A scene at City Hall in which lifesaving efforts were awarded — ones resulting in eight people surviving medical emergencies in 2017 — would not have occurred if budget cuts proposed last summer been put in effect.
As it turned out, the emergency medical-response program of the Mount Airy Fire Department was rescued in final negotiations last June — and municipal officials are happy with the critical role it continues to play.
Along with being targeted for elimination by the budget ax then, to meet city spending objectives, Commissioner Jon Cawley pointed out during a meeting last Thursday night that cost concerns were raised when the program began in 2010.
It involved an expansion of a first-responder effort by city firefighters for cardiac calls which had been launched in 1997, to also include strokes, diabetes-related issues, cuttings/stabbings, overdoses, shootings, drowning/diving accidents, unresponsive persons and other emergencies. This is incorporated into their normal duties and utilizes fire trucks.
Cawley said that when looking at how it has made a difference in citizens’ lives, the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners’ decision to fund the program has been “the best money we spent.”
Mayor David Rowe agreed, relating his own personal experiences with the firefighter medical program.
One doesn’t think about the cost, he said, “when you’re lying on the floor and they rescue you.”
Recent fire rescue
While 16 city firefighters were recognized last Thursday night for their collective roles in saving eight people during 2017, special attention was devoted to a more recent event.
Seven members of the Mount Airy Fire Department were singled out for their team effort in rescuing a woman from a house on Feb. 25.
The department responded to the home at 148 Paige St., off West Lebanon Street, after reports of a fire with a possible entrapped victim.
Units arrived to find smoke visible from the structure, with an initial search revealing a woman in a bedroom, Phyllis King. She had become aware of a fire on the kitchen stove, and was able to dial 911 but could not get out of bed to escape the smoke-filled environment due to mobility problems.
Firefighters quickly removed King from the house and she was treated for smoke inhalation by the Surry County EMS and Mount Airy Rescue Squad.
Those playing a role in the rescue included fire engineers Steve Everett, Brad Harrell and Josh Owens, and firefighters Dusty Smith, Austin Branch, Tim Eldridge and Matthew Fink.
“The board and I certainly applaud your bravery and job performance,” Mayor David Rowe told the group.
In awarding lifesaving honors to department members who were instrumental in ensuring a successful outcome for eight different patients last year, strict guidelines were involved.
The medical saves included cases in which a victim was not breathing or the person’s heart had stopped, according to Jose Butron, basic life support coordinator for the Surry County Emergency Medical Service, who led Thursday’s recognition.
“In essence, they are dead,” Butron explained.
With every case, department members prolonged life by restoring the pulse of someone in full cardiac arrest or the person’s ability to breathe so he or she could make it to a hospital — and ultimately leave that facility alive, Butron said.
A county audit committee examines each case carefully to gauge the difference first-response efforts made in the outcome of an emergency.
The 16 fire department members as a whole were credited with 25 different individual efforts that helped save the eight people involved, with some firefighters aiding the survival of multiple individuals.
Captains Trey Leonard and Scottie Wolfe played a role in three of the cases in which lives were saved.
Firefighters Brian Emlinger, Mathew Fink and Dusty Smith; Assistant Fire Chief Chris Fallaw; and Fire Engineer Josh Owens each aided in saving two people.
Those credited with prolonging the life of one person include firefighters Michael Bowman, Travis Golding, William Griffith, Scott Hauck and Josh King; fire engineers Kenneth Simmons, Brad Harrell and Justin Mayes; and Capt. Danny Vipperman.
One of the saves resulted from the Mount Airy Fire Department delivering Narcan, which is used to counteract the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose.
“There is nothing more meaningful we could recognize than the saving of a life,” Commissioner Jim Armbrister said.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.