McGregor Memorial EMS in the News
Inside the life of a UNH EMT
In The New Hampshire
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
A male student at the University of New Hampshire approached the service counter to order a sandwich at Wildcatessan when he began to slur his words. In moments his face turned ashen gray.
Less than a mile away, the McGregor Memorial EMS ambulance crew was lounging around eating homemade chili and passing chips and watching re-runs of Family Guy when the call came in. Each one clutched their radio and waited for further instructions. In mere seconds the crew was dressed and ready, leaving a dinner that was hardly touched, to cool.
This is what 25-year-old Travis Fleury encounters daily as an emergency medical technician. Chances are that if anyone in the Durham or Madbury area dials 911 on a Tuesday evening, Fleury and his compatriots will be at the scene.
Fleury's favorite part of the job, although he said it sounds cliché, involves helping people.
"And there are unique situations and random stuff," he said. "You always hope for a quiet night though because that means people are doing well."
He said the worst situations involved children, such as assisting infants that have stopped breathing. Fleury has also been at suicide scenes and dealt with severe trauma victims.
As a crew chief, Fleury is responsible for anything that happens on a call. Each bus is equipped with two certified EMTs and two attendants who are either probationary officers or observers.
"Some nights we're out non-stop most of the night and other times we're there until the next day without any calls at all," he said.
Tuesday nights hold a tradition at the station.
"We make a big dinner for the entire crew, as opposed to eating junk food," said Fleury, who usually cooks. "It's a pretty cool tradition."
Yet, the tradition can quickly be interrupted.
"It's like Murphy's Law," said Fleury. "Whenever the food you're cooking is done, or the food you ordered is ready to be picked up is when we get calls."
Fleury recalled a time about a year ago that he went to an area food establishment to pick up food when the owner came out from the back and requested that he check a patron who was stumbling around.
"Much ice cream has melted and food gotten cold as we tend to the needs of the towns we serve," he said.
When the bell does ring, Fleury's least favorite part is waking up.
"I would rather stay up forever than have to wake up," he said.
Each run usually lasts one to two hours if it is a transport. It takes McGregor crews an average of 6 1/2 minutes to get to the scene after the initial call-in.
Despite this, Fleury said he and his 60 staff members and volunteers have been fighting a public perception there isn't enough experience on the buses.
"Everyone thinks we're mostly students, but most… are alumni and local residents," he said. "We're one of the largest volunteer EMS organizations on the Seacoast."
McGregor serves four community areas including Durham, Madbury, Lee and the UNH campus. Although at one point half of the team members were students, McGregor isn't a college ambulance service.
"The notion that our members who are students are less qualified is simply outrageous," Fleury said.
Fleury said McGregor prides itself on being a training service, meaning they spend a significant amount of time training new members.
"We pride ourselves on being one of the most compassionate, competent and professional EMS organizations in the state," Fleury said.
Fleury started working with McGregor Memorial EMS, formerly known as Durham Ambulance Corps, when he was a freshman at the University of New Hampshire.
At one point during his membership, he was logging 90 hours of service a month on top of a rigorous class schedule at the Whittemore School of Business and Economics and while working as a server at Applebee's in Dover.
Fluery graduated in 2005 with a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a focus on marketing and management. He's now a senior mortgage consultant at Newmarket Lending, LLC, but still works for McGregor in what he calls his "free time."
Fleury has been a member since 2001 and has assisted on 677 McGregor calls.
His interest began as a 17-year-old senior in high school when he took a night class offered by the state. He completed the 110 hours of training required for a basic provider level.
Since the state requires that all EMTs be at least 18, Fleury waited four to six months before taking the state tests, which involve a variety of exams including a written exam and a practical exam.
Upon entering his freshman year of college, he immediately joined McGregor Memorial and qualified. Chris Lemelin, the membership coordinator at McGregor, said McGregor only hires those who have completed the basic training level, as opposed to some other emergency services.
The summer between his sophomore and junior year Fleury enrolled in another class, which consisted of 220 hours, propelling him into intermediate status.
"Each level is based on the level of care you can give," Lemelin said.
The basic level allows members to assess the victim, provide oxygen and take vitals.
The intermediate level allows the EMT to provide certain medications, intravenous fluids and use a $30,000 heart defibrillator.
An EMT-Paramedic is equipped to perform nearly all the procedures as a doctor, including providing medication, but obviously excludes surgery.
During his college career, Fleury would log in about 90 hours per month on the job, and now dedicates approximately 100 hours a month since graduating in 2005.
As for what's next, Fleury said he likes to play it by ear. Although his role at McGregor has been a hobby for him, he has every intention of continuing at the facility. Despite the fact he has been working there for nearly eight years, he said there are always new aspects of the job.
"There's so much to learn about how to integrate yourself into the system," Fleury said. "There's a lot to know. It's a lot of things to wrap their heads around. Even after riding around for a while.
"You never stop learning."