When we need help, first responders are the ones who answer the call. Firefighters, EMTs, and police officers put their health and lives at risk every day to serve those in their community.
During the pandemic, those risks have only become more pronounced as first responders venture into dozens of homes each week, many of them for COVID-19-related calls.
“This last year, we had a lot of growing pains together, and from those growing pains came this really positive light that we can get through it together,” said Cpt. Brac Heiss with the Denver Fire Department.
Cpt. Heiss has been with the Denver Fire Department for 15 years. It comes as no surprise that some of his career’s biggest challenges have come since last March.
“Everybody is a potential COVID patient now. Everybody is presumptive COVID positive until they’re not,” he said.
“I think we’re all just kind of feeling the same thing,” added Jesse Wright, a paramedic with Denver Health.
Despite the PPE and protocols, first responders expose themselves to the unknown in the name of helping others. As valuable seconds tick away, calls now require a COVID-19 screening as EMTs and firefighters try and diagnose a problem.
Social distancing can also make care trickier, they say. Ambulance rides call for more caution and dealing with families can be tough since they cannot join or accompany their loved ones to the hospital.
“[These protocols are] not only just for us, but for our next patient, because that’s what we don’t want to do is get that next person sick,” said Wright.
Wright says something as simple as wearing a mask has also complicated the job. Many times he will use his sense of smell to better understand a scenario. For instance, if he is responding to a call where a patient has sustained a major injury, he can typically diagnose if alcohol was involved nearly immediately. With a mask, however, that smell is dampened and it can sometimes make it more difficult to understand possible factors that are at play.
But for Wright, first responders are great at rolling with the punches.