Fort McCoy News July 11, 2014

Wireless defibrillators valuable tool for EMTs

Public Affairs Staff

At every turn, emergency responders look for technological advances to help save lives. New wireless monitor/defibrillator technology is one of those advances used by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) at the Fort McCoy Fire Department.

Photo for defibrillator article
Duane Becker, firefighter and intermediate emergency medical technician, completes an operational check of a wireless monitor/defibrillator in an ambulance at the Fort McCoy Fire Department.

The post has a monitor/defibrillator unit stowed in each of its ambulances at the fire department, and one at the post airport, to be ready for an emergency response anytime heart monitoring, analysis and defibrillation is needed, said Duane Becker, firefighter and intermediate EMT.

In emergency calls where there is a suspected heart attack, this machine recognizes it sooner, Becker said. "Once connected to the patient, the machine transmits real-time information about that patient's status (through cellular wireless technology), to a nearby emergency room we have programmed into the machine."

The wireless transmitting capability of the monitor/defibrillator units gives a hospital an advance look into what's happening to the patient's heart even before the patient arrives at the hospital. "It helps them prepare and determine the best immediate care for the patient," Becker said.

The equipment provides an easy and quick acquisition of an electrocardiogram (EKG). It is portable and can run on battery power for an extended time.

"This machine is good for Fort McCoy because it can transmit EKG results from anywhere on post," Becker said. "While there are places here where you might not get a signal on your cellphone, this machine will still be able to send out information."

In April, Becker and fellow EMTs Tony Culletto and Joshua Roe responded to a call near the Rumpel Fitness Center.

A 49-year-old Soldier developed shoulder pain after running. When someone recognized the Soldier's symptoms as a possible heart attack, an ambulance from the Directorate of Emergency Services (DES) was called.

Becker said the monitor/defibrillator was broadcasting information about the patient within a very short time after responding. The EMTs immediately determined the patient may have had a heart attack. As they were making the determination, the machine simultaneously was telling the Mayo Health System emergency room in Sparta what was going on through an EKG alert.

The information transmitted allowed an immediate care plan to be determined for the patient. He was transported to Sparta Fort McCoy ambulance, then airlifted by helicopter to a heart catheterization lab at the Franciscan Healthcare Center in La Crosse.

"The heart experts (in La Crosse) were able to clear the blockage in the Soldier's coronary arteries and return flow to his heart muscle, likely saving his life and allowing for normal function the rest of his life," wrote Dr. Howard D. Schumaker of Franciscan Healthcare in a letter to Fort McCoy leadership.

To accurately use any new equipment, Becker said staff train extensively in its operation, and they maintain qualifications through regular refresher training.

"We complete required emergency medical service (EMS) training every month," said Becker, an 18-year EMS professional who leads some of the training sessions. "In helping the Soldier, that was an instance where all the equipment worked as it should, and our EMS training in the use of that equipment worked as well."

Becker said having the wireless monitor/defibrillator units is "another tool in the toolbox" that helps DES personnel save lives at Fort McCoy.

"Having these (units) only makes our team better," he said.

In any police, ambulance or fire emergency on Fort McCoy, always dial 9-1-1. For non-emergency calls, people can call the law enforcement division at 608-388-2000, or the fire department at 608-388-2508.