It was a hectic night in the Yankton emergency room on January 26. With a life-threatening situation in another room, the Verdigre EMTs sensed the crisis.
Even though Avera Sacred Heart had already officially received the patient, Verdigre Rescue Captain Mitch Mastlair chose to stay and care for their patient. That willingness to go the extra mile struck a chord with Avera RN Celeste Elwood.
“I will always remember their familiar faces and warm, caring smiles and their willingness to stay,” she said. “They gave up an extra hour of their Saturday and I could sense their dedication and applaud all they do as life-saving EMTs.”
Mastlair was proud to hear Elwood’s compliment about his team. But at the same time, it did not surprise him because of the effort he continuously sees from the local EMTs.
“In this business, it’s far in between thank yous, so it means a lot to hear that,” he said.
EMTs are not required to stay once the patient has been transferred to the hospital, but Mastlair said his team always stays to make sure the patient is cared for and nurses have taken control.
“Most of our patients are local residents, people we know, so we always stay,” he explained.
Elwood agreed with him.
“They often offer to call family for them or do something they need done at home, and the patients are so grateful that they're not only in good hands, but familiar hands,” she said.
Mastlair said the EMTs understand many hospitals can be short staffed, so it’s important to stick around and make sure the patient is cared for.
The rescue captain credits his crew’s experience for knowing to stay with their patient in Yankton on January 26. He has been an EMT for 40 years and has been the captain for most of that time. Mastlair said in years past, the crew had about 30 members but has now dwindled to 19.
“It is hard to find volunteers, but right now we have a good crew. They are veterans and know what they are doing,” he said. “I feel very proud of this squad. Even though our numbers are down I am glad I have who I have.”
Dwindling EMT numbers is a obstacle many rural communities are battling. Although it may seem a thankless job at times, Elwood said the first responders are vital to their communities and added that she sees lots of grateful patients and families.
“The patients thank the squad, calling them all by name,” she said. “You can see and feel their gratitude and families that then arrive express the same appreciation.”
Elwood said she hopes that the EMTs know the emergency room nurses appreciate them just as much as the patients and their families.
“Over the years, I've developed an increasing respect for those who respond to the scene in whatever conditions they might have to face: freezing cold, fog, tragedy, danger, wreckage, any age group, any illness,” she said.
Elwood said it takes a team in emergency situations, especially those responding to the scene first.
“What the local volunteers do is nothing short of courageous,” she said.