Columbus firefighters are called out on more than 100,000 emergency runs annually all across central Ohio for a variety of responses. In a busy EMS system like ours, one of the most impactful interventions that occur is when a person who is clinically dead is revived from a cardiac arrest by EMS providers and walks out of the hospital having been given a second chance at life. On average, once or twice each day, crews find a patient in cardiac arrest and resuscitative efforts are initiated. The Division decided that when those efforts resulted in the individual returning to their lives and loved ones it was an exceptional occasion with an exceptional outcome that needed to be recognized.
In order to highlight these remarkable occurrences and visually demonstrate the impact of this small subset of EMS care, we decided to develop the Columbus Division of Fire Cardiac Arrest Survivor Wall of Fame.
This wall is located in a main hallway of our training building where firefighters and public alike are likely to encounter it. As such, the wall stands as a reminder of the importance of EMS within our fire service and how the dedication and actions of our EMS personnel can have a profound effect on a community and the citizens living in it.
The Wall of Fame was set up in spring 2008 in an area that had previously displayed the names of former chiefs of the division. Our Division of Fire photographer, Nick Calderone, takes photographs of our cardiac arrest survivors with their EMS rescuers each year during the Cardiac Arrest Survivor Celebration, an event celebrating the lives of the cardiac arrest survivors. We write up a brief synopsis of the events that occurred during the arrest to go with the photo. The package is then mounted on foam board and placed on the wall. We have the survivors sign permission forms to allow us to display their medical information, as well as their pictures, in public. We have not had anyone decline to have their pictures along with their scenarios posted on our wall. Some of the pictures include entire families of the survivors or bystanders who intervened on the survivor's behalf. We had the privilege of featuring one of our own fire lieutenants on the wall who suffered a cardiac arrest while fighting a fire and was successfully resuscitated by his colleagues.
The diversity of survivors in terms of gender, race and socioeconomic status is testimony to the wide swath that EMS cuts across the fabric of our culture. Cardiac arrest is no respecter of any of these parameters and yet the impact of EMS in saving these lives is unmistakable. The wall serves to act as a visual reminder of the extreme importance of what our EMS providers give to our communities. To see these smiling faces as they stand sometimes with their arms around their new EMS family personalizes the sometimes anonymous nature of the care and treatment that EMS provides.
Some may object to our wall and say that these individuals were just doing their job and should receive no special recognition for their actions. Some may be offended and claim that this amounts to nothing more than a "trophy case" of "saves" and sensationalizes the work and impact of EMS. Our response to those objections would be that we feel that the successes and triumphs of our EMS systems are not trumpeted enough and that only by celebrating the human element of the good that EMS does can we continue to recognize and give proper deference to its necessity and advancement.
We feel that every EMS system should have such a wall or space that is devoted to the impact that EMS has in this very small, but extremely impactful, area of intervention. The people who are on our wall feel very fortunate and honored to be there. And our EMS personnel are continually reminded as they pass by that wall that any day they may be asked to intervene and bring someone back from the dead to have a second chance at life. And maybe they will someday be seen staring back from that wall as a tangible reminder of why they became an EMS provider in the first place.