Published 9:02 am Thursday, October 8, 2015
JACKSON – Northampton CountyEMS is the second best department in the world for resuscitation effectiveness.
A recent competition between EMS departments from 40 countries around the world saw Northampton’s team take the silver.
A team from France won first place, with teams from Mexico (3rd) and South Korea (4th) rounding out the winners.
Five Northampton paramedics – Supervisor Paul Nowell, Will Blanchard, Joe D’Arco, Brandon Rose, and Chris Velvin – were honored by the Board of County Commissioners Monday morning for their award.
The five paramedics won the award in Las Vegas, NV at a convention of EMS professionals to learn new techniques.
Nowell said these conventions are very important because they give hands-on training that give paramedics practice with new lifesaving skills.
At this convention, for example, the paramedics received training on the latest techniques for performing tracheotomies. Nowell said this training was especially worthwhile because the paramedics worked on cadavers rather than mannequins.
“We were working with real human beings,” Nowell said. This realistic hands-on technique let the paramedics feel what it would be like if it were a life-or-death situation so they would have a better chance to save a life.
Nowell said Northampton’s EMS has vastly improved the life-saving results over the years and is now one of the best.
Because it’s a rural county with no hospital, almost all serious heart attacks used to result in death.
The paramedics can now save the lives of people suffering from life threatening heart attacks. Last year, Nowell said, the Northampton County paramedics saved the lives of seven citizens who returned home after being hospitalized.
This year, paramedics have saved the lives of 12 people, although only four have returned home from the hospital. Nowell pointed out that such serious life-threatening events can seriously injure other body organs that even after paramedics save them from the initial event could eventually cause death.
To keep improving, some EMS paramedics attend conventions to learn new techniques and learn about new life-saving technologies, such as a pressure pad that keeps the patient’s brain oxygenated and helps prevent brain damage.
Last year, Northampton paramedics got one-on-one training from the nation’s best EMS department at saving lives.
Those paramedics then bring the new techniques or technologies to the other EMS paramedics.
“I’m very proud of our paramedics,” Nowell said. “They are well-trained professionals who care very much for the citizens of Northampton County. There is a zero turnover rate in the EMS department because no one wants to leave.”
EMS Director Charles Joyner told the county commissioners, “We have excellent paramedics, fabulous equipment, and great cooperation between the paramedics and firefighters in the county.”
Joyner reminded the commissioners that most firefighters and paramedics are volunteers who do this lifesaving work because they want to save lives and help their fellow citizens when they need it the most.
He added that even in this far-flung, rural county, the response time for lifesaving care is eight to ten minutes.
As for winning the silver for CPR and resuscitation in Las Vegas, Nowell said his team of paramedics knew nothing about the competition until they came across a sign-in sheet.
In a spur of the moment decision, they signed up. Joyner said the team – which is partly judged by how the paramedics work as a team to save a life – had no time to practice or plan.
“One of guys said, ‘Let’s just do it like we do back home,’ Joyner said. “We did like we do every day.”
So without preparation, the team walked away with second place in the world for doing what they do every day for the citizens of Northampton County.
In addition to the Northampton County EMS Department, Joyner pointed out that eight of 10 volunteer fire departments in the county offer first response capability.
He also credited the 911 system operators with guiding callers to help keep patients stabilized while the paramedics respond to the emergency.
Joyner also gave credit for improved survival rates to Vidant Care helicopters for getting people to the trauma center.
“We have to be aggressive to save lives,” Joyner said. “We have a great, very cooperative system in Northampton County. We are saving lives.”