It was a chilly Tuesday morning when emergency medical technicians Colton Jones and Peyton Parrish strapped themselves into the front seats of a Danville Life Saving Crew transit truck and responded to a chest pain call.
Parrish, a seven-year veteran of the crew and emergency medical technician, sat in the passenger side as Jones, a four-year EMT who volunteers with Ringgold Volunteer Fire and Rescue, drove the vehicle.
The caller was an elderly woman, who frequently calls for a chronic health condition. As Jones and Parrish sped out the bay doors of the Clayton T. Lester Crew Hall, the truck began to rock back and forth, with medical supplies sliding around inside their cupboards.
“It rides like a covered wagon,” Jones said, minutes before they entered the vehicle.
The orange flashing lights and loud sirens drowned out any hint of conversation between the two. Cars rushed to pull along the side of the road, hoping not to face a head-on collision with first responders. The stragglers who hesitated to pull over faced the cacophonous horn of the response vehicle, and quickly relocated to the curb.
After minutes of blaring sirens, shrieking horns and the constant shaking inside the truck’s cabin, they arrived at the woman’s home. This call was the first of their shift, but one of many that occur throughout the year, according to Danville Life Saving Crew personnel.
The patient was kind, friendly and knew both EMTs. Her home was small, with TVs and papers piled intermittently throughout her living room. Jones and Parrish pricked her pointing finger and checked her blood pressure. The patient decided not to go to the hospital, stating the pain in her stomach had subsided. She wanted someone to take her to her doctor’s appointment, however, as her hospital transport had failed to take her earlier that morning. Parish spoke with her, and got her scheduled for a transport to the doctor’s office.
“Our community paramedical program gives people rides to the doctors,” she said, after returning from the call. “We try to do a lot of holistic approaches to medicine.”
Holistic medicine is focused on the treatment of the whole person and looks at mental and social factors. One social factor is the problem of gaining access to health care, she explained. To her and many others at the crew, it isn’t always about treating the patient’s symptoms.
“They might need something else, but they call 911,” Sapounakes explained.
For almost an hour, Jones and Parrish spent their time in between the calls by eating and chatting with their co-workers. When a second call came in, it was for an elderly woman who could not get up after a fall. Jones and Parrish turned on their flashing lights and sped off to help a new patient. Like clockwork, the truck continued to intermittently shake and rumble going down city roads.
On arrival, a Danville Fire Department truck was parked inside of a cul de sac. The street was barren, save for a light blue Chevy sedan parked one apartment away from where the patient lived. Parrish and Jones parked parallel to the vehicle, ran to the back of the transport truck, and flung the doors open. They slid the stretcher out of its floor attachment, got it set up, and ran up to the front door of the beige apartment complex.
A fireman ushered them in, and minutes later an elderly female appeared on the back of the stretcher. They gently placed her into the back of the transport truck, and went to work immediately. Jones and Parrish put a stethoscope against her chest and strapped her up to an electrocardiogram machine. They also questioned her. They wanted to know her name, how she felt and other questions meant to gauge how her fall had occurred. She answered quickly and calmly, but struggled to move.
She was taken to a local hospital, in a section marked only for authorized personnel. She was carted in carefully and placed in a hallway near other patients. Jones explained to a nurse what they were able to glean about the woman’s condition.
Jone and Parrish pushed the now empty stretcher into the back of the vehicle. In the row of green seats placed on both sides of the back of the ambulance, they rested for a couple of moments. They prepared themselves — and the truck — for the next call. They placed any out of place items in the correct area, checked their phones and sat back to drink water.
When asked about the type of calls they get, and whether these are the most common, both paused to mull it over.
“It all depends on the day,” Colton said.
“Sometimes you get the trauma [that] needs helicopters, but it’s rare,” Parrish said.
Avent is a reporter with the Danville Register & Bee. Reach him at (434) 797-7983.