Volunteers work hard to save lives

Mary Atkinson · Thursday, July 5, 2012
It’s common to drive by the West Liberty Fire Department and see a couple of vehicles in the parking lot.

One likely belongs to Chief Robbie Rock, who is probably finishing paperwork. Or to longtime firefighter Kirt Sickels, who may be washing an ambulance. Or Capt. Brian Flake, who could be demonstrating equipment for a visitor.

Visiting the fire department and talking to longtime member Darren Brooke leaves a sense a cohesiveness, which, he says, is an important aspect of fighting fires, saving lives or just doing housework in the firehouse.

It’s a reason, he said, why eight of the department’s members have completed Iowa’s first modified intermediate program in advanced life support.

“They are a great bunch,” Brooke said. “This advanced class is a very positive part of the system for the department and for the community.”

With this training, Brooke said that Emergency Medical Specialists, EMS, will be able to administer an IV to patients and utilize updated medical emergency equipment purchased recently with help from the Muscatine County Health Support Foundation.

One new piece of equipment is the LifePac 15. Costing nearly $33,000, Joan Caes, assistant manager to the emergency room at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, said it plays a significant role in preparing the ER before a patient arrives.

“Time is muscle,” Caes said. “If an ambulance can transmit an EKG (electrocardiogram), we can contact a cardiologist and have data and give a head’s up before the patient arrives,” she said. “It moves things along for the patient.”

She said a patient who comes to the ER would normally have to wait for the cardiologist to be contacted and then be examined before treatment can be determined — which can take hours.

The LifePac 15 Defibrillator is hooked to a patient in the ambulance and is able to transmit data such as oxygen and carbon dioxide levels to the hospital.

Flake, 25, said this piece of equipment can send data from 10 angles of the heart while the older defibrillator could only send three angles.

“It will also show us different rhythms and tell us, basically, if there are any blocks or pre-ventricle contractions or how the heart is loading blood,” Blake said. “It’s a wonderful tool.”

Charlotte Juergens, 49, agrees with Brooke about the group of knowledgeable and hardworking people volunteering in the fire and rescue department.

Juergens, a registered nurse at Trinity Muscatine, became a member three years ago when her husband, Craig, had to be taken by ambulance to the hospital.

“I was asked to think about joining and I thought I would try it,” she said. “I’m still here. Together we all bring quite a bit of experience.”

And that includes the department’s full-time paramedic. The decision hire someone came after the department saw an increase in emergency calls during the daytime hours while most department volunteers are working at their other jobs.

Joan Betthouser ,47, moved to West Liberty from Marquette, Iowa. She has two adult children and nine grandchildren. She became an EMT 13 years ago then received her EMS-Paramedic training.

When she is not on emergency calls, she said she has a lot to do around the station. She trains EMTs and continuing education participants, teaches fire prevention and safety to children and adults, inventories and orders supplies. She also answers phones and does billing.

“I stay pretty busy,” she said. “I like it here. People have been great.”

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