Letter: Every minute counts

On Monday, June 9, my brother had to be transported via air ambulance from the Amissville Volunteer Fire and Rescue station to the U.Va. Medical Center. He had sustained second- and third-degree burns across 30 percent of his lower body while working on a tractor at our grandfather’s house. Our father placed his first 911 call at 10:43 a.m. Station 1 (Washington Volunteer Fire and Rescue) and Station 4 (Flint Hill F&R) were dispatched at 10:46 a.m.; five minutes later, two more stations were dispatched to the scene, Station 3 (Amissville) and Station 9 (Chester Gap).

Our grandfather lives at 835 Zachary Taylor Hwy. — 1.16 miles from the Flint Hill Volunteer Fire and Rescue station, from which travel time would be around one minute. One minute!

With still no emergency medical service on scene, my father placed a second 911 call at 10:52. Medic 3, Amissville’s ambulance, had been dispatched at 10:51 a.m. (This station is approximately 12 miles from the scene.) With no EMS yet on the scene 15 minutes after the first 911 call, my brother at last received some help in the transport process from Sheriff Connie C. Smith at 10:58 a.m. Sheriff Smith arranged to meet Medic 1 (Washington’s ambulance) at the old VDOT shed on U.S. 522, where my brother began to receive patient care at 11 a.m. Let it be known that once care was provided, it was exemplary.

The order was given to launch a medical helicopter at 11:02. The Aircare helicopter arrived at the Amissville fire hall at 11:22. My brother was finally in the air and on his way to the Charlottesville at 11:35 — almost one hour from the time the first 911 call had been placed.

I hope you have followed the timeframe of this incident that I have outlined above. (Yes, this is a shortened version of the events.) Regardless, my family and I felt it was important to share this information with the residents of Rappahannock County. This incident has left us with many questions, such as . . . Is this acceptable emergency/rescue service? Could the Aircare helicopter have landed in the field or maybe on the highway closer to the scene? What if my brother had gone into cardiac arrest? Then what? Are we the only family that wishes for paid full-time response staffing in Flint Hill?

The experience of witnessing a family member in a medical emergency is a very traumatic event. You do what you can in the moment to comfort your loved one. Maybe your best is reaching out to first responders who can render the proper emergency service. You expect EMS to arrive at any moment, especially since there are four stations within 13 miles of the accident; yet, you become overwhelmed with a feeling of helplessness as you watch time ticking away. You wait and wonder where they are, and all the while watch your loved one struggle and hurt.

Dasha Smoot Sealock and family
Front Royal

About Staff/Contributed 5503 Articles
The Rappahannock News welcomes contributions from any and all members of the community. Email news and photos to editor@rappnews.com or call us at 540-675-3338.