For paramedics, 92 non-stop hours on the front lines

They’re a life­line for the most vul­ner­a­ble

USA TODAY US Edition - - NEWS - Kris Wartelle

Paramedics Will Roberts and Isolde Ca­banas have been on duty for 92 hours straight, liv­ing through the night­mare left by Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Both work for Aca­dian Am­bu­lance, a pri­vate com­pany that op­er­ates in 34 Louisiana parishes and in 37 coun­ties in Texas. Aca­dian re­spon­ders such as Roberts and Ca­banas are on the front lines, sav­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble of dis­as­ter vic­tims.

The job has taken a toll. “I have blis­ters all over my feet from not chang­ing my boots for two days,” Ca­banas said. “My feet were al­ways wet, and as soon as they’d dry, we had to get back into high wa­ter again.”

Rogers said the two have been an­swer­ing non-stop emer­gency calls, re­spond­ing to pa­tients in re­nal fail­ure un­able to get dial­y­sis, to head in­juries and car­diac ar­rests.

“There have been a lot of slip and falls also,” Roberts said. “Es­pe­cially the el­derly. They are trapped in doors and have to fend for them­selves, no one to care for them, and that’s what hap­pens. “

Ca­banas, 28, who lives in Pasadena, has been a para­medic for seven years. Since Har­vey hit, she has got­ten plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence with high-wa­ter re­sponse. On one call, she evac­u­ated a pa­tient from a flooded neigh­bor­hood on Pasadena’s north side by am­bu­lance. When wa­ter got too high for the am­bu­lance, the pa­tient was trans­ferred to a dump truck, and, fi­nally, to a boat be­fore reach­ing a hospi­tal.

“All you’re con­cerned about is the pa­tient and get­ting them what they need,” she said. “After­ward, adren­a­line goes down, and it gets emo­tional. I re­ally didn’t get tired un­til yes­ter­day. … I went in one of the rooms and crashed for four hours.”

Finn Brouil­let and Jaime Lar­rea are fresh off a 36-hour shift. The two-man crew has been field­ing emer­gency calls the en­tire time, re­spond­ing to ev­ery­thing from pa­tients hav­ing seizures to trau­matic in­juries.

But Brouil­let and Lar­rea con­sid­ered them­selves lucky. “The

“All you’re con­cerned about is the pa­tient and get­ting them what they need. After­ward, adren­a­line goes down, and it gets emo­tional. ”

Para­medic Isolde Ca­banas

crew we re­lieved had been out for four or five days, “Brouil­let said.

In Pasadena, more than 30 calls were lined up, he said. Emer­gency op­er­a­tors had to triage calls. Pa­tients in dial­y­sis had nowhere to go. Hos­pi­tals in Pasadena were closed.

Aca­dian Op­er­a­tions Su­per­vi­sor Jor­dan Wells said a typ­i­cal shift in Pasadena in­volves an av­er­age of 14 emer­gency calls.

These days are not typ­i­cal, he said: “Shifts like that mean no downtime or sleep or rest.”

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