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Home » Emergency Medical

When to Call an Ambulance

Submitted by on June 22, 2010 – 4:52 pmNo Comment
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By Jamey Perkins

Sparked by this article, recently published on CNN, I began thinking about the subject.

To summarize, a husband, who is also an emergency medic, noticed his wife displaying stroke like symptoms. Since his wife is a cancer patient, the medic knew the potential seriousness of her symptoms. Deciding that he could be at the hospital 20 minutes before an ambulance could have them there; he loaded the wife into the car and took her in. He used his flashers, but did not heed normal traffic regulations. According to the officer in question, the man ran a couple of stop lights, and nearly caused the officer to crash. Upon arrival at the ER, the husband carried the wife into the ER, and did not stop when the officer requested. In fact, claims the officer tried to physically stop the man, yet the man shrugged him off and went in anyway. So, now several felony charges have been filed by the officer against the husband.

To Call or Not to Call an Ambulance?
I think that it is safe to say that all of us in EMS have asked ourselves, or talked among our crew mates, did that person really need an ambulance and couldn’t they have gotten there quicker on their own?

I myself have been guilty of these same questions. One example is a call I received right across the street from the hospital. It was for a boy who had cut his arm pretty severely. When we arrived, the wife, who was a nurse, had the bleeding contained, and the boy was somewhat calm. We loaded him up and took him for the 30 second ride across the street. Basically, he needed absolutely zero care from us, and all we did was provide the ride. Afterward, my crew and I talked among each other and wondered why. We all know an ambulance is not a cheap ride, and to inflict those cost, take a truck out of service, and waste the time of waiting while the boy could have been receiving care, is something we all debated.

The story in the CNN article raises the question again for me. At which point should it be most wise for a family member to simply take the patient in themselves?

We all know that a family member will almost always perceive an emergency as more severe than a trained professional that has probably seen the injury or illness a hundred times. Should those “panicked” family members be behind the wheel of a car? Should they face criminal charges if they do?

According to the CNN story, the husband was an “emergency medic”. Does that mean he is trained to drive differently in an emergency? Is it ok that he does not yield to traffic laws? How can we expect a panicked family member to remain calm enough and to not disobey those laws?

I wonder what I would do in the same situation. As I sit here now, I feel as though I would keep a level head. However, I also know that if I come to an intersection and it looks clear, I would probably proceed. What happens if I make a mistake during my moment of panic and hurt someone else? Should I be charged criminally?

Should we require that all emergencies be transported by ambulance? Think of the costs that would incur, and how many more ambulances would be needed across the country.
I guess there probably is no clear answer. In my opinion, the safest thing would be for everyone to call an ambulance during a medical emergency. However, does the end justify the means?

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