Like so many things, it started with a girl.
Designs on the chief’s daughter led a young Fred Trasatti, Jr., to join his local rescue squad in 1965. The courtship didn’t end with a happily-ever-after, but the rescue work did:Today, 4½ decades later, Trasatti is chief of Pennsylvania’s well-regarded Second Alarmer’s Association and Rescue Squad (SARS), a position he’s held since the mid-1970s.
Anyone in the game that long has seen a lot change. It wasn’t called EMS then, and there were no EMTs and paramedics. The job took a first aid card. The responders were all volunteers. Even as the system matured over the next decade, its early EMTs and paramedics were kept on a tight leash.
“We couldn’t do much without calling the hospital,” Trasatti recalls. “It was very ‘Mother, may I?’ With the cardiac patients, we’d just hope to get an order to start an IV, so if something happened on the way, we’d have a drug route. We didn’t have some of the narcotics they use now. But for the time, we were really doing it!”
In subsequent years EMS continued to accelerate, locally and everywhere. Second Alarmer’s took over service for Abington Township and added paid crews. Tools and training and protocols advanced, letting providers do more. As chief, Trasatti helped speed progress, requiring CPR training and implementing overnight coverage.
Those cutting-edge efforts continue. More recently Second Alarmer’s partnered with Abington Memorial Hospital to improve care of time-sensitive conditions like STEMI and stroke. Its STEMI alerts have helped slice door-to-balloon times by a quarter to a third. Now the service is involved in a tablet-based telemedicine trial that will let docs see and communicate with patients prearrival. It’s also worked with the hospital to train field providers on LVADs and helped validate a new, faster stroke scale developed by late AMH neurologist B. Franklin Diamond.
That’s a staggering amount of change since Trasatti joined SARS in 1971, but it’s meant a lot of people helped.
“I don’t know about other chiefs, but I consider myself lucky,” Trasatti says. “As old as I am, I’m still chief of a very innovative department. My team works hard to make sure things go the right way, and they deserve the credit for the good things that happen. There have been a lot of calls I’m sure would have ended up tragically if not for our intervention. But that’s just what we were trained to do.”
If you have celebrated 40 years in EMS, or you know someone who has, e-mail email@example.com. We would love to share your stories.