Saturday, January 16

VEZINA: Call 911 when you, or anyone, are having a stroke

Recent data has indicated a surprising number of people are not calling 911 for a stroke and other life-threatening conditions.

Here are some of the things that happen when you call emergency services and some less known reasons why it is important.

(1) The medical staff need time to get ready.

If you or a family member drive to the hospital, the medical staff that need to treat you find out that your life is in danger when you and/or your family arrive, likely in a panic. They then have to make multiple medical decisions faster than would be necessary if you came by ambulance.

If you call emergency services they will inform the hospital that you are on the way and medical staff can prepare for your arrival. The appropriate specialists can be paged and the hospital has some time, rather than none, to coordinate their response.

(2) All hospitals cannot treat all things.

Most people would be surprised how few doctors can successfully do basic CPR, let alone highly complex medicine in which they do not specialize.

This is not because doctors are incompetent, it is because of how much work it takes to specialize in something and how narrow a doctor’s focus may need to be to do their job properly.

If you spend 20 years specializing in ear/nose/throat procedures then you did not spend 20 years specializing in cardiology, respirology or emergency medicine.

If you drive someone having a stroke or other life-threatening condition to “any hospital” you may be driving them to a hospital that has no one qualified to handle it.

(3) With many critical field injuries, where time is of the essence, you are better off with paramedics attempting even highly risky treatments than having someone take you to the wrong hospital.

For more information on this, Google “scoop and run versus stay and play.”

These are complex decisions that are best made by medical staff to give you the best chance of surviving.

But these decisions can’t be made if you do not call emergency services.

No one wants a life to be lost because field interventions weren’t done that could have saved them.

In some areas, you may have to rush someone to emergency because hospitals are too far away and paramedics cannot reach you in time.

But even then you want a medical dispatcher to tell you where you need to go, give you advice, possibly patch in an emergency doctor to advise you remotely, and in some cases arrange for a police escort to the hospital.

If, out of necessity, you are going to be exceeding the speed limit and driving aggressively to get to the hospital, you are much better off if the police are rushing to your location to escort you rather than pulling you over for speeding.

All of these issues can be better addressed if you call emergency services when they are needed.

When emergency dispatching was first introduced, there were many public information campaigns to help people understand when it was appropriate to call.

Now we have many people not calling 911 when someone’s life is in jeopardy but calling when they find a dead squirrel on the road, or when their Internet is out.

Emergency lines also get butt-dials, prank calls and complaints about Amber Alerts.

They get calls from very young children using old cellphones (that can still call 911) they were gifted as toys.

By contrast, if someone’s life is in immediate danger or if there is an imminent threat to public safety, you are supposed to call 911.

Especially in a medical context, to give you the best chance of survival.

— Alex Vezina is the CEO of Prepared Canada Corp. and has a graduate degree in Disaster and Emergency Management

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