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GOING THE DISTANCE - Our Paramedics & the Island of St. Lucia  

Published: Synapse 2014, Vol 1

A life-threatening medical emergency can happen without warning... to anyone, at any time, in any location. It might be a fall or car accident that causes serious injuries. It might be choking on something during a meal and not being able to catch your breath. Or it could be the sudden onset of heart attack symptoms.

St. Lucia
In the pursuit of advanced EMT education for his country, Craig Herman has traveled great distances to improve the standard of care.

Whatever the emergency may be, the experience is frightening. Receiving the level of medical care you need as quickly as possible is paramount... and, in some cases, may be key to your survival. Fortunately in Chester County, we live in a community where high-tech, life-saving medical care can be brought directly and quickly to the scene of an emergency. Many places in the world, however, are not so privileged.

For more than 30 years, the paramedics of Chester County Hospital's Medic 91 Advanced Life Support Unit have been responding to life-threatening medical emergencies across our region. When these specially trained professionals arrive on the scene, they bring a level of knowledge and experience that is unsurpassed. Incredibly, the scope of their expertise now reaches thousands of miles beyond the boundaries of Chester County.

A few years ago, a single email looking for information about the standards for paramedic training in the United States spawned collaboration between Jerry Peters, BS, Paramedic at Chester County Hospital and Program Director at Good Fellowship Ambulance & EMS Training Institute, and Craig Herman, founder of an emergency medical service training program on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia. The collaboration would allow Chester County's paramedic community to play a meaningful role in the safety, care and survival of people more than 2,000 miles away.

St. Lucia
Jerry Peters (center) and his paramedic educators have hosted and trained numerous EMT students from St. Lucia. Here, he is pictured with Elsa Auguste, Johnson Philip, Ingrid Mitchell, Elvina Smith, Nesa Hippolyte and Malachi O'Brian.

Craig says, "To get our personnel the training they needed, I began searching for an accredited institution which could assist in the evaluation, monitoring and certification of our students, in keeping with the established standards existing in the US. This search eventually lead me to Good Fellowship and the hospital's paramedics."

"Craig's initial email really intrigued me. I could tell his interests were sincere so I picked up the phone and called him," explains Jerry. "I came to find out Craig has made it his personal mission to improve the poor state of the emergency services available in St. Lucia when his own father's life had depended on them. I was impressed to hear that Craig had come to the United States himself for training and has since dedicated himself to making training possible for others on the island."

Until recently, pre-hospital emergency medical expertise was almost non-existent in St. Lucia and first responders had little, if any, training beyond basic life support. Thanks to the connection made between Jerry and Craig, Chester County Hospital paramedics and EMTs (emergency medical technicians) from the Good Fellowship Ambulance & EMS Training Institute are now helping to elevate the standard of emergency care on the island.

St. Lucia
Prior to training in West Chester, St. Lucia EMT students did not have access to training beyond Basic Life Support.

Subsequent talks between the two men led to training sessions held in West Chester and in St. Lucia, with Good Fellowship instructors and Chester County Hospital paramedics providing guidance, education and hands-on clinical scenarios. According to Jerry, one group from St. Lucia spent 21 days in West Chester. "They took classes, did clinical time in ambulances and on Chester County's medic unit," says Jerry. "They spent time in our radio communications 9-1-1 center, and were even able to ride along with our West Chester police department."

In addition to mentoring St. Lucians who come to West Chester for training, Jerry has traveled to the island to teach and share his expertise. Jerry's colleague paramedic Bob Guiney has also helped in conducting training sessions.

Jerry and Bob's visit allowed for the successful completion of a memorandum of understanding between the institutions and opened the doors for St. Lucia students to visit Good Fellowship and to attain clinical and field externship experience with an organized, regulated and well-established EMS System.

St. Lucia
St. Lucia EMT students and Adrianne Pohar, Paramedic Supervisor for Medic 91.

"Our board, faculty, students and the people of St. Lucia will forever be grateful to Mr. Peters, the family of EMS professionals and the various institutions and organizations who open heartedly welcomed us into the fold and network of professionals," adds Craig, "With tremendous thanks I look forward to a continued and harmonious working relationship to further develop the Emergency Medical Services system in St. Lucia through the delivery of EMS education and improved standards."

Jerry reflects, "St. Lucia is beautiful, and the people are great. They simply haven't had access to the equipment or the knowledge to provide the level of emergency response and advanced life support we take for granted here... the kind that might have saved Craig's father's life. Thankfully, that's now changing. I'm proud we are part of it. I'm glad Craig decided to reach out for our help. Here in Chester County, we are all about community... now our community has grown to include the people of St. Lucia."

By Beth Eburn
Photos courtesy of Craig Herman

Last Updated: 7/3/2014