Dinosaur growing its EMT services

Imagine living in an isolated area with emergency medical transportation at least a half hour away.

This is the situation for many Dinosaur residents, but a team of Emergency Medical technicians (EMTs) is working hard to provide the best services in spite of the challenges.

"We're trying to grow and provide some medical help for Dinosaur which has nothing," said EMT Carla Roloff. "I think I'm more confident than I used to be. The more runs we get, the more confident we become."

In the last two years, Dinosaur EMTs have responded to about 20 calls for service. To keep their skills fresh the eight volunteers train at least once a month, often using mannequins to practice life-saving skills in the absence of service calls in the sparsely populated area.

In the summer of 2002, Dinosaur EMTs were faced with a life-or-death situation after they responded to call from a heart attack patient. Because EMTs weren't qualified to transport victims to the Rangely Hospital, many felt frustrated that they missed the opportunity to save a life.

According to patient care agreements, ambulances from the Rangely hospital pick up Dinosaur patients.

Now Dinosaur EMTs are trained to use an automated defibrillator, which can be used in future calls with heart attack patients.

Although Dinosaur EMTs have an ambulance, current transport agreements from Dinosaur EMTs don't exist, partly because team members aren't quite qualified yet, said Karen Burley, Emergency Medical Services coordinator for Maybell.

That's not to say the group isn't active and dedicated to the volunteer work, Burley stressed.

"If these people weren't willing to do this, there would be no medical responses in that end of the county," she said. "By resolution, the EMTs could transport (to Rangely) but they're not ready yet. I think I'm positive that they know their limitations and in this field that's a good thing."

According to EMT Bhrent Shock, volunteering is a way he helps out his neighbors.

"I think there's a personal drive to do this," said Shock who is also the town marshall. "It's not the money, or the hours or the benefits. It's being able to be there when someone is hurt or sick."

In a small town, volunteering for emergency response can be both comforting and difficult for the provider.

"Seeing someone you know die is painful, but that's something that's better to work through with friends," he said. "It can be a benefit to help a neighbor or a friend rather than a stranger."

Sometimes Dinosaur patients are upset when they expect and want to be transported to the Vernal, Utah trauma center, EMTs said.

It's a situation that patients unfairly take out on EMTs, they said, because by law, those patients first have to be transported to the Rangely hospital.

"People have a lot of mixed feelings about us being here," Roloff said. " A large percentage of people say they would rather go to Vernal, but there's nothing we can do about that."

Getting to the point where EMTs can transport patients is a goal for the group, but that will come with more experience and with medical agreements in place.

Other necessary steps include outfitting the ambulance with more pediatric equipment. And Burley said she'd like to outfit the EMTs with uniforms to save their clothes and skin from job hazards.

The unit also needs more disposable items such as stabilizing neck collars and oxygen masks, she added.

"I believe that the public perceives that transporting patients is a very easy thing to do, but it's not," Burley said. "None of this is going to happen overnight."

To get to that point EMTs may have to confidently feel able to save lives and stabilize patients under a variety of circumstances--experience that would require EMTs to respond to a much greater frequency of calls than they currently get in Dinosaur.

One of the requirements for earning the First Responder qualification had EMTs spend a shift in the Rangely hospital emergency room.

"Some of us who have wanted it have stepped up and received the knowledge to make this happen here," said Roloff.

According to Burley the effort isn't going unnoticed.

"Against all odds this group of people is fighting the sentiment in Dinosaur that they won't succeed," she said. "As a community they've watched many things like this fail before. But the EMTs have shown more determination then I've ever seen and they are very committed to their job."

"They should be very proud that they're trying to provide the best patient care possible," Burley said.

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