New equipment enhances Windsor EMS program

By Gregory A. Scibelli - Staff Writer
Windsor - posted Thu., May. 12, 2011
Windsor EMS Lt. Kris Seguin with the new refrigerator equipment containing chilled saline to induce hypothermia in some patients who have experienced cardiac arrest. Photo by Gregory A. Scibelli.
Windsor EMS Lt. Kris Seguin with the new refrigerator equipment containing chilled saline to induce hypothermia in some patients who have experienced cardiac arrest. Photo by Gregory A. Scibelli.

Recent hospital studies have shown that inducing hypothermia in patients suffering from cardiac arrest gives them an increased chance of not suffering permanent brain damage. The new practice is being used by the Windsor Volunteer Ambulance Association.

Exciting things are happening at the local EMS facility, as Lt. Kris Seguin prepares to become the third full-time employee for the emergency services provider. Seguin recently led training with a group of about 30 volunteers to apprise them of the latest advancement in emergency response.

Seguin introduced a briefcase that is used as a refrigerator for housing saline, which is used to flush a patients’ circulatory system and increase circulation in the body. It is typically used intravenously and often introduced once a patient reaches the hospital, though EMTs can introduce it while at a scene.

Seguin explained studies are now showing any patient that goes into cardiac arrest at the scene of an incident can suffer severe brain damage, depending on how long their brain is denied oxygen.

“The longer a person’s brain is denied oxygen, the worse it could be for them,” said Seguin. “And depending on how long it takes a person to get from the ambulance to the hospital, it is still taking more time for oxygen to flow to the brain.”

The study found that the introduction of chilled saline rushed through the body will help restore brain function more quickly and reduce the chance of brain damage, Seguin said.

“It’s an incredible advance in medicine,” said Seguin, who is set to be the first full-time local paramedic on staff at Windsor EMS.

The workshop held on May 6 introduced volunteers to the new piece of equipment, which is kept at approximately 39 degrees. The cold saline is supposed to drop body temperature to about 90 degrees, a hypothermic state, Seguin said.

Included in the procedure is using several cold packs to help the cooling process. Volunteers were briefed on the procedure, as well as how to assist a paramedic doing the procedure.

“We want our volunteers who are not paramedics to know what the paramedics are doing,” said Seguin. “They need to be able to be prepared for when they come and be able to assist.  Every minute counts when it comes to performing these life-saving techniques.”

Seguin said the training session went very well and many of the EMTs were eager to learn of the new advance.

“We had a great turnout and we’re very pleased with the volunteers that were able to make it,” said Seguin.

The purchase of the refrigerators came with a regular budget line-item purchase for equipment, and Seguin said it came at no extra cost from their budget for the year. The town provides a small subsidiary for the EMS, but the organization is a non-profit group and is funded by grants, donations and ambulance receipts. It is a mostly self-sustaining operation and has four ambulance and medical response vehicles.

There are two paramedics provided by American Medical Response on staff during peak hours, along with EMTs. Seguin said at least one paramedic is on active duty at any time, and there are volunteers in-house at the EMS headquarters ready to respond to a call.

These volunteers received access to the new program on May 12, when it was activated in the emergency vehicles, Seguin said.

Deputy Chief Daniel Moylan said the new equipment is a welcome addition to the service Windsor EMS provides the community, and he is pleased Windsor is taking part in the new program.

“Our EMS has a lot of potential, and these new services are important to a community-based EMS service,” Moylan said.

Moylan said only a small handful of neighboring communities have adopted the practice, including Granby, Suffield and East Windsor.

Seguin said the new procedure cannot be used with every patient, and hypothermia can only be induced in patients who are 18 years and older, not pregnant, and have not already gone through excessive trauma. It is typically going to be used with heart attack patients who experience cardiac arrest, he said.

The Windsor EMS has approximately 60 volunteers on its roster currently. Seguin is the third full-time employee, and there is potential for more growth. They field more than 3,800 ambulance calls per year and the number is continuing to increase.

Moylan and Seguin said the EMS is always accepting new volunteers and donations so they can continue providing the most advanced equipment and service to the people of Windsor.

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