PT medics go high tech

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The fire department in Prairie Township is staying on the cutting edge of technology thanks to some help from donors.

They recently improved their ability to analyze patients in the field, with upgrades to their electrocardiogram (EKG) machines and a device that can show if people have been exposed to carbon monoxide.

Fire Chief Stephen Fuestel said an anonymous donor gave the funds needed for the Ohio State University Medical Center to provide fire departments throughout central Ohio with modems for their EKG machines. The modems allow firefighters to transmit information from the machines directly to hospitals.

An EKG machine provides medical personnel with critical information about a heart-attack victims’ condition. In the past, the victim had to be taken to the hospital before the results could be analyzed, which delayed treatment.

Now, the patient can be sent to treatment right away, Fuestel said, “instead of going into the ER, waiting for someone else to make another EKG, waiting for someone else to read the other EKG, and then saying, ‘Oh, this person needs to go upstairs.’”

Fuestel said heart attacks can lead to permanent damage to the heart. “The loss of the heart muscle is measured by time,” Fuestel said, and once the muscle dies, it can’t be renewed.

It makes sense then that the faster medical personnel can respond, the better.

Dr. Robert Lowe, who works at Doctors Hospital West and is a medical adviser to the fire department, said the department’s speed on such cases is “phenomenal” already, and with the modems it can be better.

“It’s significant for the Westside to have something this progressive,” Fuestel said, because Doctors Hospital West is a smaller, satellite hospital, compared to hospitals like the OSU Medical Center or Grant Medical Center.

Dr. Lowe, he said, was instrumental in working with several different agencies to promote the idea of distributing the modems.

The other new piece of equipment the fire department obtained was a device called Rad-57 that measures the amount of carbon monoxide in the bloodstream. Firefighters, Dr. Lowe said, work in an environment that puts them at high risk for carbon monoxide poisoning. He added that carbon monoxide was the leading cause of death by poison in the United States.

Previously, the only test the department was able to use for carbon monoxide required a blood draw. Fuestel said they did have a device that measured oxygen in the blood and gave other information about a patients’ condition. Unfortunately, it could not detect carbon monoxide in the blood because the poison had the same effect as oxygen on the device.

The Rad-57 distinguishes between oxygen and carbon monoxide without requiring an invasive test. “This is going to be something that really helps us out a lot,” he said.

“The first day we actually put it in service was just several days ago, and on the first day we had already used it twice,” Fire Lieutenant Rob Cloud said.

The Ohio Aladdin Shriners contributed $12,000 to help make the purchase possible.

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