Being there in an emergency is important, but so is being there to prevent one.
“We answer the call when somebody calls 911, whether it’s chest pain, a stroke, a fall, a car wreck, a stabbing, a shooting, a farm accident, whatever it may be,” said Sullivan County EMS Chief Jim Perry.
“But we also consider things like the Prom Promise and the Battle of the Belt and things like that, essentially they’re answering the call, too, because prevention is as important as a cure... We want to prevent injury more than we want to treat injury.”
The Prom Promise features a mock wreck at local schools to give students a visual picture of what can happen if they drive while intoxicated with alcohol or drugs: death, serious injury, and trouble with the law. The Battle of the Belt is a seat belt safety campaign that also aims to save lives.
Sullivan County EMS also answers calls from the community to talk to any group – churches, schools, day care centers, civic clubs – about whatever health-related topic they want to discuss, Perry said.
The primary emergency provider for Sullivan County, the agency includes 64 full-time and 25 part-time staff. Though owned by the county, Sullivan County EMS is not dependent on tax dollars; it operates entirely on revenue from billable services, with the rare donation used to buy special equipment.
“Our staff is a highly-educated and dedicated group of professionals who do an outstanding job on a daily basis,” said Perry. “They are Sullivan County EMS.”
Perry said the agency’s 18 ambulances respond to nearly 2,000 calls a month, including emergency and non-emergency medical transports.
Sullivan County EMS ambulances also stand by in case of emergency at major events, including races at Bristol Motor Speedway, motorcross events at Muddy Creek Raceway, the annual Fun Fest festival, and community events like football games, triathalon races and the Special Olympics. A pilot program started this year at Sullivan Central High School is teaching students first aid and CPR.
Perry said Sullivan County EMS works hard to stay ahead of the curve on its medical care, particularly when it comes to heart patients. He said the training schedule never ends.
“We’re actually doing something in Sullivan County that is very rare across the nation with our heart attack care,” he said. “We literally are on the cutting edge of what we do with heart attack care and how we are actually saving the heart muscle and improving the quality of life for our heart patients.”
These days, Perry said, paramedics can provide treatment in an ambulance that, even five years ago, had to wait until the patient arrived in the hospital – and he’s serving on a statewide cardiac task force to help expand the use of these methods.
Both this year and in 2011, Sullivan County EMS has received the Star of Life award, which recognizes exemplary life-saving care, Perry said.
“We carry equipment and medications well above and beyond what’s required for us to carry by the state,” he said, “and it’s all in the name of patient care.”
In the "Honoring Those Who Answer the Call" series, Sunday Stories recognizes agencies whose employees or volunteers 'answer the call' through their service to their respective communities.