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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Countdown Over: Happy Thanksgiving!

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Thursday, November 23, 2006

North Adams Anbulance Service EMT Robert Dobbert is on duty for the holiday.
On this Thanksgiving morning, as turkeys are being placed into warmed ovens and the aroma of freshly-baked pies wafts throughout many homes, emergency services personnel and some medical and municipal staff are reporting for work at local hospitals, ambulance services, fire and police departments.

For area on-duty ambulance service emergency medical technicians, it's not a matter of having holiday dinner fixins', it's a matter of actually eating the meals, said North Adams Ambulance Service EMT-Intermediate Robert Dobbert. Dobbert is the supervisor of today's three-person crew.

The EMTs will receive a dinner courtesy of the Frank R. Stiles American Legion Post 125, Dobbert said.

"On the holidays, we drop down to a single crew, which will be two EMTs and myself," he said. "It means that the one ambulance is running a lot and we'll probably nuke our plates three times before we finish the meal."

At the Village Ambulance Service in Williamstown, on-duty EMTs plan to bring a dish to the Water Street headquarters and share, said Shawn Godfrey, operations manager for the service.

During previous years, service General Manager Bert Miller and his wife Cara, who is the service office manager, have provided holiday meals to on-duty staff, Godfrey said.

"Last year, Cara cooked the whole meal herself," Godfrey said.

At The Ready

Dobbert and Godfrey are scheduled to work a bit longer than an eight-hour shift; Godfrey is slated to be on duty beginning at 8 a.m. today until 4 p.m. tomorrow. Dobbert began his shift as Thanksgiving Day rolled in at midnight and is scheduled to work until 4 p.m. tomorrow.

While any shift can bring unexpected emergency calls, the holidays often produce some predictable calls, Godfrey and Dobbert said.

"On a day like Thanksgiving, people tend to go off their low-sodium diets," Godfrey said. "And when they eat the high-salt foods, they can end up with respiratory problems.

Chest pains and people losing consciousness are often among the holiday call roster, Dobbert said.

"You'll have elderly people who are seated for a longer time than usual, and they may be eating more than usual," he said. "When they stand up too quickly, they can feel dizzy and faint, and sometimes experience some trauma if they hit their head. And chest pains could be due to indigestion but people should not take chances, if they are having chest pains they should call for help."

Reaching Out

Holiday weather plays a role in the call volume and the type of call ambulance services may receive, Dobbert noted. Snowy holidays can generate an increased chance of motor vehicle accidents, and may also lead to an increase in chest pain or heart attack calls.

"People want to hurry and get the driveway shoveled before company comes," he said. "That can lead to problems."

And while the holidays generate family gatherings and renewed relationships for many, the season can be a source of sadness for others, said Godfrey. Those people who live isolated lives often reach out to EMTs during holidays, he said.

"We do get calls from people who are feeling lonely, who may feel things more intensely on a holiday," he said. "These calls sometimes come as a person who says that they have fallen and feel they need to be looked at. We will go and sit with that person for a while."

On Nov. 24, the Village Ambulance Service will kick off a food drive to benefit the Williamstown Food Pantry. The drive concludes on Dec. 2. Non-perishable food items may be dropped off at the ambulance service headquarters [behind the Water Street book store and the town firehouse], Godfrey said. If transportation is a problem, food donors may contact Godfrey at 1-413-458-4889.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.
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