Last Thursday night’s meeting of the Western Lane Fire and EMS Authority (WLFEA), the administrative board of Siuslaw Valley Fire and Rescue (SVFR) and Western Lane Ambulance District (WLAD), showed how it takes a community to save a life. A special presentation was held to present a group of individuals Life Saving Awards.
WLFEA EMS Operations Chief Matt House presented the recognitions.
“On Sept. 11, which we all know is a day of infamy for us, 343 brothers and sisters died in an act of terrorism,” House, who presented the awards, said. “However, for this gentleman, it was a day that he was reborn.”
House stood next to John R. Peterson, who last month, while shopping at the local Fred Meyer, went into cardiac arrest. Fred Meyer employees immediately began CPR on Peterson.
“Every minute of CPR that’s not being done decreases the survival rate of a patient by 10 percent,” House said. “Having that quick action really did affect the outcome.”
The Fred Meyer employees included Megan Green, Jason Guiterrez, Jeremy Austin, Angela Nelson and Kevin Wikenson, as well as Sky Cederleaf-Grey, who was both a Fred Meyer employee and SVFR volunteer.
Beyond CPR, the group, along with two unnamed individuals from Peace Harbor who were there at the time, were able to organize the situation, as well as shock Peterson with the Automated External Defibrillator (AED) which Fred Meyer had on site.
“It made a difference,” said Peterson, who was at the meeting to help present the award and give his thanks. “I would not be standing here if it were not for Fred Meyer staff. If they didn’t do what they had done, the EMTs would not have been able to help.”
Also awarded were SVFR’s Conway Pebley and Kyle Orozco, who were the first responders to arrive at the scene, followed by Douglas Unrein II and David Rossi from WLAD.
“I want to say something about Doug and David,” Peterson said. “They came and visited me at my home when I got home from the hospital. That was excellent. I had never heard of or seen anything like that. I was deeply moved.”
House also recognized Ed Lovell, SVFR’s Community Support Team member, who “helped stabilize the scene, talked with the family, and, though he didn’t have hands on with the lifesaving, he gave us the opportunity to do our job to save the life of Mr. Peterson.”
“When I listened to all these names, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, how lucky that all these people were there,’” SVFR Board President Ned Hickson said. “But then I thought that we should get to the point where it’s not about luck. It’s about that many people in one place who know how to do that kind of procedure.”
Getting people trained in CPR has been a passion for WLFEA Chief Michael Schick.
“My goal is to have every out-of-hospital cardiac arrest to have bystander CPR,” he told the Siuslaw News. “That’s why it’s important to train everybody. It’s been getting easier and easier, and everybody should know how to do it.”
WLAD offers CPR and first aid courses monthly, and people can sign up by going to www.westernlaneambulance.com/cpr-and-first-aid/, or by calling 541-997-9614.
In other news from Tuesday’s WLFEA meeting, Schick announced that funding was awarded for the Mobile Health Mental Health Crisis team in the amount of $287,000. The team is a partnership between SVFR, WLAD, the Florence Police Department and PeaceHealth Peace Harbor, and is expected to help people in crisis.
“Right now, our options are to either take people to the hospital or to take them to jail,” Schick said. “Sometimes that’s appropriate, but many times it’s not. We want to make sure these people are getting the services they need.”
The team will help individuals for a wide variety of issues, including suicidal thoughts, drug addiction or other mental health issues.
The funding also provides for an additional social worker at Peace Harbor’s emergency department, and it is expected that Lane County Sheriffs will also partner with the team by next year.
“We’ve got people training right now,” Schick said. “I think we’ll see our first patient in the first couple months, probably sooner than that. We just want to make sure everybody’s trained.”
The mental health unit would create yet another mobile unit associated with WLAD.
House provided numbers regarding the Mobile Integrated Mental Health program, which has WLAD and Peace Harbor employees checking up on individuals at home after they come home from the hospital. The purpose of the program is to reduce the amount of ER visits, though until now the exact impact of the program was unknown to the WLAD board.
“I talked to Jason Hawkins, the CEO of Peace Harbor hospital,” House said. “He stated the best way he could explain it is a 1:5 ratio. For every $1, we’re actually saving $5 to the health care system because of MIH. In one year, 500 visits for 60 clients, we decreased the ER visits by 200 percent and we’ve decreased readmission by 200 percent.”
Finally, before the meeting, Schick was able to give an update on a pair of unexpected late season fires from the previous week, the first of which occurred on Oct. 15 up Tiernan Road.
“There’s a logging operation going on, and one of their pieces of logging equipment that cuts down trees caught on fire,” Schick said. The equipment had just been filled up with 140 gallons of diesel the night before. “Luckily the ground was wet around it so it didn’t get into the trees,” Schick said, explaining the logging personnel had attempted to put the fire out before the flames became unmanageable.
“We had to cut a little path to it,” he continued. “It took us a while to get it out, but we did get it out. Summer time, it would have been a fully different picture, so we were lucky.”
A second fire occurred that week in a motorhome just north of Florence off Sunny Acres Road. The RV had been vacant for months, though neighbors had seen people in the area recently.
“It looked like someone had been there, though,” Schick said. “The window was ajar but the door was locked. We have reason to believe someone was in there. We’re still investigating, but at this time it looks suspicious.”
There were no injuries reported at the fire, which was quickly put out by SVFR.