A visit to emergency medical services is usually a sign of a very bad day.
It could mean that you suffered a serious fall while hiking in the backcountry, that a family member was traumatically injured in a car accident, a friend suddenly lost consciousness due to a undiagnosed health problem or any other possibility.
But when the circumstances turn dire and the panic and fear begin to tighten, it is the effort of these emergency workers – and sometimes an ordinary citizen standing up to face an incredible challenge – that often makes the difference. difference between life and death.
Summit County observes the 46th Annual National EMS Week May 16-22, a time to step back and appreciate the first responders working tirelessly to ensure community members facing disaster can return home them with their loved ones.
For Tim Heuring, an Illinois resident who suffered a heart attack while skiing in March, that’s no exaggeration.
“It’s amazing how much they’ve done for me,” Heuring said. “These guys gave me another chance at life. I am a 42 year old male who has an 8 year old son and an 11 year old daughter, and we are eternally grateful to the people who were at work that day. It really emphasizes the importance of what they do on a daily basis. “
On March 29, Heuring was taking his first ski lesson at Breckenridge Ski Resort with his wife, Meghan. The two were going down a beginner’s slope when Heuring told his wife he was feeling tired, Meghan said. From Summit Fire & EMS.
Meghan, a pharmacist like her husband, called for help and began administering CPR with the help of a doctor and a firefighter on leave who were nearby. A ski patrol arrived shortly after, continuing CPR and applying the first shock of an automatic external defibrillator to his chest in hopes of restoring a normal heartbeat. Doctors from the Red, White and Blue Fire Protection District transported Heuring to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, where medics broke the clot with medication. A Flight for Life crew then transported him to St. Anthony’s Hospital on the front range by ambulance.
At the hospital, medical staff inserted a stent and were able to stabilize it. By that time, medical professionals had administered more than 60 life-saving shocks to his heart.
For rescuers, Heuring’s resuscitation reflects how cooperative efforts across different agencies can help save lives.
“This could not have happened without all team members from each agency acting in sync,” said Jim Levi, Head of the Red, White and Blue division at EMS. “We are proud to serve alongside so many highly trained and dedicated professionals in the emergency medical system here in Summit County.”
For the Heuring family, the rescuers allowed them to resume a normal life.
Meghan said her husband began cardiac rehab when he got home and is already resuming the active lifestyle he loved, playing horse games against her daughter, Chloe, in the alley.
The family plan to return to Breckenridge – where Tim and Meghan got married – this summer, although any future ski trip is likely off the table, Meghan said.
“It’s hard at this day to believe he’s still here,” Meghan said. “He shouldn’t be here, honestly. … You don’t realize how much every day in normal conversations we say things like “Life is too short”. And it really is. For us now, he’s trying to balance that with the hope of having a long life. … You have a new appreciation for the little things – eating breakfast with your kids in the morning instead of rushing to work.
“It has been a good realization of some changes that we need to make, as well as gratitude for the people who are doing this work. Being both in the medical field, many times we understand that you just lose your sense of why you are doing it. … It really puts in perspective that you are doing something for someone.
An extraordinary spectator
While emergency medical workers are the experts, that doesn’t mean bystanders can’t help tell the difference either.
On May 12, Red, White & Blue presented longtime Summit County resident Joel Richards with a rescue award for his selfless response in helping an unconscious man.
Richards was driving down Main Street in Breckenridge last fall when he spotted a group gathered around a collapsed cyclist. Taking lessons learned years ago in a CPR class, Richards began chest compressions and rescue breaths on the man. Red, white and blue responders arrived at the scene to defibrillate the man shortly after, but officials said Richards’ actions undoubtedly helped save the man’s life.
According to the American Heart Association, spectator intervention with CPR is vital. According to 2014 data, approximately 45% of non-hospital cardiac arrest victims survived when a bystander administered CPR. However, only about 46% of people actually get the help they need after having a heart attack and before healthcare professionals arrive. Often bystanders are present but don’t administer CPR because they don’t know how, fear legal ramifications, or think they might hurt the individual more, according to Red, White & Blue.
In Summit County, emergency services have made resuscitation training a top priority. The county’s cardiac arrest survival rate has risen from just 11.5% in 2019 to over 47% in 2020. The national survival rate is around 8.5%, according to Summit Fire & EMS.
“We worked 21 patients (cardiac arrest) in Summit County last year, and 10 were discharged from hospital,” said Jenn Oese, director of clinical practice for Summit Fire. “Already in 2021, three patients survived. We are determined to always learn more in order to give these patients a better chance of survival. “
To this end, groups across the county are trying to make more residents comfortable administering CPR. This week, the local nonprofit Starting Hearts is offering free 45-minute CPR classes called Call Push Shock, which teach people how to perform CPR and how to use a defibrillator. Classes can be scheduled by contacting the non-profit organization at [email protected] or 970-763-5306, ext. 700.
Other events to support EMS activities will take place throughout the week. Summit Fire is hosting a blood drive at the Summit County Community and Senior Center on Tuesday, May 18. Appointments can be scheduled on Vitalant.org. Additional blood drives are scheduled for July 14 and December 8.
On Wednesday, May 19, teachers at Summit High School will release a video showing students how to practice CPR. On Thursday, May 20 and Friday, May 21, the Summit County Emergency Response Organization will be broadcasting information to support seat belt use and child seat safety in the community. And on Saturday, May 22, Summit Fire will release a video tribute to county first responders and EMS workers.