Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Saving a Life

What does it take to save a life? Vol State paramedic students learn life saving techniques in the classroom through months of study and practice. What happens when those skills are put to the test? Matt Fuson is an EMT with the Nashville Fire Department, working on his paramedic certification. He describes a recent ambulance run on his student clinical rotation that put it all to the test.

“We were called to a seizure. I can see the patient as we pull up and I can see he’s not breathing right. I can immediately tell he has agonal breathing, that’s breathing about three to five times a minute. Not enough to be life sustaining. The next step would be cardiac arrest. At this point of the clinical work for the Paramedic program, we ride with one person only. I told Stuart Rhinehart, my preceptor, we got to go. We put the patient on a cot and in the back of the truck we hook him up to the heart monitor. We start CPR. His heart rate is still real slow.”

“This was the first time I had to intubate a real person. I may have looked calm, but I was scared to death. I’d practiced so many times at Vol State that I knew exactly what to do. The ET tube was successful. Eventually he goes into a V-Tach (ventricular tachycardia). We put the pads on him and defibrillate to try and reset his heart to a normal rhythm. We shocked and he went back into V-Tach and we shocked again. He regained a pulse.”

“This was the first time in a year that all of my skills came together. This time I was really a paramedic. It was a huge confidence booster to me. It’s the culmination of a year in school all leading to this moment.”

The reality of paramedic work is that not every story has a happy ending. Matt says the patient died 10 days later and they found out he had drugs in his system.

Matt is planning to graduate from the Volunteer State Community College Paramedic certificate program in August. For more information on the Emergency Medical Technician program at Vol State please visit:

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