In an ambulance, an unseen, unwanted passenger: COVID-19

In an ambulance, an unseen, unwanted passenger: COVID-19


January 25, 2021 GMT

Los Angeles (AP) – This is the crowd behind the ambulance.

Two emergency medical technicians, the patient, Garni – and an unseen and unwanted passenger huddled in the air.

For EMTs Thomas Hoang and Joshua Hammond, the coronovirus is consistently close. COVID-19 has become his biggest fear during a 24-hour shift in Orange County, California, with him from 911 call to 911 call, patient to patient.

They and other EMTs, paramedics and 911 have been emphasized in the frontlines of the national epicenter of the dispatchers epidemic in Southern California. They are scrambling to help the needy as patients rush into hospitals after the holidays, ambulances wait outside hospitals for hours, until beds become available, oxygen tanks are in short supply, and the vaccine The rollout has slowed down.

EMTs and paramedics have always dealt with life and death – they make different decisions about patient care, which hospital to run to, the best and fastest way to save someone – and now He is just a breath away from becoming a patient.

“They designed the gown, took off the mask,” said Hammond, “but you can only be so safe.” “” We don’t have the luxury of living 6 feet apart from the patient. “

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The statistics of COVID-19 cases and deaths among EMTs and paramedics – especially those employed by private companies – are hard to find. They are considered essential health care workers, but the salaries and security paid to doctors and nurses are rarely received.

Emergency Ambulance Service Inc., a private ambulance company in Southern California. Hammond and Hoang work for. They, like many others, promote the lofty goals of becoming a first responder to serve their communities.

Hoang is attending nursing school. Hammond is a trial away from becoming a paramilitary. The two were called to a life in the medical field after traumatic experiences: Hammond was to call 911 after an allergic reaction to his mother, and Hoang saw a young cyclist hit a car.

Yet as COVID-19 infection increases and the risk increases, they wonder: Is it worth risking your life – and the lives of your loved ones at home – with a small salary and a dream for?

“I really want to help people,” Hemond said, beyond that it is difficult to justify. 25 “” Is It Worth The Risk?

for now yes.

“I want to play my role better in helping people,” said 29-year-old Hoang.

And so their day starts at 7 am

Wearing a mask, Hoang and Hammond cleaned their ambulance and equipment, wiping out every surface, even though the previous crew had already cleared it. They take no chances during their day shift to cover the city of Placentia in Orange County.

911 calls come with limited information: a broken bone, chest pain, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain, fever. Every patient is a potential carrier of coronavirus, whether they know it or not.

Sometimes, people know they are infected and tell the 911 dispatcher before EMTs arrive. Other times, the symptoms themselves – fever, shortness of breath – indicate a possible case. But Hammond recalled a woman, suffering from hip pain, who had not told her or her partner about her coronavirus diagnosis.

They only find out later, saying that this reinforces the importance of treating every patient as if they have tested positive.

“It was definitely a call where we learned a lot,” Hammond said.

Unlike doctors and nurses, first responders should go inside the homes. They walk in warm areas where everyone in the house is sick, where the virus is in the air. They pick up Immobale’s patients on Gorney, with their masked faces just inches apart.

They run into hospitals overwhelmed with already sick people, sometimes only waiting hours outside to get their patient admitted. And then they do it all again when the next 911 call arrives.

“We don’t know the end result,” Hoang said. “We only know the beginning in the hospital.”

Then there are those who direct the EMT where to go. In Los Angeles County, 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Hoang and Hammond, three young women stood before a recent six-screen applause, talking in headsets with clear, biting sounds, from the mountains to the sea. Other ambulance crew around an area spanning. .

Ashley Cortez, Adrianna Moreno and Jaime Hooper serve as dispatchers for Care Ambulance Service Inc. in 12-hour shifts. If the EMTs are the front lines, then these women are scouts.

They play chess with ambulances all day. When someone is stuck in a hospital for eight, 10 or 12 hours, dispatchers must repose others to cover their area. When an EMT reports a positive COVID-19 test, dispatchers have to find a way to cover the ambulance call if the entire crew has to quarantine. When many coronovirus patients in a house require two ambulances, the dispatchers have to plug holes.

Their biggest fear is what is called “level zero” – when there is no ambulance left to send in an emergency. In Los Angeles County, one of the country’s toughest counties during the epidemic, fear becomes a regular reality.

For 28-year-old Moreno, anxiety began before his shift.

“I lay there and know I’m going to come in, and I know I don’t have a unit to run these calls,” she said.

On Christmas weekend, Cortez saw call after call on his screen – no ambulances available. Typically, it takes 30 seconds to send one. At the end of that week, it took 15 minutes. And this was also when the ambulance was outside the hospitals for hours.

“I was just in disbelief,” said Cortez, 26.

Cannot dispatch too much. They look at those screens. They listen to the radio chatter. They rearrange the crew to cover the most possible area. And they wonder what awaits the latest awe in a virus-ravaged world, where the danger is high and ambulances are few.

“What if something happens to my daughter,” Cortez said, “and there was no one to send for her?”


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