Thursday, June 15, 2017

Medical Emergencies In Remote Stehekin

All photos with patients were taken during a training scenario - in which NPS employees and community members practice their skills and coordination in assisting during a medical emergency.
A question that is often asked by visitors is, "What do you do when there is a medical emergency?" Nothing makes Stehekin seem more isolated than when there is an urgent healthcare issue.

Because there are no roads into Stehekin, transporting a sick or injured patient becomes more complicated than when a call for an ambulance, or hopping in your car, can get you to help. 

There are people who received training in emergency medicine who live in Stehekin. The National Park Service generally employs a few people with emergency medical training, and there are a number of community members who have had medical training.

If there is a serious medical emergency, the first thing that happens is a radio call-out for help. It might come over the local two-way radio something like, "I have a medical emergency at the landing, and need some assistance." That alerts people who can offer their help - EMT's, First Responders, and good Samaritans. Usually, if it's something serious, the more people to respond, the better. And, if it turns out to be less serious, people can return to whatever they were doing before the radio call. 

The responders in Stehekin are really only trained to "package and ship" the people who find themselves needing medical interventions. There aren't doctors up here, but the responders can contact Lake Chelan Community Hospital and get advice about what to do. A general rule of thumb is that if it's a true emergency, getting the patient out of Stehekin as soon as possible is the scenario of choice. 

Getting a sick or injured person to the help they need can be accomplished in a few different ways, depending on the severity of the situation. At the most severe extreme, a helicopter would be called for. The nearest base is in Brewster, Washington, and takes about 30 minutes from the time they are called until the helicopter arrives in Stehekin. The helicopter brings paramedics, equipment and medications to transport the patient, while providing the best care outside of the emergency room of a hospital. [Life Flight offers a membership that is inexpensive, and can give peace of mind when visiting remote areas!]
One of the areas that the LifeFlight helicopter can land - the Stehekin Airstrip
If the situation doesn't require a quick flight out, or if the weather isn't cooperating, there is the option of a local boat providing transportation. The NPS has a boat on which they can transport a sick or injured patient, and there are a couple of other private boats which could also be called upon in an emergency.
a medical response training session
An opportunity for some local children to get into the helicopter while learning how the local emergency medical response system works!
It is a good thing to have the coordination between the private sector, the NPS and the Lake Chelan hospital district when there is a medical emergency in Stehekin. Training together - especially in the early part of the busy season - helps to test the systems that are in place, and provide the best care when a need arises in this remote area. 

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