Rapid care in the golden hour after an accident or major health issue such as a stroke or heart attack offers hope to patients and their loved ones. For those who live in remote areas, time between the moment a cardiac incident or traumatic injury occurs and treatment begins depends on how swiftly emergency services arrive. For most of us living on the high plains, this means we depend on neighbor volunteers during crises.
In big cities, emergency crews aid total strangers. That’s not true in small towns like ours. Often responders know the casualty and his or her family well. Their children play ball together, or they worship in the same church on Sundays. Sometimes they’re even related, which adds an extra poignancy to what they do. I asked a friend who serves as a first responder if knowing the patient causes more concern when they go on a run. He said, “No, the first thought is to get there and help.”
When 911 systems and dispatchers send that initial page to first responders, recipients drop what they’re doing to head for either an ambulance or fire station. That first call may wake an EMT or firefighter out of exhausted slumber or buzz as a volunteer is working at the top of a grain elevator. Maybe one of those local heroes is cuddling a grandchild while sharing a favorite storybook. These individuals set aside normal life and switch into lifesaver mode, which allows them to focus on providing the best emergency care possible to increase survival chances for the patient.
I remember the time our youngest daughter blacked out and turned blue as a toddler. My fingers could barely punch the required 911 into the wall phone. From the moment I reached the dispatcher to the second those whirling lights pulled into our drive, I felt less alone. What a comfort that people I knew provided oxygen and assessed my baby’s condition as they raced her to the emergency room. Their concern and professionalism reassured a frightened little girl and her mother as we sped toward Hays. Later, their calls to make sure our child was okay offered additional support.
This is a difficult job performed under rugged conditions. By the time an ambulance crew arrives on site and begins treatment, it’s still a long way to a trauma center with facilities to care for serious medical situations. These rescuers make snap decisions with minimal resources to care for complicated emergencies involving friends and loved ones. They understand the feelings of grandparents waiting at home praying for injured grandchildren. They can contact an accident victim’s loved one without looking it up on a computer. That person’s number is listed on their own cell phone.
In communities with dwindling populations, we’re fortunate so many receive necessary training to perform emergency treatment. Once they learn these skills, we’re blessed they wear that pager and respond when it sounds. It’s good to know that golden hour is in the hands of people with hearts of gold.