This is National EMS Week.

Tuesday's Colorado story of EMS dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic is from Paramedic – Lieutenant Lonnie Knudsen, Banner Health EMS, Sterling.

What is your greatest fear?

My greatest fear is bringing sickness home to my family; to my parents, grandparents and children. We, and I, must stay healthy.

How are you and your crewmates personally handling this pandemic?

We are committed to our patients. The professionalism of our crews is top-notch. They go in head first, with the spirit of taking care. We are even more clean and sanitary than before this pandemic. We are using UV lights and decontaminating each rig after every transfer, which can be four to six hours long out here. We are very cautious and pay close attention to every detail. The mental toll on society is enormous.

Making sure we have adequate PPE is the most troubling to me: PaPRs, reusable hoods pressure air respirators. We struggle to get all sizes from small to extra, extra-large.

What is the most difficult aspect of EMS care today?

We can’t do what we know is needed for high-risk COPD and emphysema patients. High-risk treatments, intubations, nebulizers are now all prohibited procedures. We are in an industrialized society. We should have what we need! This is a pivotal point in EMS; we are in a whole new realm of EMS safety.

What has been the best?

Our relationships with our EMS and medical colleagues. We look out for each, we take care of each other. We are all working together with a spirit of pulling together as a team. Our incredible nurses — they pull on their boots, mask and gowns and go to work. They are our shining stars.

What has surprised me is how fast this situation evolved. Back in December 2019 and January of this year, it was so far away. Now it is in my county and my service; it is in my rural backyard and it was so fast. It was probably here already in November

What has not surprised you?

The bravery and courage of the medical community to take care of people.

Has your agency been supported by locals?

In our local community and across the lines of the states we work in, including Wyoming and Arizona, everyone has been absolutely great. People have made masks and gowns for use. Even little ear protectors for wearing masks. We have had local people with connections to manufacturers give us 95 filters and gowns. Give them to us!

And something else. People have learned how to be respectful again.

Can you offer an uplifting experience?

Yes, I can! It is the way that we can stay connected with each other through technology. Society, and EMS, still interact with each other despite isolation and quarantine. That is important to humans — we rely on each other.

What do you think will be the long-lasting EMS story coming from this pandemic?

Innovation!  It is the challenge to EMS, to rise and come up with solutions. New PPE, UV lights in ambulances. Next time I have to spec an ambulance, I want disinfection UV lights built-in. Our high-risk procedures — CPAPs, nebs, negative pressure — we will have news ways and new technology to perform these and it will be good all around.

I also see paramedics becoming ventilator technicians, becoming savvier and getting access to vents.

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