By the end of the year the Walla Walla Fire Department will have responded to somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 medical calls in Walla Walla, College Place and throughout the county. The number varies from year to year, but it’s always in that ball park. Some calls are routine, some require transfers to hospitals in other cities, and many are matters of life or death.
We are fortunate that our department is staffed by highly trained firefighter-paramedics skilled at providing advanced life support under the most difficult conditions.
Now and then I hear someone assert that they can get to the hospital faster than the ambulance can get to them. That’s not really true. When one of our ambulances arrives, the hospital has come to the patient and treatment begins immediately.
Concerned and anxious family members sometimes wonder why it’s not rushing their loved one off as fast as it can go. The answer is that everything that could be done on arrival in the emergency room is already being done at the scene so the patient is prepared for a seamless transition to hospital care when they get there. In fact, the hospital staff will have been briefed and prepared well in advance.
It has been my honor to have served as the department chaplain for the last 10 years. It has allowed me to witness the solid teamwork of 45 dedicated, extraordinarily well educated and fearless firefighters who have done so much to help establish the high quality of life we enjoy in our Valley.
We ought not to take it for granted. Other places, including some major cities, cannot or will not provide that level of care for their citizens. They are short of staff, they rely on basic life support EMTs rather than advanced life support paramedics, their level of training is wanting, and the culture of well oiled teamwork can be lacking. We have it all. It is a blessing to be treasured.
The Rev. Steven E. Woolley