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Format: 04/19/2014
Format: 04/19/2014


Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Medical workers went the extra mile for patients

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

By Mark Roth, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Nothing reflects the dedication of emergency medical crews during the snowstorm more than what happened in Oakland about 2 a.m. Saturday.

An ambulance crew from Eastern Area Prehospital Services tried three times to get up steep DeSoto Street to UPMC Presbyterian with an unconscious patient aboard, failing on each attempt.

After the third try, the ambulance got stuck on a concrete island at the foot of DeSoto, paramedic Chris Koepf said, and so he and emergency medical technician Elyse Harkema piled out of the vehicle and pulled the gurney out. With the help of a college student who was passing by and two hospital employees, they pushed the 200-pound patient all the way up the hill to the emergency room.

Nancy Osinksi, a patient services staffer at UPMC Presbyterian who witnessed the effort, said "you can only imagine how difficult that was, if you've ever tried to push even a shopping cart through the snow to your car."

The patient remained unconscious throughout the ordeal, but hospital officials said she had been treated and was doing better.

As for Mr. Koepf?

"I grew up in Cleveland," he said, "and that's in the snow belt, so I've been driving in snow since I was 16, but this was the worst storm I've had to drive any vehicle in."

Despite getting far more snow than had been forecast, "we're very fortunate that we have not had any attributable deaths or major injuries so far from the storm," said Robert Full, emergency services chief for Allegheny County, on Saturday.

Most hospitals in the region operated Friday night and early Saturday on emergency plans, which meant that nurses and other employees often stayed past their regular shifts, while incoming workers were given extra time to arrive.

That brought special praise from Mr. Full. "They could have said, 'I'll take the day off and stay home' but many, many of them showed up and turned out to work."

The stress on hospital staffs was compensated for partly by a lower volume of emergencies than they typically would see, as most people went into hibernation mode in the midst of the huge storm.

Dan Laurent, a spokesman for the West Penn Allegheny Health System, said business was so slow for Allegheny General and the West Penn-Forbes Campus in Monroeville that only nine patients were admitted at both emergency rooms Friday night and Saturday morning.


To read more, visit the Post-Gazette website.

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