By Russell Hixson
STILLWATER, Okla. —
LifeNet Operations Manager Michael Authement is ready to head to a work meeting after an afternoon of responding to calls when a tone sounds over the radio.
A possible stroke victim needs help. There are no other available units. The meeting will have to wait. Earlier in the day he’d helped a woman injured in a traffic accident and a woman who’d fallen down and couldn’t get up.
“We’ll take it,” he tells dispatchers. The LifeNet SUV accelerates to 70 mph with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The call is far outside city limits and every minute counts. Authement’s car is splattered with mud from the dirt road when he spots the blue trailer that placed the 911 call. One of the residents flags him down.
As soon has Authement opens the car door and begins gathering supplies he is bombarded by wailing children and family members screaming.
“You have to hurry! She’s dying! She’s dying!” one woman screams. Several young children have pulled their shirts over their heads, muffling their sobs. Other units are on their way but it will still take them time to get there, so Authement works fast on his own.
In the hurricane of panic, he is an eye of calm. He finds the victim sprawled on the carpet of a bedroom. She is in full respiratory arrest. Her lips and face are turning blue, her eyes are slightly open, and she isn’t moving or talking.
Authement is unfazed.
“Can you tell me where it hurts?” he asks warmly as he looks for vital signs. He helps her breathe with a plastic mask and bag. He calms family members by asking them to write down medical information about the patient while he works to revive her. After several minutes of getting oxygen, the woman begins responding with pained groans.
Firefighters and other paramedics arrive and pour in. Authement helps direct the heavy human traffic in the tiny mobile home and updates the family and children on the situation.
“She is responding, we are going to take her to the hospital and we are going to take really good care of her,” he said with a reassuring smile. Some of the tension has lifted. He asks the children if they played in the snow that day. They stop crying and start chatting.
Emergency crews lift the woman onto a stretcher and wheel her from house to ambulance. Its sirens scream as it accelerates down the muddy road.
“Everybody did a fantastic job,” Authement said as he follows the ambulance from the scene. It’s hard to know why the woman was ill. Authement may never know how the case turned out as many hospitals don’t share patient information. For now, she is stable. His job is done.
In his more than a decade in emergency response, Authement has seen many things — amazing and horrible things.
“I prefer to think about the happy ending calls,” he said. Like when he was working as a paramedic in Texarkana and helped deliver a baby on the side of the Interstate at 4 a.m.
“They named him Michael Miles — my name and then the four miles we made it down the road before she had to deliver,” he said.
Or Christmas 2007, when a woman who had just lost her son in a traffic accident thought there was nothing else to live for. He talked, listened and comforted.
“It wasn’t medicine or any fancy equipment, it was just a calm touching hand,” he said. And while his job at LifeNet, a not for profit ambulance service, is mostly administrative he makes sure to take time each week to respond to calls.