Paramedic Training Back on Track
Posted on Wednesday, February 24th, 2010
Back on Task: Training captain John Gilliam holds a 2009 award for dedicated service and teaching from Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, Clinic and EMS. Following back surgery, he has resumed training paramedics.
Paramedic training at Mercy Health/Love County Hospital, Clinic and EMS is back on track . . . because the trainer has his back on track.
Instead of starting the institution’s second paramedic class as planned last September, EMS training captain John Gilliam found himself entering Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City for a major procedure.
Two years of increasingly intolerable back pain had led to a radical lumbar fusion with instrumentation (a spinal fusion).
“The bottom disk in my back was removed and fused. I have metal and a cadaver bone in me. They had to break my hip – the iliac crest in my pelvis. They got soft new bone from inside and used it as mortar for placing the cadaver bone that had been donated to me. Screws and brackets hold that in place,” Gilliam explained.
The five-hour procedure was followed by six days in the hospital, then four months of healing at home. Ambulatory for the first month with a walker, then with a cane, and, at last, unaided, Gilliam was finally released to return to work in mid-January.
The postponed paramedic class launched February 1. Seven students – four at the EMS/hospital training center in Marietta and three at the EMS/fire brigade station at WinStar Casino – started 18 months of textbook and clinical education on their way to testing for paramedic licensure.
A basic EMT class, extending 13 weeks, will get underway in July.
Meantime, American Heart Association classes went on without interruption, thanks to paramedic Natasha West. She joined EMS last summer with experience as an EMT instructor and has been named training center coordinator.
AHA courses include Heartsaver CPR; Heartsaver AED – automated external defibrillator; Heartsaver First Aid; and Heartsaver Pediatric First Aid. Scholarships and discounts are available to Love County residents.
The complete training schedule for the spring and summer will be posted on the EMS web site, www.lovecountyems.com.
Mercy Health/Love County is the only EMS in Oklahoma to offer paramedic and basic EMT education to the public.
EMTs provide basic life support. They assess the patient, perform CPR, bandage, splint broken bones, and administer oxygen and automated defibrillation.
Paramedics provide the most extensive pre-hospital care. They may administer intravenous drugs, interpret electrocardiograms (EKGs), place advanced airways (endotracheal tubes), and use monitors, defibrillators, and other complex equipment.
As a full life support service, EMS has at least one paramedic aboard each ambulance run.
A total of 28 Paramedics and EMTs drive and work out of ambulances in Love County, a robust resource unexceeded by any small county in Oklahoma.
Gilliam, 39, got in on the ground floor in 1993, when the hospital was asked to take over EMS management. “I couldn’t have predicted this future,” he said of the department’s steady growth and stature, “but the leadership is progressive and trying to set the bar high.”
His prior experience included two years as a combat medic in the U.S. Army and one year of civilian experience as an EMT in Madill. He earned paramedic licensure in 1997 and was named training captain in 2006.
Married for 18 years, Gilliam lives in Madill with his wife, Kimberley, a registered nurse, sons John, 15, and Dalton, 11, and daughter Sarah, 9.
Being away for four months brought renewed identification with patients. While using a walker and cane, “I got a taste of what debilitating old age may be. You have to think and plan everything you’re going to do.”
Also, he struggled with doubts. Experiencing intense pain in the first month after surgery, “I doubted my decision, my surgeon’s ability, I doubted everything. But once I had time to heal and recover, I realized I had gone through a serious procedure.”
Sciatic nerve pain stayed with him until the week before his return to work. Nevertheless, Gilliam credits “following the doctor’s instructions” and “being patient” for his present health.
“I feel better now than I have in years. But I didn’t overcome anything anybody else didn’t. Everybody has to deal with pain and ordeals. This time it just happened to me.”