Paramedics on the front line, first to treat COVID-19 patients

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Posted at 9:09 PM, Apr 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-09 21:09:56-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Every day first responders are answering 911 calls for potential COVID-19 patients.

In the city of Indianapolis, 20 police officers, 21 firefighters, and seven emergency medical services providers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Some have since recovered.

These people are the first to come in contact with patients who have the virus and RTV6 is talking to some of the heroes on the front lines of the pandemic as it plays out right here in Indianapolis.

"We are considering basically any medical case at this point to be potentially COVID-19 positive," Dr. Mark Laio, Indianapolis EMS medical director, said.

This is their new normal.

Paramedics begin their day by sanitizing and wiping down everything in their ambulance. Then, they make sure they have plenty of personal protective equipment stocked — surgical masks, gowns, gloves, googles, face shields — anything that creates a barrier between them and the patient.

Then, they wait for the call.

First on is the respirator. Then comes eye protection before stepping out, putting their gowns on to pull out the gurney and head to the patient.

"We will ask the patients to one, meet our folks at the door just so that we can do an assessment outside where it is potentially safer," Laio said.

"I think there's a little bit of worry in everybody," Kourtney Crites, of Indianapolis EMS, said. "Everyone's worried about it.

Crites and co-worker Andrew Boylan said the biggest toll this is taking is on their families.

"It's definitely been stressful both on our extended families and our immediate families," Boylan said. "My wife is having a baby."

"It's scary but it's our job so we are here to take care of people no matter what is going on," Crites said. "This is the job that we signed up for."

To avoid taking people to the ER and potentially getting sick there, EMS crews are tasked with treating as many patients at home as possible or deciding which need to be hospitalized.

At the end of a very long day, they remove all of their clothes and equipment at the station.

"When I get home I'm going to the garage and throw everything right into the washing machine, go take a shower and then I say hi," Boylan said.

The crews have a stark reminder for the public.

"We anticipate the next two weeks to be difficult for Indianapolis and Indiana and we just ask that people keep up their support and maintain their social distancing to help everyone out," Laio said.

First responders are also required to self-monitor at home for symptoms, check their temperature and report any symptoms to their chain of command.