching the scene, I am back on track and everything works out. We are able to save a life and the patient is on their way to the hospital via Airlift Northwest. Next the firefighters clear the vehicles off the road. At Station 41, we clean the ambulance to get it back in service for the next call.
“Nine o’clock already?” I ask myself.
I head home. I am totally amped. I have dinner and try to relax for a while. Then it is time for bed, but I can’t sleep. At 12:30 a.m. I finally dose off.
“Stand by for page” … beep, beep … What time is it?… 1 a.m.
“Lopez EMS 75 year old female, chest pain, on Fisherman Bay Road,” says the page.
I am out the door. My wife knows I will be no help getting the kids off to school in the morning.
Again, I wonder, “Is this going to be a heart attack? CPR or just indigestion? How big a team do we need? If it is CPR we need as many EMTs and medics as we can muster. For heartburn two EMTs would do. Regardless of how many we need we always roll the on-call team.”
By 2:30 a.m. we will be back in quarters and ready for another call. I am amped and can’t sleep On Lopez we average one call a day. We can go for days with no calls or we can have multiple calls at the same time. You never know what the shift has in store.
One day we had five serious calls in less then two and a half hours and handled them all successfully. Everyday I am blessed to I have the time to be a volunteer for Lopez Fire and EMS. Every call I feel sense of purpose – to be able to respond when called. I feel fortunate to be part of a team that makes such a difference in the lives of my neighbors. Is it hard, sometimes. There is a lot to think about and worry about.
I will say is that our fire commissioners, chief and paramedics have always been able to support our teams and make sure that we have what we need to do our job. Unfortunately the time has come for us to ask for your help something we don’t take lightly. Our current budget will not support the needs of our department. The last time we asked was ten years ago. Since then our equipment has aged; ambulance, Tender 42; maintenance costs have risen. We have gone to a three medic system, mandated by the continuing education requirements so our medics may continue to practice emergency medical interventions.
Currently we have to go to North Bend for live fire training, leaving Lopez vulnerable as two fire engines and personnel leave for the weekend to train. We need to be able to train locally.
I also want to express how grateful I am of your past support and hope you will continue. Again we need your help. Please vote yes on Proposition #1 for the Lopez Fire and EMS Levy.
– Roush is the fire lieutenant 44 / EMT and president of the Lopez Volunteer EMT Association