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PEF paramedics provide life-support care and hope

SKILLED CARE – Edder Peralta, William Bender IV, Christopher Evers and Dwayne McKinnon are among the paramedics and EMT’s at Stony Brook University Hospital on Long Island. — Photo by Michael Beck, MD.

By DEBORAH A. MILES 

In Suffolk County, a 54-year old dad who had just finished cutting the lawn in oppressive heat and humidity, fell to the ground. His oldest daughter was watching, and immediately called 911. Within minutes, an ambulance arrived and paramedics carefully placed the man on a stretcher and revived him as they sped to a hospital.

This is just one example of the work performed by 60 PEF members who are paramedics, and 20 EMTs at Stony Brook University Hospital. On a daily basis, they work together to administer life-support care and tend to injured people in an ambulance or helicopter fully outfitted with pre-hospital equipment and medications to address a myriad of conditions that affect people of all ages.

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Jason Schmidt is one of the paramedics who provides a glimmer of light to people at a particular moment in time, when they may feel the worst is happening to them.

“Part of the job is seeing someone coming from a bad situation and bringing them to a place where they get hope. That is rewarding.” Schmidt said.

The paramedic’s and EMT’s primary base is Stony Brook’s emergency room, and their function is to transport people from smaller hospitals that have fewer resources to Stony Brook, so patients can get the best specialized care available.

“It is challenging to manage high-risk cases. When we transport patients from one hospital to Stony Brook, we have to maintain and try to improve their level of care, especially when we are going to a facility 40 to 60 miles away,” Schmidt said.

Many of the transfers involve patients with cardiac problems, trauma and burns. But paramedics are also called when people suffer injuries from trips or falls, and those who just feel sick.

“When our shifts begin, we make sure the trucks are fully equipped with fuel, supplies, oxygen, medications and narcotics, everything we need to be ready for a 12-hour shift. When we work those long days, often there is not the luxury of returning to the hospital to restock the supplies.

“We have a satellite facility in Riverhead, so we have ambulances to serve that area, South Hampton and Eastern Long Island Hospital. We staff more ambulances on the East End of the island during the day because of the traffic, so we can get to hospitals quicker due to the distance from Stony Brook. We also do specialized things such as employing first responder vehicles,” Schmidt said.

A first- responder vehicle is comprised of a SUV with one paramedic who assists with 911 responses in the East End community, in conjunction with the local fire districts. It’s part of an agreement with Eastern Long Island Hospital.

The paramedics also provide direct patient care aboard two Suffolk County Police MEDEVAC helicopters. One is operated out of West Hampton and the other is at Islip’s MacArthur Airport. Schmidt said one of his most memorable experiences was being upgraded to a flight paramedic.

Between responding to the 911 calls, the inter-facility patient transports and helicopter transports, the paramedics attend to, on average, 700 to 800 people per month. The Stony Brook unit also provides a 24/7 service with operators for Suffolk County Medical Control.

“If any ambulance that operates in Suffolk County is on a call and the paramedics or EMTs have a question, such as a proper drug dosage or an appropriate drug to administer to a person, we can help. The patient could be in an ambulance in Montauk who is getting an electrocardiogram, and we have the ability to read and analyze it to help them.

“I don’t think people really know how much we do, how much we are out there and what we are capable of doing. Most of us have advanced education in our field that goes beyond the traditional paramedic role. And each of us work a second job, that we do when we get a couple of days off for doing a 12-hour shift,” Schmidt said.

“We pride ourselves on the specialized work that we do.”

ON THE JOB – Jason Schmidt boards a MEDEVAC helicopter.

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