What Happens When You Call 911?

Say its 6:00 in the morning and your spouse wakes you and says my chest hurts, you immediately react by dialing 911 and request an ambulance. All you can think about is how you want to make everything better for your loved one. So what happens next? You have never called for an ambulance before; you’ve seen them passing by on the street but wonder what will happen when they get to your house?

  To begin, there are many people that can get involved when the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system is needed. When you call 911 the communications technician will ask you questions about the patient’s condition and keep you on the line to give you important instructions to help the person in need prior to assistance arriving. While the technician is talking to you, first responders and an ambulance will be dispatched along with additional fire personal and/or law enforcement if needed for the situation. There may be numerous emergency personal showing up who identify themselves in a courteous and professional manner. They are all there to help and to uphold the privacy of the patient and family.

    First responder groups will usually arrive prior to the ambulance. They begin providing patient assessment and care until the ambulance arrives. They will obtain information pertaining to the current medical problem, acquire vital signs such as blood pressure, pulse, respirations and provide basic life support procedures. It is very important to get a baseline set of vitals so everyone knows if the patient is getting better or worse. They will also get a medical history, current medications and any allergies. First responders are the first tier in on-scene pre-hospital care.

  When the ambulance arrives in Greenville it will be Gold Cross. Their crews are trained to provide advanced life support and upon arrival may bring in a host of equipment and medical bags necessary to provide care to the patient. Often time’s space is limited when gaining access to the patient or to place equipment so decisions are made immediately to move furniture to accommodate the best patient care.

  The assessment and treatment process may appear vigorous to begin with and there may be a flurry of activity with everyone doing a specific job. The paramedics will ask some of the same questions that the first responders asked; it all depends on how fast they get to the scene. Some of the questions they will need to know are past and current symptoms, any medical history, medications you take and any potential allergies. This can come from the patient if they can talk or any family members or friends that are at the scene. Anything urgent will be looked at while other members will be readying the cot for the patient as well as clearing space to allow room for movement.

  Some of the procedures that may be performed before the patient is moved to the ambulance are oxygen administered through nasal cannula or a mask, IV to give fluids or medications, nebulizer treatment for asthma and also a cardiac monitor with wires connected to look at a heart rhythm. If the patient is not breathing adequately, a device will be placed in their airway to allow the EMS crew to breath for the patient. Should their heart cease to function, CPR will be started or by use of a mechanical compression device.

 In a trauma situation, stabilization equipment such as long boards, cervical collars or splints may be used to prevent any additional injury when being moved. There are a host of other procedures that may be done which can intimidate to the patient and to family members watching but EMS will explain along the way what is being done and why. EMS will make a concerted effort to comfort the patient and the family knowing full well the uncomfortable situation they are in.

  The ambulance may remain on the scene for a short period once the patient is placed inside so equipment can be secured and the patient is readied for transport. Some care may be given on scene because it is safer to do while the vehicle is not moving.

  Enroute to the hospital, care and patient monitoring will continue and the hospital will be kept informed of any significant change to the patient’s condition. Transporting with lights and sirens is not desirable in many situations as it raises anxiety in a patient and makes the transportation an uncomfortable event. It is also more dangerous for the patient, the EMS crew and the public. There are situations however when it is necessary to transport emergently based on the patient’s condition and urgency of care that will be delivered at the hospital.