Stopping the Spread of Blood: You Can Help EMTs

by Joseph Nano

On Friday afternoon at 16:00, a crew of EMTs are doing homework, watching the news, and playing video games. They are drinking coffee, and joy is evident on their faces. Their stethoscopes are all on a table in the middle of the room and a bag of equipment is ready next to the exit door. Two big computers are connected and ready to receive any dispatch. The room is filled with trophies, pagers, and pictures of medicine, and it is noisy with talk and laughter until the EMTs hear a sudden sound from their pagers: Tshhhhh Toooo Pepepepepepep. Everyone stops talking and listens carefully.

“Ambulance I and Ambulance II  to the scene at Newton Soccer Field  in Newton campus for mutual aid.”


The crew captain grabs his pager and responds,


“A crew of three are heading to Newton Soccer Field.”


At 16:10, a Ford SUV drops a crew of two EMTs off at Newton Soccer Field. They open the back of the car and take out two bags and one yellow stretcher. They are wearing black hats, dark uniform outfits, and black shoes. They walk to the patient, a BC player who got hit by a ball and fell unconscious. The EMTs check for scene safety first. Then, they immediately check the patient’s airway, breathing, and circulation. After a couple of minutes, the player becomes conscious and the EMTs put the BC player on the yellow stretcher to transport him to the hospital. The audience stands up and applauds. The ambulance’s sirens flash on as the EMTs drive to Newton Medical Center. The life of the BC player would have been in danger if the EMTs had not provided care while transporting him to the hospital.  


“From crew I to Eagle II, We’re heading to NMC for further care. The patient is stable. He was given oral glucose, and he is on a non-rebreather mask.”


“Great job, guys.”


Emergency Medical Technicians provide immediate medical care to  people 24 hours a day, seven days a week. EMS service is in most cities and colleges in the United States. Boston College EMS has served the BC community since 1997. It is an all student-run organization. BC EMS provides a crew of EMTs during all games to respond to any medical incident. While some students sleep over the weekend to take a break after classes, EMTs, who are also students, go to the office in Maloney Hall and sit waiting for emergency calls.

Because EMTs can’t predict what kind of patients they will get, they always have to check their equipment to be ready for future calls. Before each shift, EMTs that are on duty check their equipment, such as suction, nasopharyngeal airways (NPAs), oropharyngeal airways (OPAs), oxygen tanks, and automated external defibrillator (AED). They also ensure all medicine, such as aspirin, albuterol, glucose, and Narcan is ready to go. Declan Ryan, a sophomore and an EMT in BC -EMS said, “We always have to be ready when we’re on duty. A call could come in at any time.” EMTs cannot predict what kind of calls they get either. For example, they respond to cardiac, respiratory, toxic, allergic, and behavioral emergencies. Even though EMTs in Boston College are most likely to receive calls for toxic students, they cannot assume what the next call will be.

This unpredictability can be dangerous for EMTs and create delays for patients. For patients with heart arrest, each passing minute reduces chances of survival by ten percent. “Nervousness is a thing that goes away with experience,” Ryan said.  Speaking to Declan, he declared that he’d “be lying if [he] said there was not something exciting about responding to calls.” Being at an emergency incident puts EMTs’ lives in danger, and to provide care to patients, EMTs need to check for scene safety. As Ryan explained,“whenever you get a call and arrive on the scene, you should ensure the safety of yourself, your partner, and then the patient. Any injury to the EMT can delay care to the patient.” EMTs have to consider their own safety when they’re dispatched, even when it conflicts with their responsibility to transport patients as fast as possible.

Today, unfortunately, EMTs are targets of terrorism and hate crimes. For example, terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, attack civilians on the streets first and then the EMTs responding to the tragedy. Terrorists target EMTs because they don’t want them to save people’s lives. EMTs in Massachusetts can also be in life threatening situations if they get called to an area that discriminates against people based on their skin color. Some citizens don’t understand that EMTs’ goal when they are on call is to find the “mechanism of injury” and treat the patient as soon as possible. Wearing black pants, a dark shirt, and holding a pager can make an EMT look like a police officer to some people. Because police officers are not getting along with certain groups of Americans, it puts EMT’s at risk of being involved in fights. In extreme cases like these, EMTs who go on calls to save lives they themselves might even need to be saved.

Even though EMTs at Boston College don’t typically face terrorist attacks, they do encounter other threats. At Boston College, it is possible for EMTs to be victims of attacks from students who are drunk or under the influence of drugs.  For example, patients who appear okay may turn violent and try to attack EMTs with a harmful tool. If EMTs get stabbed, they become the patients of the backup crew. EMTs at BC are doing all they can to save students’ lives and make the BC community better, but they also put their lives in danger.

Non-EMT BC students can always contribute to the safety of the community by working with BC EMS. Students can help by contacting BC EMS anytime a friend is in a dangerous position. It helps to provide them with a clear description of the situation so that the EMT’s can be kept safe too. Some students may think that calling BC EMS during an emergency incident can put the patient in trouble, especially if she was doing something illegal. However, taking action can save patients’, friends’, and EMTs’ lives. If I’m with a friend and he’s not feeling well after he had a huge amount of alcohol, I would inform BC EMS about every detail to save his life. Saving my friend’s life would be my priority. What would you do?