Against a fitting backdrop of a Life Force helicopter and a rapid response SUV, doctors and administrators gathered in the helipad hangar of Erlanger hospital Tuesday to honor first responders from across the region.
Several Erlanger doctors and administrators shared their appreciation with the crowd, including Dr. Thomas Devlin, chairman of neurology and co-director of the Southeast Regional Stroke Center at Erlanger.
"Michael Jordan said that talent wins games, but teams and intelligence win championships," Devlin said.
Devlin described the crucial role first responders have played in many of Erlanger's recent successes, including the Swift Prime study, which Devlin called "the most important study in the history of stroke research." Erlanger had the distinction of having the best health outcomes for stroke victims of any hospital in the worldwide study, which Devlin credited in large part to first responders' ability to identify stroke symptoms.
"You guys are extremely skilled at identifying strokes in the field," Devlin said. "That's critical when you consider that two million brain cells are lost every minute during a stroke."
Dr. Charles Campbell, chief of cardiology at Erlanger, said a first responder's ability to identify major heart attacks by conducting an electrocardiogram in the field saves time and lives.
"Care starts with the 911 call and the care that first responders are able to initiate before transporting patients to the proper place," Campbell said.
EMTs from different emergency service providers across the region were later saluted and singled out with awards for extraordinary service. The celebration was in honor of National EMS Week, an annual observance created by President Gerald Ford in 1974.
Joey Quarles, an EMT with Puckett EMS, was awarded the Southeastern EMS Director's Association's EMT of the Year award. Though grateful, Quarles was reluctant to accept the recognition.
"It's a little awkward," he said. "That's not why I got into it. I do what I do because I love it."
Bradley County EMS and Life Force shared the award for Trauma Call of the Year, for their response to a two-car accident in Bradley County in May 2014. For their part, the Life Force team of pilot Mike Ryan, flight nurse Heather Wilson and flight paramedic Seth Gentry transported two victims, including an unresponsive teenager with a traumatic brain injury, from the scene to Erlanger in two separate trips in under 30 minutes. The teenager has since made a full recovery.
Like Quarles, Ryan, Wilson and Gentry also deflected the recognition.
"Our enjoyment comes from seeing patients that have recovered, that have been able to get back to normal," Gentry said.
Contact Will Healey at email@example.com or 423-757-6731.