Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 49
 
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

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All in a Day’s Work

(Photo by Dilshanie Perera
FIRST-RATE AID: Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad member Jay Padulchick stands with the Special Services ambulance outside the PFARS building on Harrison Street.

Dilshanie Perera

Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) Day Crew member Jay Padulchick has provided emergency services to the Borough and Township since 1989. Serving others and saving lives has been his lifelong passion. Squad President Peter Simon noted that “Jay’s career with PFARS speaks volumes about his concern for those in need.”

We see all kinds of things. People will call ambulances for a little cut on their finger, allergic reactions, heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, falls, broken bones, fires, stabbings, shootings. We see people who are beaten up and people who are drunk.

I enjoy using my skills for trauma calls. When you get to a situation, it could be anything. People can be in their house, in their car, at a construction site. Those things become challenging. How are we going to get to this person? What are their injuries? How do I stabilize their injuries? How do we get them out? What hospital are they going to? Traumatic injuries need to go to a trauma center, which usually has a CAT scan open and an operating room open and is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Somebody who’s been involved in a traumatic injury, they have what is called a “golden hour.” From the time the injury occurs to the time they arrive in the operating room under the knife, they have an hour, and that’s their threshold. After that their survival rate decreases.

I find that my adrenaline doesn’t really pump until I walk in on a situation. I’ve been doing this for awhile. But sometimes you get called for a child in cardiac arrest, and you’re adrenaline pumps right away. You want to get there fast.

Beginnings

November 17 will be 20 years [working with PFARS].

I was a boy scout, and when I was 12, my dad said, “Hey, the hospital is running a first aid and CPR course,” so I went and took that. My dad gave me that little push and support. I aced the course, and earned my first aid merit badge.

Back in the 70s, they had a show, Emergency, on TV, with Los Angeles county paramedics, which piqued my interest a little more too.

In 1981 I joined the Yardville First Aid Squad. I live in Hamilton; I’ve lived there all my life, and ironically, just after I joined there, I had a very bad ear infection, and I passed out and hit my head. I had a blood clot and they had to operate, so they took me to the hospital out in Allentown. I guess that probably sealed things up a little bit. Being a customer of their services, you know? That’s how I got involved in doing this.

Process

We’re dispatched via radio. Someone calls 911 in the Borough or the Township, they get a central answering point. If it’s a medical call it gets transferred over to our EMS dispatch, which works with us, the paramedics, and several other towns in the county.

They’ll ask them several questions to send either the ambulance or the paramedics. We have a 2-tiered system in New Jersey: Basic Life Support (which is us) and Advanced Life Support (which is the paramedics).

We can bandage, splint, give oxygen, do CPR and defibrillation when the heart has stopped. We can give epinephrine for allergic reactions. We can assist with certain medications, so if you had asthma, and you had an inhaler, we can assist you in using that inhaler. Or if somebody has a heart problem and they have nitroglycerine, we can assist them in taking that.

The paramedics can come in and start an IV line, they can give a multitude of drugs; they can secure an airway with an endotrachial tube. They can do further cardiac monitoring, stuff like that.

We respond to just about every emergency, with a minimum of two and a maximum of four people. We run approximately 2,800 calls per year. It can vary, but the average is between five and six calls per day.

You have to distance yourself emotionally. You can’t get involved too much. The one thing that really gets you is when something just doesn’t work … like trying to save a little kid, and all your efforts aren’t working. You take that with you for the rest of your life. But in the same instance, you have to understand that maybe it’s their time. You look back and you say: “What did I do? Did I do everything right? What could I have done differently?” And eventually you may say, “I did everything I could, and there was nothing that was going to save this person.”

Rescue

We do rescue services, like provide auto-extrication if you’re trapped in your car. We do rope rescue. High-angle rope rescue. Low angle is anything under 45 degrees, going down a slope; high angle is anything over that. Anything from 45 up to 90. It could be pulling somebody out of a basement, or using ropes to get them out of a building. Let’s say we have somebody trapped on the third floor of a building; we can take them out of a window and lower them down via ropes. We use that a couple of times a year. On construction sites, stuff like that.

We had one a couple of years ago where a person fell on the second floor of the house and injured his head and neck. They had a spiral staircase, so the only way to get him out was to rope him out off of the second floor. They happened to have a balcony that overlooked the rest of the house, so we were able to make a rope system and pick him up over the top of the railing and lower him down to the first floor. In that situation they opened the skylight and ran the rope system out to the truck and anchored it off of the rescue truck. It takes some thinking. That’s what’s really cool about this.

We also do water rescue, ice rescue, and confined space rescue, from pipes, tanks, boilers.

Making a Difference

A friend of ours — a nurse from the hospital — he and his wife happened to be coming through Princeton and fell asleep at the wheel and got into a pretty nasty accident. And even now, I’ll see him and we’ll still talk about the time when we saved his life, and took care of him and his wife, and made sure they went to the same hospital, and stuff like that. He was very grateful.

Every call we go on isn’t life or death, but … making that difference for people is very rewarding. Going out and doing my job is the best part. It’s just a great experience working here.

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