By Linda Friedel, KC Nursing News
“It’s very gratifying,” Akers said. “You put a lot of time and effort in trauma, job, career. To see a patient and come — you couldn’t ask for anything like today. It’s a very fulfilling moment in my ca- reer.”
Akers was among scores of first responders representing Life Flight Eagle, Missouri fire departments, highway patrol officers and other EMS professionals at a recognition event in their honor. During National EMS week from May 18 to 24, paramedics and firefighters were honored at Great Save recognition presentations sponsored by hospitals with HCA Midwest Health Systems. Akers attended an event at Research Medical Center on May 23 where patients and first responders were congratulated.
“This is what we do,” said Jamie Robinson, MSN, RN, CEN, trauma program manager and emergency preparedness coordinator at Research Medical Center. “Without these guys the patients wouldn’t be saved. For what they do in saving lives, they need to be honored.”
The program also allowed hospital staff members in the emergency department and intensive care unit to reunite with patients. Sara DeLautour, RN, BSN in the ICU and trauma units at Research Medical Center, leaned in to hug Monique Hardy, a former trauma patient she cared for, saying Hardy most likely does not remember her. Hardy survived a high-speed interstate accident and was not expected to live. Two people in her vehicle died. Hardy said when she was first admitted to ICU she heard people talking, but her eyesight was impaired. She could not see anyone.
“It’s very crazy,” said DeLautour. “It’s sort of surreal. They are not supposed to survive and they do. It’s incredibly amazing.”
Hardy had multiple fractures, an eye injury, neck injuries and her legs were crushed in the ac- cident.
“She had to learn to walk again,” said her mother, Latrice Hamilton of Independence, Mo.
Hardy said she appreciated the time to meet with first responders and staff members from Re- search.
“I think it’s great,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to see them face to face and thank them.”
Hardy’s family was there to watch her receive a Certificate of Life award. Nurses who passed out
the patient certificates referred to them as birth certificates because the patients were given a sec- ond chance. The program gave patients like Har- dy an opportunity to let paramedics and hospital staff members see just how far they have come since their trauma, burn or stroke that took them to the ED. It took Hardy nearly a year to recover from her multiple injuries. She had to learn how to walk again, Hamilton said. Hardy saw every specialist on the trauma team, she said.
“I’m just thankful,” said Hamilton. “She was not supposed to survive. I thank God every day. That was the worst 30 minutes of my life.”
Katie Adams, BSN, RN, project clinical coordinator at the Grossman Burn Center at Research Medical Center, complimented the Kansas City Fire Department for its fast response with a patient who was burned over 40 percent of his body. Robinson returned to the podium to thank paramedics for their ‘scoop and run’ save with Kathleen McMillin, who nearly died from a head-on collision. Paramedics started tubes in the field and stopped the bleeding, she said.
“That’s huge,” Robinson said.
McMillin spent the first 47 of her 87 days in ICU at Research. She had a grade-five liver laceration, three broken ribs, a fractured femur, a spleen laceration, a collapsed lung and contusions on her kidneys. Family members took turns at the bedside with McMillin. Her daughter, Volynne Bixter of Harrisonville, Mo., spent nearly every night in her mother’s room, holding her hand, nodding off in a chair next to her mother’s bed. Bixter continually told her mother, “Kitty, we can get through anything if we do it together.” Bixter said attending the Great Save ceremony allowed their family to thank the paramedics and hospital staff members, though McMillin hasn’t stopped thanking them since she was back on her feet.
She made a point to stop in at the Dolan-West Dolan Fire Protection District of Missouri multiple times to thank the firefighters and first responders whose life-saving measures kept her from bleeding to death. She also made several trips back to the ICU and rehab services at Research to thank the staff and let them know how she is doing. McMillin had to dig, but she finally located the state trooper who answered the call that day who worked the accident.
“He gave me a great big hug and started crying,” she said. “He thought I was dead when he got there. “If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. Period. I would have bled out on the side of the road.”
McMillin and her family grew close with DeLaut- our, who cared for her in the ICU.
“You are taking on the family, too,” DeLautour said. “You want to bond with them. You want to be open and transparent with them.”
It was touch and go with McMillin throughout her days in the ICU, DeLautour said. McMillan took five steps forward and two back, she said. Her family be- came part of her everyday world, DeLautour said. McMillin impressed her. Most people would have died with the amount of injuries she had, DeLautour said.
“The minute I saw Kathleen walk through the door my heart swelled,” she said. “I will always remember Kathleen.”
Pam Schmitz, firefighter with Dolan-West Dolan Fire Protection District, was a first responder at McMillin’s accident. Schmitz has never had an opportunity to meet a former patient she cared for in the field.
“This is a first — gratifying,” she said. “My mind goes back to what I saw. I get chills.”
As Schmitz connected with family members and caught up on their lives, a wail pierced through the morning air. The distressed cry prompted partici- pants to look over the terrace wall where the outdoor program took place. A woman on a lower patio wept alone on a picnic table. Schmitz has heard this cry far too often, she said. She’s lost a loved one, Schmitz said. When victims and families are distressed in the field, you do your best to console them. You are in life-and-death situations.
“Sometimes it is hard,” Schmitz said. “We try to console as best as we can and go about the business at hand. You do what you need to do.”
Schmitz said she was honored to be recognized and reunited with McMillin and her family.
“We don’t get many thanks,” she said. “It’s won- derful to see that all of our training actually works. This is why we train, because of that lady right there.”
Schmitz pointed to McMillin.
“I’m from a firefighting family,” Schmitz said. “I do it because I care.”
Tina York, EMS relations director at HCA Midwest Health System kept the ceremony mov- ing, passing awards and congratulating her col- leagues. York, a former field paramedic, says she misses the hands-on care. As EMS relations di- rector she works as a liaison with hospitals and first responders in the greater Kansas City area. Her goal is to build strong relationships with EMS partners, she said.
“I’ve always been an adrenalin junkie,” York said.
She said the Great Save program makes her proud of the profession, she said.
“It makes me very prideful,” York said. “We’re the ones that swoop in and swoop out. We rarely get to see the positive outcomes of patients – to see what they do matters.”