Every morning when I report to work, I check my gear, my heart monitor, my medic bag, and the blood cooler. Our service has been carrying whole blood stored in a paramedic response vehicle for a couple months now, and none too soon.
In the midst of two serious epidemics — COVID-19 and the opioid crisis, a third forgotten epidemic has risen up again amidst the chaos. Gun violence is racking Hartford as it is in many cities in the United States. In Hartford shootings are up 60% in 2020 and are already at a six year high with many days left in the years.
Brazen shootings frustrate Hartford police as surge in gun violence continues despite crackdown
No one knows why the violence is up. An article in the Hartford Courant offers two theories. Decreased probation and violence prevention services during the pandemic and the effects of new police accountability rules that may encourage criminals to be bolder. From a paramedic’s perspective all I know is the bullets are flying again just like in the days when the Latin Kings and Los Solidos battled over the drug trade back in the mid 1990’s when I first started as a paramedic in the city.
I haven’t used the blood yet, but it has already been credited with saving at least one life. The medics were able to start infusing blood on the scene and doctors later told them the infusion likely prevented the patient from arresting and provided valuable time to get him to the OR. Credit to Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center in partnership with American Medical Response for instituting the program.
I thought I was going to use the blood recently when I responded to a shooting in the north end, with the police urgently hailing me as I arrived on scene. The patient, who was ambushed in his backyard, was still alert, and his vitals weren’t within the parameters to start blood (BP less than 90 or pulse above 120). The man was surprisingly calm for being shot, and being in considerable pain despite my giving him 100 mcgs of fentanyl. As many shooting victims seem to do, he chatted on his cell phone on the way to the hospital, telling a friend that he had been shot, and in phrases no doubt understandable to the person on the other end, conveyed who he felt was behind it. After he hung up, he looked me in the eyes and said, “My days of preaching nonviolence have come to an end.”
There were five more shootings in the city in the next three days. The paper said it wasn’t clear if any of them were related.