A View from the Hill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 12, 2000
CONTACT: Tommy Voltero (617) 722-2240
LET'S MAKE SURE OUR EMTS ARE FULLY EQUIPPED
As we coast through the spring, we are constantly being given signs that summer is rapidly approaching. Schoolchildren (as well as their teachers!) grow more and more restless. The weather gets increasingly warmer. Finally, we are visited by more and more stinging insects.
To most, bees, hornets and wasps are simply occasional pests, invading our summer picnics, setting up residence in our stone walls and porches, and buzz around us seemingly inviting a confrontation. To others, however, even the presence of the relatively benign bumblebee inspires fear, for if stung those individuals may suffer a life-threatening allergic reaction.
In medical terminology this reaction is called anaphylaxis. The victim of such a reaction may experience such symptoms as a drop in blood pressure and breathing distress (which comes from either a bronchial spasm, a swelling of the larynx, or both). Anaphylaxis is a terribly frightening ordeal for anyone suffering from it, child or adult. Such a reaction requires immediate medical attention.
Fortunately for the residents of Winchester, Stoneham and Reading, we have a terrific emergency medical system, the front line of which consists of Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). On the scene within minutes, if not sooner, EMTs use their mobile resources to halt the effects of such a severe allergic reaction, stabilizing the victim before transporting him or her to the nearest hospital for further treatment, if necessary.
We can all be proud of our EMTs for their professionalism and skill in a difficult work environment. It was with this pride in mind that the Legislature worked diligently this year to pass legislation that improves the resources and facilities available to our first line of medical defense. House bill 1946, known as the "EMS 2000" legislation, will help upgrade Massachusetts to a more integrated, coordinated and sophisticated EMS system. We passed this bill to help EMTs do their jobs in the most effective manner possible and assure them that the communities they serve are behind them 100 percent.
As we continue to develop medical techniques, equipment and medication, there are situations in which some may have access to these improvements and others do not. For example, certain emergency personnel possess, train and develop expertise in the use of drugs that are used to offset anaphylaxis. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, however, that is not a uniform policy.
In a situation where time is critical, having vital medications on hand may mean the difference between life and death. That is why your elected representatives in government must continue to keep our fingers on the pulse of medical developments and enable all of our emergency personnel to carry and administer those medications when the need for them arises.
If a bee stings a person who is allergic, for example, I believe that is our duty to equip an EMT with the medications necessary to offset the allergic reaction. In the House of Representatives, for example, I co-sponsored legislation that ensures that our emergency technicians receive training on the administration of the drug epinephrine, which medical studies have shown is extremely effective in countering anaphylaxis. Additionally, I co-sponsored legislation that supplies such important medications to EMTs. It is our hope that passage of these bills will enable EMTs to administer the necessary treatments on the spot, and thus save valuable time.
Epinephrine can be administered in a variety of ways. Most often it is administered with an injection, either through a shot or intravenously. Those who are prone to severe allergic reactions sometimes carry kits containing a dose of epinephrine and an injection device. Another vehicle for epinephrine delivery is an inhaler, quite similar to the inhaler used by those who suffer from asthma. The debate continues within the medical community as to which method for deliver is most effective. This debate draws from the input of doctors as well as EMTs.
In a world in which medical techniques are constantly being reviewed and updated, it is difficult to predict which avenue for delivery is most effective. Nonetheless, it is important that EMTs are kept abreast of developments concerning the administration of anti-anaphylaxis medication. It is in this spirit that my colleagues and I introduced these two bills. We hope that, as a result, EMTs will be equipped to administer the most effective treatments to victims of anaphylaxis and related symptoms as soon as an emergency arises.
In the advent of tee-shirts, shorts, outdoor barbeques and seasonal warmth, we are reminded that we must all share our outdoor activities with other creatures, whether they are bees, birds and butterflies. Any complications resulting from a turf battle with these any of these creatures will need a medical response team that is equipped with the medications and skills to handle that situation. Every second is vital to a victim. In the event of a severe allergic reaction, efficacy of treatment will be dependent on how up to speed an EMT is trained in the delivery of epinephrine and similar compounds. By giving EMTs the proper tools to handle a crisis, the only problems people will have to worry about in the summer are our infamous New England Nor'easters!