Eagle: Two ambulance calls, overcooked chicken | VailDaily.com

Eagle: Two ambulance calls, overcooked chicken

Kathy Heicher
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/EnterpriseEMT Rob Sbarra, left, prepares his lunch while paramedic Evan Bartlett eats a sandwich in the kitchen at the Eagle station.

EAGLE COUNTY ” Rob Sbarra’s dinner, a grilled chicken breast, lingered on the barbecue for about three and a half hours on Monday.

That’s because before he could pull it off the grill, a call went out for an ambulance to respond to a car accident on Interstate 70, just east of the Eagle exit. An hour previously, a person with abdominal pains needed an ambulance in Gypsum.

“At least I remembered to turn the grill off,” said Sbarra, an emergency medical technician with the Western Eagle County Ambulance District, looking doubtfully at the dried-up filet he had finally pulled off the grill.

Interrupted meals, calls in the middle of the night and a feast-or-famine demand for service is all part of emergency service work. “You can’t predict the work. It ebbs and flows,” says Chris Montera, the district’s chief.

He says calls tend to peak in the morning, with big demand during commuter rush hours. Montera himself was in the midst of processing his staff’s payroll when last week’s rash of calls started.

Sbarra and EMT Evan Bartlett were on the second day of their 48-hour shift. The first 24 hours were so dull that they filled the time with chores ” writing reports, completing chores around the Eagle ambulance station and answering the telephone.

Then, the calls came in so rapidly the following 24 hours they found it hard to complete a meal.

“It always happens as soon as you put something on the grill. It’s Murphy’s law,” Bartlett said.

In fact, interruptions to meals are so common that the new ambulance facility in Gypsum has a special button on the wall that the EMTs can hit when they run out the door. The button disconnects the electricity to the stove.

Montera says the 48-hour shifts tend to create family-like ties between the ambulance staff. “When a call goes out, it becomes all about the patient. It is phenomenal to watch them work,” says Montera.

Sbarra estimates he goes out on 400-500 ambulance calls every year. The calls have varying degrees of intensity, from traumatic car accidents to people with chest pains to drunks fighting one another.

“Sometimes the reason for the call is difficult to understand. It can be frustrating. You have to be able to put yourself in their shoes,” says EMT Kelly Lombardi.

But some calls are particularly rewarding ” Lombardi has been involved in the “field” deliveries of two babies. The most recent was last year, when the ambulance, headed to Valley View Hospital in Glenwood Springs, had to pull over on the side of I-70 for the delivery. Lombardi and fellow EMT Sean Eaton brought the child into the world.

“Everybody was happy and healthy,” Lombardi says. “It was actually a pleasure to be on that call ” definitely worth getting up in the middle of the night for.”

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