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West Metro Fire

By Ronda Scholting

In the back of the ambulance, the 18-month-old patient was awake, his breathing regular and normal. Suddenly, he went into a seizure and the firefighters seated around him reacted quickly, diagnosing the patient’s symptoms and deciding on a course of treatment as they headed to the nearest hospital.

All the while, cameras watched and recorded every movement and every decision. The scenario played out dozens of times over four weeks as West Metro Fire Rescue partnered with Children’s Hospital Colorado to focus on pediatric emergency medical treatment and training. The patient was actually a high-tech, high-fidelity mannequin, with a beating “heart” and a “pulse,” able to breathe, blink and react to treatment. The ambulance, part of a mobile laboratory.

“It’s so important for our firefighters to train as realistically as possible,” said Mike Binney, EMS Training Lieutenant with West Metro. “And the high-fidelity mannequin was a big part of that. But, even more valuable was being able to work with doctors from Children’s Hospital Colorado. They were able to provide our crews with great insight on evaluating and treating pediatric patients.”

Like most fire agencies, the majority of West Metro’s calls are medical emergencies. In 2016, West Metro crews responded to more than 32,000 calls – 22,000 were medical calls. And, far and away the majority of patients are adults and many are elderly.

“We know on a national level on average, that just about five to 10 percent of the calls that EMS providers see are pediatric and a much smaller percent of those are true emergencies,” said Dr. Kathryn Rappaport, Children’s Hospital Colorado. “So we need to give them the exposure and training so that when they do see those kids, they’re prepared.”

While working inside a lab with a mannequin is a controlled situation, firefighters are still able to use their training and experience to solve the challenges of diagnosing an illness while under pressure. During the scenario, they’re forced to make decisions quickly, just like they would in a true emergency. And, they’re able to utilize all the members of the team to bring about a successful outcome.

“By being able to run these trainings and working with doctors, we think it translates into better patient care,” said Binney. “And it achieves our most important goal – giving more confidence to our providers.”

Ronda Scholting is West Metro Fire Rescue’s Communications/Media Relations Specialist.