When Seconds Count
Cherokee County, Alabama is mostly rural. Its 25,000 residents are spread out over 553 square miles. The terrain ranges from the relatively flat piedmont in the south to rugged mountains and steep canyons in the north and is separated by a lake that spans the width of the county.
When Floyd decided to locate an ambulance station on the north side of the lake, the decision was both strategic and quality-focused. Locating a second Emergency Medical Services (EMS) station in Cedar Bluff helps insure an ambulance can reach patients on that side of the county much more quickly. Earlier this month, that decision very likely saved a life.
The call to Cherokee 911 was the kind of call that no dispatcher wants to take.
A toddler, not yet 2-years-old, was discovered at the bottom of a swimming pool on the north side of the county. The child had floatation devices, but something had gone wrong, and the child sank below the water. When first responders arrived, he was not breathing, and his heart was not beating.
Floyd EMS in Cedar Bluff was dispatched to the home, which was located on one of the many finger-like peninsulas along Lake Weiss, about five miles from the EMS station and about eight miles from the Alabama-Georgia state line.
Lt. Greg Goedert, Paramedic Broderick Smith and EMT Jay Brown responded to the call and arrived in less than five minutes. Capt. Andy Fairel, who had heard the dispatch while traveling from Rome to Cherokee County, also responded and arrived just as the ambulance pulled up to the chaotic scene.
Adults at the home had removed the child from the water. The first responders started chest compressions and ventilation and successfully revived the boy. Then, providing supportive care, the team whisked him away to Floyd Medical Center, where he was stabilized. Drowning children require special support for the first 24 hours after being revived. So, the boy was moved to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s pediatric intensive care unit. He was discharged the next day.
The care provided to this young patient was text book. The first responders were heroic, but equally important in this narrative is the decision that located an EMS station in Cedar Bluff, on the northside of the lake that very nearly cuts Cherokee County in half.
In a rural, sparsely populated county, it would be easy to justify a single ambulance station at Cherokee Medical Center, but Floyd’s commitment to patient care dictates otherwise. If EMS had not been stationed in Cedar Bluff, it would have taken at least another five to seven minutes for an ambulance to arrive. Those five to seven minutes are the difference between survival and a very different outcome.
Lt. Goedert knows those minutes made a difference. This was the second time Greg has helped save a drowning child in his career, and that is not something he takes lightly. Five minutes longer without life-giving blood being pumped to the brain likely would have resulted in tragedy. Greg was so moved by the incident that he returned recently to check on the boy, who, thanks to the quick, expert care he received, is healthy with no apparent medical issues related to the drowning.