By JIMMY ESPY
Forty years ago, a group of men and women worked to create an emergency medical system that has since saved thousands of lives.
Two of those emergency medical care pioneers from Chattooga County will be honored posthumously this month. Dr. Herman E. Spivey and Mike Carmon were original members of the 16-county Northwest Georgia Region 1 Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Council, which was founded in 1978.
All 32 of those original council members will be remembered at the annual EMS Awards banquet to be held on March 14 at West Central Technical College in Waco.
David Loftin, who worked with Spivey and Carmon in 1978, said the regional EMS service was an outgrowth of lessons learned about trauma care during the Korean and Vietnam wars.
“Congress wanted to apply the military model to the U.S.,” Loftin said.
The military way for dealing quickly with badly injured personnel provided a proven method for improving the care of traumatic injury victims in a peacetime environment.
Military medics were like paramedics. Rapid transportation of the injured in war – often by helicopter — became the standard for peacetime emergency care. Rapid access to trained surgeons as exemplified by MASH units in combat zones was replicated at home by the creation of regional trauma units.
This revolutionary reshaping of trauma care was a nationwide movement, pushed by Congress which made available grants to launch the system nationwide.
Loftin remembers Spivey being keenly interested in improving communications capabilities. At that time, emergency responders often required direct instruction from doctors before providing crucial care. Communication was vital, but also very tricky due to the hilly terrain common to Northwest Georgia.
“Dr. Spivey was particularly interested in communications,” Loftin said.
Loftin added that the EMS pioneered the early use of cell phones to provide a direct line of communication between emergency personnel and doctors.
Loftin said the EMS system has continued to evolve and improve, bolstered by new technologies and new training methods.
“The death rate from trauma in this region is extremely low because of that,” he said.