Paramedic Paul Hemphill has been with Young County EMS for five years. On an accident scene the two-man EMT team is the quarterback, they call all of the
Paramedic Paul Hemphill has been with Young County EMS for five years. On an accident scene the two-man EMT team is the quarterback, they call all of the shots. It is up to the EMT to determine how the firefighters remove the patient, if an air ambulance needs to land on scene and what advance life-saving techniques should be initiated in the field. (Casey Holder)

Editor’s note: The following story is the first half of the second part of a series on emergency responders in Young County.

Young County EMS reports an average of 2,000 calls a year. So far this year they have received 620 calls, of which 344 were “medical.”

Young County EMS Director Kelley Hudson remembers his first bad call. An oil well fracking gun went off above ground. When he arrived on the scene, he saw that five people were severely injured. All of them were rendered deaf from the sonic thundering of the explosion. They had burns and blast injuries. Limbs were missing. 

“I mean severe injuries,” Hudson said. “You couldn’t talk to them to make them understand what you’re doing. (It was a) very high-stress incident. Fortunately those instances don’t happen often, and when they do we have a lot of help.”

The Young County EMTs

The umbrella term is EMT, Emergency Medical Technician, and there are three levels within the profession: Basic, intermediate and paramedic. 

These are the people who do much of the leg work in saving trauma victims’ lives at the incident site and en route to emergency care. All eight of the full-time medics on staff for the Young County EMS are at the paramedic level, meaning they possess the highest level of training in the field. 

“For a community the size of Graham it’s very rare. I don’t know any that have all eight of their full-time personnel at paramedic level,” said Hudson, a 29-year veteran.

Being an EMT in a city the size of Graham is also hard for other reasons, one being that the luxury of anonymity is all but removed. 

“That’s one of the things that makes it difficult for us. You know, the people we are responding to help are not just strangers to us. It’s people that we know,” Hudson said. “People we have gone to school with, grown up with. That can make it a difficult situation.”

The role of the EMT has evolved over time. The ambulance that Graham paramedics use most, Medic 1, is essentially an ER room shrunk down and set atop wheels. The EMT job is now advanced care, and often implementation of medical procedures traditionally reserved for the hospital, such as intubation and the use of medication, has become commonplace on site and en route to a hospital. 

“We’re providing those services in the field, now,” Hudson said. “The sooner you can get advanced life-support care the greater your percentage of chance to survive it.”

Strategic shifts in the implementation of care are also perhaps why local EMTs describe “The Golden Hour” as continuously evolving. 

“It used to be that you have to get the patient to the appropriate facility in under an hour. (It) was better if you succeeded in that time frame,” said Young County paramedic Kowa Crow. “Basically, we can do everything in the back of the ambulance that we can do in the ER now.”

Read the entire story in Wednesday's Graham Leader.