Letters to the Editor

EMTs v. paramedics

Regarding the Reporter story (Oct. 7) about the two doctors who saved another man’s life from cardiac arrest: The man’s statement, “The fact that those doctors were there, and the defibrillator, are the reasons I survived. If I had been anywhere else, it would have been too late,” is unfortunately too accurate for residents of Mercer Island.

The EMTs of the Mercer Island Fire Department are excellent, caring professionals. Unfortunately, due to state law and the level of training they are allowed, they are unable to provide much more than basic first aid and CPR, along with defibrillation. They are not allowed to use any oral medications, nor are they able to give any injections (except for the use of an Epi-pen), start IVs or intubate patients. If a patient has the chest pain of a heart attack, they cannot provide nitroglycerin pills or other medications. If a diabetic patient such as my young daughter is unconscious or having seizures from low blood sugar, they are unable to provide any care at all and must merely stand by and watch until paramedics arrive.

In all these severe cases, there are no paramedics available on Mercer Island. Island residents have to wait for the paramedics to arrive from Bellevue to treat these problems. Again, these are dedicated professionals with excellent skills, but it takes time to get to the patient. The seven-minute response time quoted is not what I was told by the Bellevue Medic One unit when I tried to find out how safe my daughter was while at school; it is much longer. These are situations where every minute counts. With any traffic between Bellevue and Mercer Island, it is quite a bit longer. In a disaster, it may be impossible.

Every Island resident who I have told about this lack of paramedic care located here is shocked. When I questioned city personnel about this, I was told it was possible to set up a paramedic crew on Mercer Island, but that it would cost about $1 million and it was not a priority. Perhaps this incident will make it clear that getting a paramedic crew physically located on Mercer Island should be a priority and an integral part of city disaster planning.

David Charney

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