Monday, May 16, 2016

EMS Week, Allegany County - The people you need at 2 a.m. UPDATED

This is national Emergency Medical Services (EMS) week, a time when community members are asked to spend a moment thinking about the volunteer (and paid) people that show up in your bedroom, living room…well…anywhere at 7 a.m. or 2 a.m. when you need help. They show up when you suddenly find yourself in crisis. The purpose of this post is to provide a spotlight on just a handful of people in Allegany County that give up their time…in your time of need. This spotlight is by no means exhaustive. Across Allegany County, neighboring counties, this state and beyond, everyday people are paired with ‘emergency pagers’ and are ready to help. Birthday’s…Holiday’s…Nap time. These dedicated community members are ready…at a moment’s notice, usually at the cost of their own family. 

Jeff Luckey: His current paid job is the Allegany County Emergency Management Director. Beyond that, Jeff is a volunteer first responder and has been since 1985. Thirty one years of reaching out, helping people. Five years before entering the EMS world, he was a firefighter. Adding the medical side was a “natural transition,” said Luckey.  He began in 1985 while a student at Houghton College. He studied, he worked, he grew. Today, he is a 1st responder with Short Tract Fire & EMS. Typically, Fillmore ambulance does the transports…a 2.5 hour round trip to any hospital, mostly. Why volunteer? Luckey said, “I want to help people on their worst day…I just want to be able to help.” “One kicker,” Luckey explains, “is refreshing your certification every three years.” Once you become an Emergency Medical Technician at any level, you're not set for are required to always demonstrate your skills at the state level to maintain your certification. Luckey admits the course requirements, skills and demands have increased over the years, but he says the skills ability has increased as a result...the community is better served. After three decades, Luckey says, “I just want to help people."

Brad Field began his volunteer service 16 years ago, first with Wellsville Ambulance and later transitioning to Amity Rescue, where he serves as an officer. Brad said he decided to apply in 2000 for two reasons. First, like many, he said he had a desire to help others. Second, he says it’s part of his “family genetic makeup.” His grandfather, he said, is a life member of the fire service. Field said with anyone who volunteers in EMS, at some point in your career you’ll encounter a “bad call…” one that makes you stop and pause. For Brad, it was a shooting incident. “I thought long and hard about whether to continue after that,” he said. Instead of walking away, Field said he decided to increase his skill level to help even more people. Today, Brad is an Advanced Emergency Medical Technician – Critical Care level. Brad also said the challenges are increasing, with stepped up training and state requirements. As for Amity Rescue, he said the community is fortunate to have such a group of dedicated and highly skilled volunteers.
Scott Lanphier: At the age of 14, Lanphier joined the ‘explorer’ program. He said he “wanted to help at a young age.” Today, he is President of the Wellsville Ambulance Corps. He has served with other volunteer agencies and works full time at the county's only paid EMS service, Medical Transport. Lanphier said “it’s tough” walking away from family when the pager ‘beeps,’ but thankfully, my family ‘get’s it.’ He says he always wanted to help from a young age and now, he hopes to be a New York State certified Critical Care Technician next month. Fortunately for Scott, his wife is also an EMS volunteer. Sometimes for a volunteer, it is helpful to have a partner who understands the world of EMS. 
Erik Potter: Today, Erik is called Wellsville ‘Chief 101’ but 17 years ago, he was just a beginner. Erik joined the (now dissolved) Allegany County Emergency Services Rescue Squad when he was age 12…thanks to the Boy Scouts. Erik excelled, saying he “saw an opportunity.” He was a ‘crew member’ and then EMT and now a chief officer. Erik says some days are “tough,” being married, with a two year old son and nine year old daughter. “It’s the traumatic calls” that are the worst, says Potter. He also says what many don’t want to hear…burnout. Ambulance people “burnout.” They do. “You see so much…sometimes, it came be overwhelming.” Potter says "we all have full time's what pays the mortgage...and then without notice, without warning, you find yourself in an unimaginable rescue situation...seeing something you never, ever imagined." Some studies show that EMT’S go away after five years. Many local volunteer’s exceed that mark…I guess we should be grateful. The Wellsville Ambulance call volume tops the county, typically, and yet the personal experience remains the same…no matter the agency.
Danielle Ostrum: Today, Danielle is the Captain of the Bolivar Ambulance Squad. Danielle’s interest was sparked when she broke her back in 2007. She joined the volunteer EMS world in 2009. She told us “it’s not easy, yet a great feeling.” She proudly spoke to us about the Bolivar ambulance service, saying, “it’s takes a person with a lot of heart.” In her time in EMS, Danielle has witnessed plenty of changes. Just recently, she underwent training on Narcan, the drug that counteracts the effects of heroin…something nearly unthinkable just a few short years ago. She said, even in rural areas, ambulances today are like “mobile ER’s.” She noted that “EMS is a balancing act,” between self, family and the patient. Danielle loves what she does, the feeling of helping and encourages you to consider volunteering.
Jane Cochran: Jane currently serves as the Ambulance Captain of Alfred ambulance in the unassuming, yet challenging college town. EMS workers in Alfred have some different experiences than other providers in Allegany County. Alfred is home to Alfred State and Alfred University. Working in a college town presents its own set of unique challenges. Don’t believe it? Try it, or listen to a scanner! Jane began her EMS career in 1984, but took a few years off to raise a family. Seven years ago, she returned, to quickly find herself in a leadership role. Jane had some medical history, though, working as a nurse both on the ground and in a helicopter. She said volunteering was “a calling.” “There’s a certain feeling…to help…it’s self perpetuation," she said. “Kid calls are the hardest,” Jane said…a sentiment echoed by nearly everyone we spoke with. Is there one call that has troubled her the most? Yes…a stroke victim who waited too long to seek help. “We could have helped,” she said. Today, stroke protocols have changed dramatically since Jane first started. If you want to support volunteers, take a moment to learn the signs and symptoms of a stroke…
After this profile was written, I received an email from Jane, with a few clarifications. It was cute and telling…I hope she doesn’t mind…To clarify the question as to "How long.."  Years ago, before marriage and children I had volunteered for 10 years with a volunteer ambulance service north of Pittsburgh, PA. I joined A.E. Crandall Hook and Ladder Company in 2007. Initially for administration/data entry, then added on driver, Certified as EMT in 2011, EMT-CC 2013. I got my husband, Timothy to join, as a driver so we could have our Friday/Saturday night dates!  OK, not everyone's idea of a date! Jane – you have no idea how many EMS workers totally understand what you just said!!
There are many, many more stories in Allegany and other counties. This week, take just a moment to thank a volunteer. After all, at 2 a.m., when you find yourself in crisis, they are the people you'll love to see...