By Dr. Sharon Schuetz
On Thursday, November 2, Middle School parents and grandparents gathered at the Trinity football field for the final games of the season when an accident brought the seventh-grade athletes to a grinding halt near the end of the fourth quarter. With 37-seconds left on the clock, seventh-grader, Brice Smith, collided with the team from Kirbyville suffering an injury that stopped the game for the next few minutes while he lay on the field waiting for an ambulance to arrive.
The hands on the clock appeared to freeze to the spectators in the stands. The longer it took for an ambulance to arrive the more questions arose, and people began to ask: “Why did the ambulance take so long?”, and “Why was there not an ambulance at the school?”
School Superintendent, Dr. John Kaufman, explained why an ambulance was not on the scene during the game. He said that the law requires an on-site ambulance for a varsity game, but junior varsity and below only require an ambulance to be on-call.
EMT Scott Womack said that, "the thinking is that varsity boys are bigger and hit harder than the JV teams, or middle school and more likely to get injured."
This still did not answer the question, “Why did the ambulance take so long?” To the families sitting in the stands, this question was paramount. "It seemed like an eternity," commented Jason Edwards, whose son, Jeremiah, was on the field with the other members of the eighth-grade team scheduled to start their game at 6 PM, when the seventh-grade game ended. After a Ventura supervisor and an ambulance arrived and carried Smith off the field, the seventh-grade teams finished the last 37 seconds of play. The eighth-grade kickoff finally took place at 6:55 PM.
Smith was taken to Huntsville Memorial Hospital where a CT Scan revealed a compressed vertebra. On Saturday, his mother Heather reported” Brice is very sore and hurting; however, the injury will need time to heal. We are thankful to hear the great report and look forward to Brice feeling like himself again.”
On Friday, EMT Scott Womack explained the confusion over the unusual length of time it took to get an ambulance on the scene from the moment of the injury to the moment they carried the boy off the field and left the school. He called it a “Perfect Storm.” When looking at the actual record of the time, it took from start to finish, and the steps involved in getting an ambulance on scene one can see how things could have evolved into a “Perfect Storm” on Thursday night.
At 4:45 PM a 911 call pulled the ambulance assigned to Trinity. While that ambulance was servicing that call, another 911 call pulled the first backup ambulance assigned to Trinity at 5:45 PM. Then a third 911 call at 5:47 PM pulling the second back up ambulance assigned to Trinity. And at 6:08 PM another 911 call put the third backup ambulance assigned to Trinity into service.
Womack explained, “Once an ambulance has been called into service it cannot divert to another call until the first call has been completed.”
Brice was injured moments after 6 PM. At 6:05 PM the Ventura Supervisor arrived in an emergency response vehicle that the ambulance service equips with everything except the ability to transport patients. A call was placed for an ambulance at 6:09 PM, one minute after Huntsville dispatched the fourth backup ambulance to Trinity. In what seemed like an eternity, the ambulance arrived at the school at 6:32 PM, even as Ventura was sending the fifth ambulance from the Woodlands to take care of Trinity’s staggering medical needs. All in all, Ventura had six vehicles with two supervisors called out to cover the overwhelming demand for emergency coverage on an unusually busy night in Trinity.