What happens when after all exhaustive heroic efforts have been made in the field, and still a life cannot be saved? That may be the time when firefighters and emergency response professionals are able to give other heroes a chance to save lives through organ donation. Therein lies the main storyline of a groundbreaking online educational video designed to instruct emergency response professionals about organ donation and “Keep Hope Alive.”
“We discovered that the vast majority of first responders in our area and around the nation, had received little to no training on organ donation,” says Katherine Doolittle, Manager of Public Education for Golden State Donor Services* (GSDS), which serves the Sacramento area. “This is alarming, as a large percentage of potential organ donors are transported to the hospital by first responders. Decisions first responder crews make in the field with severely neurologically-traumatized patients who obviously do not have short or long-term viability of survival, can have successful outcomes as potential donors – and up to eight lives can be saved by one donor. Our research indicates this is something many first responders do not know.”
GSDS partnered with Folsom, California Fire Chief Dan Haverty along with a committee of different agency fire captains, paramedic, and EMT trainers and hospital staff to develop the first training video of its kind in the nation. The online video training is FREE, does not change protocol, and provides one hour of continuing education upon completion: www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org/firstresponders. The video was also produced to provide information to all agencies in the U.S. Most importantly, first responders completing the online training, learn that many of the vital steps they already take can help ensure more patients eventually declared brain dead can become organ donors. More than 110,000 people currently wait for a life-saving organ transplant in the United States. One-third of those who wait, die due to a lack of donors.
“I didn’t know a potential organ donor has to be ventilated,” a Northern California EMT said. “And I had no idea that whether or not the person aspirates could impact donation, or that a complete and concise run sheet is so vitally important to donation outcomes.”
One of the first teachers to show the video to an EMS class remarked: “Brilliant!! The best produced educational video I have seen on… donation. My EMS class said it was ‘Excellent!’”
Doolittle realized the need for donation education for first responders following a conversation with her husband, Jim Doolittle, a retired fire captain. He personally knew crewmembers of a fire truck involved in a fatal accident with a small car carrying two passengers in April 2008. Though the passengers did not survive, one went on to become an organ donor and saved five lives.
Firefighter paramedic Rob Walters with Sacramento City (CA) Fire was at that scene and treated the patient who went on to become a donor. Walters soon after returned to serve in Afghanistan as a combat medic. He used what he learned from that incident about donation to provide the same care to severely neurologically injured soldiers, some of whom went on to become life-saving donors as well.
“It’s never a good feeling for any first responder when we lose a patient. But knowing that others were helped, other lives were saved, made the outcomes of loss more bearable for me,” Rob shared.
A recent interview with California Professional Fire Fighters goes into more depth about the initial incident and Walter’s thoughts about donation. Go to: http://www.cpf.org/go/cpf/media-center1/cpf-fire-vision/cpf-firevision-nov-24-2010/
“If we can be more educated on our end, regarding documentation, resuscitation and treatment in the field, I know we can save more lives through donation,” Jason LeBlanc, and EMT with Woodland Fire said.
To participate in this training, get 1.0 hours of continuing education and learn how first responders actions can help those waiting for a life saving organ transplant, please visit www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org/firstresponders. The website is also set up to easily accommodate classroom teaching.
*GSDS is a private, nonprofit agency facilitating organ donation and transplantation in Sacramento and 10 surrounding counties, as well as Santa Rosa. GSDS helps administer the Donate Life California Organ and Tissue Donor Registry. To sign up, or for more information about the Registry, the process, and how donation saves and improves lives, visit www.donateLIFEcalifornia.org or in Spanish www.doneVIDAcalifornia.org. Or sign up to give life through the DMV when you apply for or renew your driver’s license. Say “Yes!” to life every time.