WATERLOO — Red and blue emergency lights illuminated the area around Grundy Hall at Hawkeye Community College on a gray Friday.
Two ambulances used by Hawkeye in its emergency medical service program stood at the ready, as did a Waterloo Fire Rescue fire truck. Waterloo Police and Hawkeye security vehicles blocked the road in front of the building.
At the center of the scene was a pickup truck, its door ajar, with the front bumper resting against a tree. A line of high school students, about 80 in all, walked past the mock crash and filed into the building. They came from Denver, Aplington-Parkersburg, North Butler and Sumner-Fredericksburg high schools.
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It was a dramatic, hands-on approach to introduce the students to health careers they can train for at the college. They followed the two victims of the crash, “Johnny” and “Chester,” during the morning-long event as they were helped by paramedics, respiratory therapists, nurses, medical lab technicians, occupational and physical therapists, and dental professionals.
Inside Grundy Hall, the two victims laid on the floor in neck braces, surrounded by Hawkeye students training to be paramedics.
“The injured students are teenagers,” said Elizabeth Cummings, coordinator of the nursing program. “They’re actually my boys.
“It’s the first day of school,” she said, explaining the scenario, and the two were distracted from driving as they looked for music on their phones. “It was raining and they lost control and they hit the tree.”
Marla Williams, EMS program director, narrated the scene as her students made preparations for starting intravenous fluids, put the boys on backboards, gave them oxygen and suctioned out their mouths. “At this point, once they’re on the backboard, they’re going to be moved over to the ambulances,” she said.
“With these patients, who are in a life-threatening situation, you want to assess them every five minutes,” said Tyler Beam, one of the EMS students.
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That includes “testing red blood cells to see how much oxygen is in their blood,” noted Williams. Calls are usually made “at this point, as they’re heading to the hospital. So when they get to the trauma center they’re usually standing at the door.”
Mannequins stood in for the patients as students moved to the respiratory therapy demonstration. Based on their injuries, Johnny is given a breathing tube and a ventilator. Chester is in a different situation.
“He’s breathing but he’s unconscious and unresponsive,” said Alison White, director of clinical education for respiratory therapy. “We’ll probably start him on a breathing treatment.”
Because the unconscious patient is immobile, it is possible pneumonia could develop in his lungs. So he is outfitted in a vest connected to a small machine with tubes. It inflates and vibrates the patient’s chest to “break up secretions in his lungs,” said White.
“Usually a patient will start coughing when they wear this,” said Megan Leahy, a respiratory therapy student who was helping White.
“Chester would have to wear this anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes and be vibrating the whole time,” White noted.
A group of girls, juniors from a Denver High School biology class, tested out the inflatable vest.
“I think it’s a good experience,” said Jaci Carter, of the presentations on the various health careers.
Classmate Gabby Corday said the visit is helpful “if you think you want to go into a career” in one of the health care fields but haven’t been able to narrow it down.
“I like the hands-on activities,” said Megan Lown, noting the vital role that the respiratory therapists played in helping the patients. “I didn’t know respiratory therapist was a thing.”