Today through Saturday is Emergency Medical Services Week. This year's theme is "Everyday Heroes."
Traditionally, we recognize the ambulance services and their personnel: first responders, emergency medical technicians, paramedics and prehospital registered nurses.
This year, I would like to broaden that recognition to include the entire chain of emergency medical providers.
No doubt the front line of emergency medicine rests with ambulance personnel. They respond at all hours, in any weather, and into situations that can put them in harm's way. Many times they make decisions that lead to lifesaving interventions - unheard of 40 years ago.
Some are paid, but many are volunteers. Their willingness to accept the awesome responsibility of holding the outcome of another person's life in their hands defies understanding. Why would any reasonable person get out of bed at 3 a.m. to respond to an emergency in a snowstorm and put his or her own well-being in jeopardy? And all for little or no compensation!
This special blend of compassion, dedication and emergency medical expertise is the makeup of an everyday hero.
And when the ambulance rolls up the ramp to the emergency room entrance, it is met by a team of ER technicians, registered nurses, physician assistants and emergency medical physicians who are cut from the same cloth as the ambulance personnel.
It is very common for ER techs and RNs to be ambulance service providers also. They work in an environment of extreme tension, with little or no room for mistakes. Their ability to render the same care and compassion to a child as to a drug addict speaks volumes about the type of people they are.
In addition, we are extremely fortunate in this region to have the next level of care available, specifically trauma and stroke centers. The level of expertise and technology in these centers has saved untold numbers of lives.
Potential patients can do some things to make the EMS system run even smoother. Always have a current list of medications, including dosages, ready for the ambulance crew. Carry it with you in case you are in an accident. And remember, when going to the ER, it is not first come, first served, but rather medical priority based on a person's condition.
Finally, for natural disasters and terror threats, remember the three-day rule: Be prepared with enough medications, first-aid supplies, food and water to last three days in the event of an emergency.
We are blessed to have a truly outstanding EMS system. Please remember to smile and say thanks this week to our "everyday heroes."
Flo Eberhart is prehospital manager for Altoona Regional Health System.