HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Paramedics with Horry County Fire Rescue have recently been trained to provide treatment that could save your life.
Rapid Sequence Intubation (RSI) is a technique that allows paramedics to more effectively treat patients with severe respiratory distress or massive head injuries in an emergency situation. So if you are having a hard time breathing, the device and training allows the paramedics to basically breathe for you. This is the first time this kind of treatment has been cleared for use by county paramedics in the field.
"This tube will actually rub against the bones in your throat. And that gives us the indication that we're in the right place," says Horry County Fire Rescue Captain Patrick Ellis. Tubes that slide down your throat to help keep your airway open are just one of many new tools now available on board some of the Horry County ambulances. Each is designed to help keep you breathing and alive as paramedics transport you to the hospital.
"It basically buys us time – to where before we going down the road as fast as we could to get them to the hospital. And hoping we could get there in time. Now this allows us to support their airway and provide treatment that we need to provide for them en-route to the hospital," says Capt. Ellis. And if there is a long travel time to the hospital, making sure you're breathing properly will keep you stable for the entire trip.
"Some of the supplies we're going to use when we do an RSI, the first big important thing we have is the drugs. They have to be secured because some of these are regulated by the state and they can be very harmful if they get into the wrong hands. A lot of these patients that we're going to be RSI'ing are going to have trauma are going to have clenched jaws to where they might be seizing," says Capt. Ellis.
Once those drugs start to slow your breathing, then they'll insert special tubes down your throat to allow the paramedics to take control of your breathing. "It allows us to do more care on the scene, to provide more care to our patients," says Capt. Ellis.
The funding for this equipment was part of the annual budget. Twelve paramedics volunteered for this first round of RSI training. The department has now selected 20 other paramedics to begin this specialized training. The plan is to train enough paramedics so this skill is spread evenly across the county.
Many leaders and doctors at the state level were originally very tentative to let paramedics in the field provide this treatment for patients. Until now, you had to wait to get to the E.R. to receive RSI.
"You're bringing a lot of that treatment that happens in the hospital that the trauma surgeons do in the E.R. and they're putting it into the field. So we can get it to the patient quicker," says Capt. Ellis.
Horry County Fire Rescue leaders decided that RSI was a service that was necessary to provide to citizens. So they pushed passed the reservations at the state level and started training a select group of paramedics. The extensive training was a collaboration between the paramedics in the field, trauma surgeons, and E.R. doctors at Grand Strand Medical Center. It is a very precise skill to be able to use these strong drugs, insert tubes in your throat, and keep you breathing and alive – all the while treating you for whatever trauma you might be suffering.
"We've been grateful enough that because of the training we've required and the training we've put them through, we actually have a 100% success rate on this so far. And that has cleared up a lot of the anxiety the doctors had at the hospital. So before we had a small group of people they were watching and saying, 'Well we'll see how this goes.' And now we are 100 percent success. And because of that, we have complete support from the hospitals. So that's why we're growing in numbers," says Capt. Ellis.
Once these paramedics are RSI certified, there is additional training every year to update and maintain those qualifications.