As with any important issue which confronts a community, there are clouds which surround it, however with time, education and appropriate study those clouds tend to part and the issue becomes more in focus for all to see clearly.
We are fortunate to have the presence on Marco Island of wonderful public health providers, both in the form of private physicians and with a first class health care center, and the immanent addition of another health care provider for the treatment other than life threatening emergencies.
The more important issue at hand, however, is how you, your loved ones or the general public should react regarding serious medical emergencies you may confront as part of living in our community. These emergencies consist of broken bones, a bad fall, shortness of breath, serious laceration, auto accident, dizziness or symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.
Much has been said of late regarding a perceived lack emergency medical services. The truth is, much of this uneasiness comes from a lack of understanding of how the system works; but to tell you the truth it works pretty well once you understand it.
Having been involved in emergency services for over 42 years in one aspect or another, it is easy to understand where some of the confusion comes from, as we live in an age of rapidly evolving technologies. These technologies and advancements move faster with the passage of each day, so it is not unusual for many not to be aware of what is possibly the finest team effort in all of the State of Florida.
The simplest manner in which to explain responding to an emergency in your life is best compared to climbing a ladder.
The first rung on that ladder is the realization you have an emergency and determining its nature and your needed response. If your child skins his/her knee falling off their bicycle the response is based upon common sense; reassure the child, clean the wound and watch them jump back on the bike and conquer their fears; or if you’ve got an ear ache you might give your local physician a call or visit the local health care clinic.
However, after recognizing the extent of the injury or problem goes beyond a simple hug, a little antiseptic or a quick visit to the doctor’s office, the second rung, and possibly most important one, involves the picking up your phone and dialing 911. This is your lifeline and your family or friend’s best chance for minimizing further injury or even permanent disability or death.
This is even more important for our older population who may start to experience early signs of more serious symptoms of heart or stroke related incidents. The quicker you pick up the phone, the faster you can reach the next rung on the ladder for saving a life by having the appropriate aid sent your way.
The third rung is the arrival of the help which the 911 operator has sent your way. It’s a team effort here on the island, with Marco Island Police, Fire and Collier EMS working together to make sure you’ll receive the gold standard of treatment found throughout the nation. Together they’ll help to take care of the injured or sick; a family member in distress over the situation and insure you and yours becomes a part of our community family for as long as it takes.
When I first purchased here 26 years ago, I was surprised to find that we had state certified paramedics on Marco Island which were limited in putting those talents, experience and technology to use to help intervene in the early onset of the most serious of incidents such as strokes or heart issues. This has all changed today so that those advanced lifesaving skills can be applied immediately to any Marco resident or visitor.
That change of how we do things has steadily improved as we’ve unshackled the talented young men and women who serve you on an everyday basis. Even our police vehicles carry AED (Automatic External Defibrillators) and our fire department has done a great job of promoting, educating and training condominium associations, businesses and public employees/buildings throughout the island of their value and importance in saving lives.
One of the procedures, which are immediately applied to a victim of any injury or ailment, is in the administration of many of the most advanced lifesaving medications that help limit the damage to one’s organs and help to insure the survival of many of our patients. All this can only happen if you take that immediate step of calling 911 and step onto rung two of the ladder.
In the 42 years of my involvement we’ve seen a miraculous increase in the survivability of victims of a wide variety of injuries and illnesses due to the application of immediate treatment in the field. Some of these advancements began in the battlefields of Southeast Asia and the deserts of the Middle East.
Those skills, techniques, medications and abilities have been brought home to help save lives right here on our small island, and our emergency responders have been quick to take advantage of these breakthroughs, as these skill sets are applied right here at home.
The fourth rung of that ladder is the transport if necessary of you or a loved one to a facility which will continue your treatment and your recovery. However, you and only you can insure that we make it to that fourth rung.
Much has also been written regarding the age old question of "why do so many people have to come?" That question is usually only asked by a casual spectator after the help you’ve summoned has left. When you’re watching a loved one strain to breathe or you have a severely lacerated leg or a head injury from an accident, you are thankful for those that have surrounded your love one or you as you struggle to keep your composure.
Your extended family of Marco First Responders is there for you, as well as for those you love. They may help you close up the house, or call a neighbor or a friend for a ride because you’re too shaken to do anything, much less drive.
The safety of the injured or ill also is an important reason for the response of another piece of apparatus in addition to an ambulance. If you’ve ever had to move a 250-pound person off a bed and onto a stretcher and down two or three flights of stairs, I can assure you it’s an experience you’ll never forget. The same is true if artificial ventilation (mouth to mouth) and chest compressions are required for an extended period of time; the exhaustion rate is pretty rapid, so a team effort is required to insure the maximum chances of recovery.
Yes, emergency medical services are a team effort and have been recognized as such by professionals such as Chief Murphy of the Marco Island Fire/Rescue and Chief Hunter of Marco Island Police along with all of their personnel.
The simple truth is emergency services is neither a building, equipment or any one individual item — it’s a team, and your part of that team as you ascend the few short steps up the ladder, by first recognizing the situation and then calling 911 for the rest of your team to come to your aid.
Your health, your safety and that of the general public depends upon you; it depends whether you take a deep breath, step onto rung one and then onto rung two and simply put your community to work for you, during a time when you most need the family you never realized was there to help you.
Marco Island is a wonderful paradise and has the finest emergency medical services in the state and your part of that team
Please don’t reach for those keys when having an emergency and remember; Don’t drive. Call 911.
Steve "Stef" Stefanides is a member of the board
of directors of the Marco Island Civic Association
and the Chairman of the Governmental & Community Affairs Committee.