By Jeff Clawson, M.D.
Heath, Montana, is a town most tourists and even most Montanans never see. Lying in the central and remote part of the state in the Judith Mountains, Heath is quite a distance from any big city and any major medical facility. Thirty years ago, when Lewistown Police Department EMD Don McCoy wrote the accompanying letter, it would take an ambulance at least 30 minutes one way in good weather to reach Heath from Lewistown, the closest ambulance service available in the area. The 20 miles over a mountain pass separating the two towns heightened the drama of McCoy’s 911 call involving a 7-year-old girl who was not breathing and a mother who needed help NOW.
McCoy may have answered calls like this in the past, but this time he had the Medical Priority Dispatch System™ (MPDS®) and his new EMD certification on his side. The EMD training he had received gave him the tools and assurance that he could and did provide the best possible over-the-phone care in a trying situation. His telling of the experience provides a clear reminder of why the Academy’s protocol system is a vital link in the chain of survival especially for extended EMS responses, to the benefit of communication centers and the communities they serve.