CATES: EMS Week is here

I have the best job in the world. I get to see amazing technology and science; I get to see miracles; I get to make a difference for others, and I get work with and around heroes every single day. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

One group of the heroes I get to work with is our local EMS providers. Those amazing people leave me in constant awe. I wanted during EMS week 2021 to talk about the amazing things our local EMS teams do, particularly those people who work for Odessa Fire Rescue (OFR).

Did you know that OFR was the first 911 service in Texas and one of the earliest in the nation?

I always think that is amazing. That’s not the only time they were first. They were the first fire-rescue company in Texas to use the Jaws of Life and they have been leading the pack on per capita incidents, run times, and things like first contact to intervention time for heart attack care for years.

They are one of a very few EMS services in the nation to receive the American Heart Association Gold Plus award for heart attack care and they have won that award several times. Most people don’t think of Odessa as a cutting-edge place when it comes to healthcare. They tend to think of places like UT Southwestern in Dallas or Texas Medical Center in Houston with those words, but I can tell you with our EMS services, we are cutting-edge and have been for decades.

These amazing people not only do a wonderful job, they do it in the worst circumstances.

One of the many reasons I have such love and respect for our EMS providers is because they exemplify putting their lives on the line for others. When the COVID pandemic started and there was still so much debate about how this illness was transmitted, these folks weren’t in hospital rooms with negative pressure systems for ventilation, or in labs with specialized attire. They weren’t in environments that had access to high-level disinfection. They were walking into people’s homes with masks, gowns, gloves and their uniforms.

When there is a wreck and they are prying people out of vehicles, they are standing in the street where cars are still moving, often at high speed with distracted drivers, around them.

They walk into scenes of recent violence, not always knowing if the violence has been completely contained when they do so. They see the worst humanity has to offer; yet they still, every day, lay down their lives for others. There just are no words to say how thankful I am for these exceptional people.

Just to give you an idea of the sheer volume of impact our folks at OFR have on this community. In 2020 OFR responded to 16,694 EMS incidents. That works out to about 48 incidents per day, every day of the year.

Another way to look at those numbers is if you consider that Ector County has a population of roughly 150,000, they cared for about 1.1 percent of the people who live here in just one year. Plus, all the fire incidents, and all the community service these folks do. It is a huge job.

In 2020, our OFR EMS teams responded to 459 calls for help because of COVID symptoms, responded to 3,587 motor vehicle collisions, and 83 responses for victims of gunshot wounds, stabbings, or other penetrating injuries. And, that is just a little bit of what they see.

We also have other EMS providers who help assist OFR when they get extremely busy, transport patients between hospitals and other levels of care, work in our community businesses keeping those folks safe, and teach at our colleges. Each one of those EMS providers gives of themselves every day to serve this community.

Please take some time this week to recognize and thank the amazing people at OFR and our other EMS providers for their service. You can do that through several local recognition programs with OFR and through both hospitals. If you see an EMS provider out in the community, please tell them Thank You.

Ladies and gentlemen of our EMS community, please know how much I value and appreciate you as well. You are just amazing.