BERT is a familiar service for medical emergencies. In the first six months of 2011, BERT made an average of three hundred and ten runs per month, and that figure includes two hundred and forty-three were for medical emergencies. Aside from the Belize District, BERT operates in the Cayo District where it has trained emergency responders. Healthy Living this week found out that BERT is encouraging training of ordinary folks.
Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
Medical emergencies and crises can happen at any moment in time. Not much thought is usually give to your level of preparation in the event of an emergency. The one piece of information that people execute well is calling for help. This is when we usually call upon persons from the Belize Emergency Response Team. This would put you in direct contact with a dispatcher who would provide proper information on how to respond and contact other relevant agencies like the hospital, police or fire department. Javier Canul has been an EMT with BERT for over a decade; he explains what you can do on the scene.
Javier Canul, EMT with Paramedic Training, BERT
ďBasically if you are a trained personnel thatís when you need to activate your training. If youíre not trained personnel we ask you to do the simple things such as one call for help, calling us and let the dispatcher guide you through the process. Secondly if youíve done all that and you just donít know what else to do. You can comfort the patient by any means necessary. Let the patient know: ok, Iíve called for help already, Iíve called your mom, is there anyone else you need me to call? Maybe just a simple touch on their forehead and let them know itís ok.Ē
Keeping the person calm and letting them know help is on the way is what is most important. There are few instances where an untrained person can offer some assistance. One such case is wounds that are bleeding profusely &unconscious persons.
ďUnconscious patients basically you need to make sure that there is an airway open, make sure you keep that airway open and you want to find out fi the patient is breathing. 38.32 if when you open that airway. Two ways to open that airway would be the head to tilt chin lift, hand on the forehead and the other on the corner of the jaw and gently lift the head back backwards, if you do not suspect what we call a spinal injury. If you suspect a spinal injury you use what we call jaw thrust maneuver which you have to be trained to actually do that. When it comes to profuse bleeding or stuff. It all depends if somebody get a chop would or something like that. Itís something you can address because you know that it is something that is not internal. If itís obvious you can stop that bleeding. You may want to take anything that you have maybe a shirt and apply what we call direct pressure to that area. If the bleeding does not stop then you might want to apply another bulky dressing in the area. if you see bleeding for example that is spurting out and its bright red in color, its telling you that its coming from an artery; when you call the dispatcher you can say I think itís an arterial bleeding and the dispatcher will tell you what to do at that point.Ē
In both instances, further care by trained personnel is necessary. Canul acknowledges that often people are tempted to take matters into their own hands and take people to the hospital on their own; although it may seem like a good idea, he strongly advises against it.
ďI have to encourage people to get training; simple first aid training will take you a long way. When you donít have a training then you do the things that are wrong which would be donít take someone and throw them in the back of a pick-up truck or put them in the back of a car and rush off the hospital. You can create more damage for that person, 2: what youíre seeing is the obvious but what about what youíre not seeing. What youíre not seeing is what can create the death of someone. We encourage you to call for help and like I said if you want to do something. The trained medical dispatcher will tell you what to do. Step by step what youíre supposed to do and thatís the best advice I can give you. Do not move anybody if youíre not trained in how to do it.Ē
One of the recommendations by BERT is to call their number directly in the event of a medical emergency. Calls to the emergency hotline, 911, are as a standard transferred to the police department who would then make contact with BERT. The responders have protocols in place to leave their base within a matter of minutes; contacting them directly for a medical emergency will allow for a faster response. The teams training is beyond transporting persons, once in the bus, treatment commences.
ďOnce we get the patient onboard the ambulance we start immediate treatment. Whether itís by IV therapy, whether itís by giving oxygen, whether itís by words of comfort and letting the patient know what is happening as we continue to treat them. So we want you to call us we donít want you to push them in the back of a truck and rush off with them. Generally the medical ambulance does what we call pre hospital care until the patient reach the hospital and then the doctors continue with the treatment from there.Ē
The most important recommendation from this veteran emergency responder is that more people should seek training; not necessarily as a profession, but to be able to help those in need as we encounter them.
ďIíve been in this for over twelve years and Iíve noticed that there is a steady rise in just about everything you can think about: accidents, stab wounds, overdose, suicidal attempts, cardiac patients, diabetes, high blood pressure. Thereís been a rise so think that if thereís been a rise then why donít we have a rise in people who are trained. Companies can offer these courses to their employees; employees or people who go to school, itís a great opportunity for people to take advantage of these trainings.Ē