Thursday, March 22, 2007

Rescuing the Rescuer

I came across this article today that I found quite interesting. The article discusses a theory that Harvard researchers have about firefighters and the increased prevalence of Coronary Artery Disease and on-duty heart attacks. See this article really touches home. Not only have I been stricken by a sudden cardiac condition but I can count 4 more of colleagues that were otherwise healthy too, that are now being treated for sudden onset of a cardiac condition.

The researchers believe that since the firefighters are living otherwise sedatory life styles (at work) in which they pretty much sit around doing nothing for long periods of time, the sudden intense rush they get when a call comes in, increases their heart rate and blood pressure. Add the heavy equipment and the smoke filled air and any otherwise healthy individual would feel the strain, but they endure the stress on a daily basis.

Why do I mention this? Well see I'm an Emergency Medical Technician. Granted I've been working in the dispatch department for nearly a year now with the occasional trip on the road. Nonetheless we definitely feel a comparable amount of strain too. Our equipment may not weigh 50lbs, but our patients are growing at alarming rates. When the 500lb patient is complaining of difficulty breathing we make every effort to get her ass out of the third floor apartment she lives on. We'll call dispatch and ask for back up, but 30 minutes later when we're frustrated for waiting for so long and see that our patients "crapping out" we suddenly find the strength and endurance we need to do it without the back up. Next while my partner is fighting against city traffic, wailing the sirens and flashing lights to move the other drivers out of our path, I'm in the back now bagging her because she's suddenly stopped breathing all together. Certainly we have a pretty big rush of adrenaline that started when we were woken up from our nap parked on the quietest side street we could find just 30 minutes prior.

This adrenaline rush is the culprit the researchers are talking about. It makes absolute sense. What they suggest as a preventative measure (since they know we wont quit our jobs) is that we live an active lifestyle, exercising frequently, also noting that a large majority of emergency workers are obese. If we could incorporate a fitness plan into the our daily routines, then we should be able to better adapt to the sudden burst of adrenaline that we get on calls.
Maybe this could prevent another life saver from having to suddenly be the one needing to be rescued!

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