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Resuscitating response services

By Staff | Dec 14, 2018

Submitted photo Esmond's new EMR crew are (from left): Jason Smith, Robbie Rennock, Cortney Rennock, Shari Wilson, Squad Leader Cindy Wilhelm, Alysa Rice, Jayla Smith, Julie Grove and Brandon Grove

Eight new emergency medical responders received certification in Esmond last week to breathe new life into their community’s fading emergency service program.

Squad leader Cindy Wilhelm told the Tribune, “Esmond has had emergency response services for 40 years.”

However, Wilhelm noted services “started falling apart, and in recent years, we’ve lost EMTs in the area.”

Last spring, the situation grew dire.

Wilhelm recalled, “The number (of personnel trained for medical emergencies) dwindled down to three before it almost closed. The number had been three until almost December.”

Because Esmond is more than 25 miles from the nearest hospital, first responders bridge a critical gap between the scene of a medical crisis and the emergency room. Wilhelm said the community has contracted with nearby communities for emergency medical tech and ambulance services, however, response times for ambulances can be as long as 45 minutes.

Wilhelm described the small group of three emergency responders as “kind of coming up for air, and we needed that resurgence, the people stepping up to save it.”

A call went out for volunteers to build up the tiny town’s emergency response unit again, and eight residents answered. They recently received certification as Emergency Medical Responders.

Wilhelm called emergency medical responders, or EMRs, “a stopgap measure to give medical aid until EMTs arrive.”

Wilhelm said of the new volunteers, “It’s wonderful. Such a group. They’ve just stepped up, and everything they were supposed to learn, they’ve done it with enthusiasm.”

“One of them is a former nurse,” Wilhelm, a retired teacher added. “The others, people in their 20s-30s, are farmers they come from many walks of life.”

Wilhelm said the new crew members took on the tasks of keeping equipment updated.

“The former nurse said ‘I’ll just take care of all the AEDs (for the group); I’ll just do that job.’ Another one, Robbie Rennock said, ‘I work in Rugby, so I will pick up or take back oxygen tanks,’ so things are falling into place.”

Wilhelm said Rennock joined the crew along with his wife, Cortney.

Although the crew will sometimes respond to emergencies in what Wilhelm calls “our rig,” the EMRs are not able to transport patients to hospitals. EMRs instead provide quick lifesaving services. Wilhelm said the EMRs use their vehicle to carry supplies, and sometimes shelter the patients while they wait for an ambulance.

Wilhelm noted EMRs differ from EMTs in a number of ways, including the number of hours they train. She said EMTs log 110 hours of training, while EMRs train for 40 hours. However, EMRs provide many of the same lifesaving procedures as EMTs. “They can’t do IVs, though,” she said.

A list detailing the skill sets of EMRs and EMTs published by the North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Emergency Services shows EMRs have training in basic lifesaving measures including stabilizing injured patients with cervical collars. EMT skills differ mostly by the number of medications the techs are trained to administer.

Another husband and wife team, Brandon and Julie Grove, serve on the Esmond EMR crew. The Groves farm and ranch in Pierce County, about 17 miles northwest of Esmond.

“Our kids go to school in Rugby,” Julie Grove said.

“The reason (Esmond) asked us to (volunteer) is because there is nobody out in this area we’re close to the junction (of North Dakota Highways 3 and 19), probably only 5 miles away from the people who are served by (Esmond’s EMR service),” Julie explained.

“We get the calls that are sent out on our phones (by dispatchers in Devils Lake), and we just respond.”

Like other crew members who live farther from Esmond, the Groves have supplies with them to save time responding to emergencies.

“We have a big bag of supplies,” Julie said. “We even have an AED (automated external defibrillator). We have everything we would need to respond. We have oxygen it’s a pretty big bag,” she said.

Julie continued, “Brandon and I, living 17 miles out, we would just respond in our vehicle to get there faster. That was the problem in the beginning with Esmond; with people being on call, they would have to take the call, get the vehicle to get to where they need to be.”

“Now, we can get there in 5-10 minutes. We get dispatched at the same time the Maddock or Rugby ambulance does. If we’re there in five minutes, we can assess the situation, and tell them what they’re coming into, so when they get there in a half an hour, they know. I think that five minutes is huge if you can respond in that amount of time.”

Wilhelm said Esmond has contracted with Maddock for ambulance services.

“When everything is completed with Maddock, it will only be Maddock who responds for us.”

Wilhelm said Maddock EMTs and ambulance personnel would have the option to transport patients to any hospital in the area.

“With this (training) class last night, though, Maddock said the exception is this weather,” Wilhelm added. “If it’s bad up toward Highway 2, we’re probably not going to go to Rugby. If it’s bad on Highway 3, they’re probably not going to Harvey.”

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