Imagine you are in a car wreck. You are trapped and injured. In the distance, you hear sirens coming. Who do you hope is in that ambulance? If you are lucky, it is one of the men and women of the Cumberland County EMS of Cape Fear Valley. The paramedics who man the rescue vehicles that respond to homes and accidents all across Cumberland County are among the best of the best in the nation, as recently demonstrated when a team from Cumberland County took ﬁ rst place in the 9th Annual Journal of Emergency Medicine Games in Baltimore, Md.
The annual competition draws teams from all over the United States and from around the world. This year 14 teams competed, including a team from the world-class New York City Fire Department.
“These are really the best of the best, and we won the competition,” said Brian Pearce, a member of the team and the director of Emergency Medical Services/Lifeline.
The team, comprised of Pearce, Lee Westbrook, Larry Smith and Joe Crowder, had to complete two separate timed events involving care of patients. The team was graded not only on their time, but on how well they treated their patients.
The ﬁrst test was an obstacle course. The team was required to complete six stations, all while moving and treating a “patient.” The obstacle course started at the ambulance. The team then had to climb through a window with their gear to reach the patient, stabilize the patient who had a compromised airway, and then move the patient to safety. This required the team to carry the patient and all of their equipment up a set of stairs, across a small platform and then back down the stairs. During the transport, the patient gets sicker, and the team has to treat them again and again, until they make it back to the ambulance.
At each juncture, the professionals of the Cumberland County EMS were called on to treat the patient to a certain set of medical standards. The patient, a mannequin that is designed for training, tracks the level of care that the paramedics are providing and reacts to that care, either getting better or getting sicker.
In the second round, the team is randomly assigned a scenario and then asked to react to it. This year, the scenario was familiar to the paramedics. A tornado had just hit a town, and they had to set up and man a shelter to treat the wounded and the displaced. Westbrook, was among one of the ﬁrst paramedics to respond to the Yadkin/Reilly Road area last spring when a tornado devastated parts of Fayetteville.
“We had seen this before,” said Westbrook. “We knew what to do.”
During the competition, the team had 20 minutes to treat as many people as possible. People entering the shelter had a wide range of injuries from shrapnel, electrical injuries and injuries sustained during building collapses — not to mention people who were simply in shock.
The team was graded on how appropriate their treatment was. In one scenario, a total of 62 points was available, with the Cumberland County EMS team earning 61. Pearce explained that the patient would have lived if you had treated 30 points, but that the level of care of the Cumberland County team was exceptional. Overall, the Cumberland County team garnered 349 points, with the second place team receiving only 209 points and the third place team earning only 190 points.
“The ﬁrst year we competed, we were a little intimidated going up against guys from places like the NYFD,” said Pearce. “But now, we go in expecting to win. We know that the care we give the people in Cumberland County is as good as, if not better than the care given anywhere else. All of our paramedics pride themselves on that.”
Smith added that while there are only four people on the team, every paramedic on the Cumberland County Service has the same level of education and skill.
Pearce noted that winning this prestigious competition goes a long way toward validating the high-level of skill and dedication of the men and women of the Cumberland County EMS. The competition also allows the paramedics to attend world-class medical lectures where they learn the latest and greatest in progressive treatments. This year, the team brought home $20,000 in prizes that will be used in training and on the street.
Photo: The team from Cumberland County EMS of Cape Fear Valley, comprised of Larry Smith, Brian Pearce, Lee Westbrook and Joe Crowder earned top honors during the 9th Annual JEMS Games in Baltimore, Md.