Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The First Paramedics

While I was researching for my article for Directions in Nursing Magazine about the history of Military Para-medicine, I came across this article. Since, my husband is an ex-NYC Paramedic I thought it would be appropriate to post it here. We may also read it on the radio show. Again, another part of history that we never were taught. We were so robbed by the progs. 


In the mid-1960s, Pittsburgh's United Negro Protest Committee created Freedom House Enterprises Inc. to serve the Hill area of the city. One of their missions was to help build job opportunities for the so-called "unemployable" locals in a time of unrest. The Vietnam War was raging, and there was angst in the streets over the war, civil rights, and more.

Meanwhile at the time, ambulances in the city, like in many cities, were operated by the police department: a "scoop and scoot" service that used essentially untrained officers to give the sick and injured a ride to the hospital.

The vision to change things wasn't the effort of a single person. Freedom House would be the focal point, and would recruit the staff. The money came from Phillip Hallen, president of the now-defunct Maurice Falk Medical Foundation, and a former ambulance driver. The medicine came from Dr. Peter Safar, the Director of Anesthesiology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, who was considered the "Father of CPR". (Safar, by the way, had also invented another level of care: the Intensive Care Unit.) And the glue to put the two together was Morton Coleman, of Pitt’s Graduate School of Social Work, who suggested combining an ambulance service with a program to train men (and, during the life of the service, at least two women) not just as ambulance drivers, but as professional emergency medical care providers.

In 1967, the Freedom House Ambulance Service was formed; about 44 men were recruited for training, organized by Dr. Safar. The men were paid a small wage, and in return were expected to attend classes eight hours per day, five days per week, for nine months to learn not just the basics of emergency medical care, but get in depth. After class, they observed in the emergency room, or did rotations in various hospital departments. And, of course, they learned the latest in CPR as Dr. Safar did his research at the hospital, and later at the institute he founded, the International Resuscitation Research Center (now the University of Pittsburgh Safar Center for Resuscitation Research). For Dr. Safar, it was personal: the year before, in 1966, his own 12-year-old daughter had died from an asthma attack. Read More