Johnson City Press: Washington County EMS receives fourth consecutive award from American Heart Association

Washington County EMS receives fourth consecutive award from American Heart Association

Becky Campbell • Aug 2, 2016 at 8:18 PM

For the fourth year in a row, the Washington County/Johnson City EMS was one of five agencies in the state recognized by the American Hearth Association for its efforts to save lives through heart attack recognition and treatment in the field.

AHA Regional Director Joette D. Street presented a plaque for Mission: Lifeline on Tuesday before the monthly EMS board meeting. Street, like board members, was able to see the physical result of the EMS’s efforts in the form of two living, breathing men who likely would not be alive if not for the paramedics and EMTs who worked their respective calls.

Jason Freeman, 41,  and John Piercy, 46, both said they were eternally grateful to EMS and the training paramedics receive. Both men suffered what’s medically called a STEMI — ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction. It’s a type of heart attack caused by complete blockage of blood flow to the heart. If not identified and treated quickly, patients often die.

Jil Piercy also said after getting to the hospital, paramedics would not leave her until someone arrived to provide moral support as doctors operated on her husband.

“They would not leave me alone in the waiting room until other family member and friends came to me,” she said. “That’s above and behind. You will always be remembered in our family and you are our guardian angels. The Lord works through you to do His work. I truly believe that,” she said. “The statistics were totally against him. You turned that around and saved his life.”

Freeman required additional recussitation and was shocked at least four times, EMS Operations Director Maj. Brad Gerfin said. He, too, is thankful for the training EMS paramedics receive.

“I’m sure when a call comes in you never know what’s going to happen, but it definitely could have turned out different story for me,” Freeman said. “I want to echo what Ms. Piercy said that God uses people in a number of ways, and I think He worked through these gentlemen and all those who helped in my care and saved my life. I’m forever grateful to these guys.”

In the cases of Freeman and Piercy, someone with them at the time they collapsed performed CPR, which increased the chances of paramedics arriving on scene to continue lifesaving efforts while transporting them to the hospital.

“This team took the time to the time to educate on STEMI identification, they worked with local hospitals to improve the STEMI systems of care and they took the time to report and submit the data,” Street said. “Washington County, your medics continue to impove the outcome of STEMI patients.”

In 2013, WCJC EMS received the Lifeline Silver award, and each year since has received the Lifeline Gold award. It’s the highest recognition from the AHA.

Gerfin presented Freeman and Piercy with educational kits of information to share with friends and family about the importance of CPR. Freeman hopes to have EMS teach a CPR class to his entire church.

“It really is a testament to the work our paramedics and EMTs do in the field. We can drive them, train them and push them, but if they don’t really understand or have the care to do what’s needed in those critical moments, it’s all for naught,” EMS Executive Director Dan Wheeley said. “It’s really a testament to the level of care they provide to the citizens of this community. A lot of work goes into it, a lot of direction from Major Gerfin in recording the data and submitting everything. it’s really a team effort from our first responders, to our paramedics and ambulance crews all the way to the hospital.”

Gerfin noted that two EMS agencies in the Tri-Cities received Mission Lifeline awards. 

“There were only five Mission Lifeline awards given in the state of Tennessee and only three gold awards. We’re fortunate that we have two in this area. We were the gold award and Sullivan County EMS got the silver award,” Gerfin said.

“We want to stress the importance of learning hands-only CPR. It’s a simple class. It’s 45 minutes to an hour. We offer it here at EMS and it’s free to the public. That’s the key. The quicker we can get hands on that chest, the higher percentage of saves we can see. The other important part of this is calling 911 when you’re having chest pains. I just found out that in July, we had three patients who had STEMIs that had come (to the hospital) in a car. You delay the care because we can get that care to you, so it’s important to get that started.”

Firefighter Lt. Ian Keys, one of the first responders on Piercy’s heart attack call, said it feels good to see the results of all the training paramedics and EMTs go through.

“Just to see him now after how we found him is amazing,” Keys said. “It warms our hearts to know we have made a difference in not only his life but this family’s lives. It’s a wonderful experience for us.”

Anyone interested in learning CPR can call EMS at 975-5500.


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