ORONO, Maine — Daniel Williams died in the back of an ambulance one night in December 2007 as he was being taken to a local hospital after becoming nauseated and experiencing shortness of breath.
But he was revived after a crew of paramedics from the Orono Fire Department determined Williams was having a heart attack and then shocked him with a defibrillator. In addition, because results of the testing the ambulance crew did during the drive were relayed to the hospital before Williams’ arrival, Williams was able to quickly undergo a lifesaving procedure.
Williams shared his story May 19 during a ceremony in Augusta honoring the Orono Fire Department and seven other groups of Maine municipal and hospital emergency services with Maine HeartSafe designations.
The other groups honored last week included the Bangor Fire Department, Bucksport Fire and Ambulance, and fire and rescue departments in Kennebunk, Saco and South Portland.
Orono Fire Lt. Scott Luciano, who is a paramedic, said most emergency workers toil without recognition, which was one reason the department felt it was important to apply for the HeartSafe designation. Another reason, Luciano said, was so townspeople understand the resources available to them.
“It really tells our taxpayers what they’re getting,” said Luciano, who attended the Augusta ceremony with Orono Fire Chief Buddy Webb. “A lot of people don’t realize what an ambulance is anymore.”
An ambulance now, Luciano said, is much more high-tech than people might think. Orono’s ambulances and emergency workers can perform a 12-lead electrocardiogram — the same technology used on Daniel Williams — that looks at different parts of the heart and can tell medics a lot about what’s happening in a heart attack.
“It used to be found only in the emergency room, but it’s come out into the field, and paramedics are able to interpret [test results],” he said.
Orono has nine paramedics, two emergency medical technician intermediates and one EMT. Paramedics have more advanced training than EMTs.
The emergency-worker groups each had to apply for the HeartSafe designation.
The criteria include having at least one emergency response vehicle equipped with an automated external defibrillator, or AED; placement of at least one permanent AED with trained personnel in public or private areas where people are likely to congregate, such as shopping areas or large employers; dispatching Advanced Cardiac Life Support to all priority medical emergencies; offering CPR training and cardiovascular training to community members; and an evaluation process.
Luciano said there are AED machines in every Fire Department engine as well as in the town’s public works and Police Department vehicles. There are AED machines at some schools and in other places in town.
In addition, Luciano said, the Orono Fire Department educates people on the risk factors of cardiovascular disease and the signs and symptoms of heart attacks and strokes as well as blood pressure clinics at local senior centers.
The awards were hosted by Maine Emergency Medical Services and the Department of Health and Human Services Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Cardiovascular Health Program.
The eight new HeartSafe designees joined 29 services named in previous years.
Other award winners included Chief Les Brown of the East Millinocket Fire Rescue, who won a lifetime achievement award, and Gary Gardner of Eagle Lake, who won an EMS merit award.