Alyssa Jones and Maria Jesse are still trying to figure out what the big deal is; after all, they were just doing their jobs. “We try to be as caring and comforting for our patients and give them whatever support we think they need in that moment, whether they want to laugh, need a distraction or sit in silence,” said Jones, an EMT with AMR in Tukwila, a suburb directly south of Seattle.
But for Amber Hendrickson, that “caring and comforting” that Jones refers to as “business as usual” went a long way on a day in early March 2022.
“I traveled with my 84-year-old mother and brother to Seattle from Fairbanks, Alaska for a planned Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) stent replacement for my mother. Then, on March 6, I get a call right outside our hotel room from my brother, saying, ‘something’s wrong with mom,’” recalled Hendrickson.
When Hendrickson returned to the room, she found her mother, Geraldine Best, violently shaking, with ashen skin around her mouth. Her fingers had gone blue. Hendrickson, an experienced RN, immediately knew her mother was septic.
“I told my brother to call an ambulance while I grabbed wallets and IDs. We got her [mother] into the wheelchair and took her downstairs where a firetruck was already parked. Right about that time, in walks these two women who immediately took charge,” said Hendrickson.
The two women were Jones and Jesse, an EMT Basic, also with AMR Tukwila.
“Once in the ambulance, I assessed Geraldine’s vitals and noticed her blood pressure was getting lower, said Jesse. “She also had a temperature and had vomited earlier in the evening. When you notice vitals, patient presentation or signs and symptoms that are concerning, it’s important to fall back on your training and remain calm. It is much easier for your patient to trust you, when you trust and have confidence in yourself.”
Hendrickson agreed. “They spoke calmly, but directly, asking questions and providing clear directions. I was relieved to have these capable women take charge, which allowed me to feel fear and adrenaline like other patient family members because I didn’t have to be the one in control.”
That outpouring of care and control by Jones and Jesse continued even at the hospital.
“Once there, I gave the report to the nurse and held Geraldine’s hand while she got her IV, “said Jesse. “I talked about how my family was also from Alaska. Before leaving, we even joked about how she (Geraldine) was a mother, and if she could give birth and raise kids, she could surely handle an IV and that she’d be a trooper through her recovery.”
Simple words, but still powerful, according to Hendrickson. “That little joke made mom laugh, and soon she was able to relax a bit. It was apparent to me she was less fearful.”
And then, there was the interaction with the hospital staff, which Hendrickson claims went smoothly all because of Jones’ intervention.
“As they were unloading mom, she (Jones) gave me clear and concise direction on how to approach the ER staff, so that I would be allowed in the ER to advocate and speak for my mother,” said Hendrickson.
“I registered Geraldine and told Amber the registration staff had some questions for her before she could head back into the room,” said Jones. “Because of COVID-19, not all patients can have visitors, but because Geraldine depends on Amber for her care, we made sure she was allowed to stay and speak on her mom’s behalf.”
For Hendrickson, the actions taken by Jones and Jesse, while small to them, greatly affected her mother’s mental and physical conditions.
“I am an experienced RN, who’s worked for five different areas of medicine. I know what we were looking at that night, and how things that might look irrelevant make a huge difference in outcomes,” said Hendrickson. “EMS are the first contacts in life and death situations. They get control of uncontrolled situations. They’re the ones delivering babies in the woods, cars, etc. They need to take charge and don’t have the Dr. McSweeney at their fingertips down the hall or a button in the patient room to call the code team — they are the code team on the streets. Without them, there’d be a lot less folks that would make it to the ER, ICU or wherever the other specialists take over.”
Today, Geraldine Best is recovering well and trying to gradually get back to her active life. And as for Jones and Jesse, they’re just happy to have had a role in that outcome.
“We see so many people every day and hope we did something good for them,” said Jones. “It is a great feeling knowing that someone appreciates our care. The care, support and kindness extended to Geraldine and Amber is the way I would treat all of my patients, regardless of who they are, and I hope I am able to make an impact on many more people to come.”