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For Derry EMS, saving lives takes practice

DERRY — Derry Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel received a refresher course recently on an advanced program that has proven to save lives.

Called Rapid Sequence Induction, the program is administered to critical patients whose breathing is inadequate or who have a serious brain injury, said Derry EMS Director Chuck Hemeon. During administration, patients are sedated and medically paralyzed so that an advanced airway, or endotracheal tube, can be inserted through their mouth and into their lungs.

“It protects them from things like regurgitation and aspiration,” Hemeon said. “It’s critically important.”

Derry Fire and EMS, which piloted the program, usually handles around 12 to 14 cases a year. Lives have been saved during the program’s 12-year run, Hemeon said.

Hemeon said a vehicle accident resulting in a victim with a severe head injury and a locked jaw is an example of when the procedure could be administered.

To briefly paralyze patients, medications are administered in sequence that induces a short-term paralysis of about four to six minutes. Paramedics are then able to insert the endotracheal tube. When the effect of the medications wears off, the patient immediately comes out of it, Hemeon said.

Paramedics trained last week on a mannequin that is used as a human simulator. The mannequin has life-like breathing and heart and bowel sounds, along with heat rhythms and pulses. It can even make life-like vocal sounds.

“It’s the closest thing to a patient that you will get to,” Hemeon said.

The mannequin was awarded to the town through a Homeland Security grant several years ago; it cost approximately $75,000, Hemeon said.

The practical exam for the training was overseen by Dr. Harry Wallace of Parkland Medical Center. Wallace is the EMS medical control physician at Parkland and Portsmouth Regional Hospital. He reviews and provides quality control on all cases where the program is administered, Hemeon said.

Derry EMS is one of the few providers in Southern New Hampshire that meets the demanding criteria to perform the service, Hemeon said.

“The highly trained Derry paramedics are able to go in there and work together as a group and make a clinical decision that potentially may save a patient’s life,” Hemeon said.


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