Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Vol State Students on the Finish Line at the Country Music Marathon

Vol State students take a brief break before things heat up at the Country Music Marathon.
Vol State Emergency Medical Services students and faculty were once again on the front lines of medical care at the Country Music Marathon a few weeks ago in Nashville. Or should we say the finish line? Between 40 and 50 EMT and Paramedic students staffed the finish line medical tent. This year, there was a particularly urgent case, and two Vol State students helped to make the diagnosis.

“We had a patient stumble in and we thought it would be the usual dehydration case,” said paramedic student Josh Baker.

The students sat him down and went through their usual procedures for runners in distress, including having the patient drink a Gatorade/salt mixture and using cooling towels.

“He said he was feeling better, so we sat him up and then we noticed that his right arm and leg were not moving,” said student Jennifer Earp.

The students were concerned that there was something else going on, medically. They called over their Vol State instructor, Kevin Alspaugh and Dr. John Nixon, the medical director for Vol State EMS.

“In a few minutes the patient couldn’t talk and had no motor function,” said Baker.

The runner was apparently suffering from a stroke and the Vol State folks knew that immediate transport was necessary.

“It’s time-sensitive,” said Baker. “There’s only a certain window to fix it or stop it.”

The patient was transported to an emergency room and then transferred to Vanderbilt Medical Center intensive care.

Alspaugh says that such a case is unusual during a marathon and not something medical workers are initially looking for.

“There are three primary things we look for, sudden death, and that seems strange, but marathon runners have an unusual risk of a certain type of sudden death. But we’re mainly looking for heat related emergencies and hyponatremia. Some of the new runners over-hydrate by drinking too much water.”

This is the fifth year that Vol State students have served at the Marathon medical tents. With 30,000 runners in the races, it provides a unique situation for student learning.

“I’ve never worked at a large event like that, “said Baker. “You get to see a whole range of problems coming in.”

EMS director Robert Davis says the Vol State students had the opportunity to work with new medical students from Meharry Medical College this year. Next year, the Vol State crew may be staffing the main medical tent in this ongoing partnership with the Country Music Marathon.

Kevin Alspaugh and Jennifer Earp

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