Family wants change to rural ambulance services - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Family wants change to rural ambulance services

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A grieving eastern Iowa family wants changes made to how rural EMS volunteer departments communicate after losing a loved one. The Hansen family believes there's room for improvement on how volunteer EMS agencies respond in critical moments. 

Tim Hansen, of Hudson, died from a heart attack July 30, 2016 at the age of 57.

As the somber anniversary of his death approaches, the Hansen family struggles to grasp what exactly happened that day. 

"We think about it everyday, every single day," said Tim's wife, Donna Hansen.  

Hansen says she left the house like any other Saturday. While she stepped out, their daughter Kim brought over the kids to visit grandpa. When she arrived, Tim began complaining of chest pains. 

 "He said they were some pains like he's never had before, so the decision was made that she was going to take him to the ER," said Hansen. 

During the drive, things started to get worse. Kim, knowing it was a fight against time called 911 and asked to meet them at the fire station.

"When she arrived there was one EMS worker that was available-that showed up and one officer," said Hansen. "And with only one person they could not transport."

With time ticking, Kim was left with no choice but to rush her father to the hospital. On the way there, the volunteer EMS personnel had called Covenant Medical Center, asking them to send an ambulance. Covenant met Kim en route, and that's when Tim became unresponsive. 

Unfortunately, it was too late for Tim Hansen, and he later died from his heart attack. 

"We want to just help those departments that are struggling," said Hansen. "We know that they are people who have other lives, that they are volunteers, that they have children, that they have other jobs. But how can communities help for this not to happen again?"

Hansen says she doesn't have the answer, but she's been working to make sure no other family has to go through the same experience. 

"We think about if something could have been different," said Hansen's second daughter Emily. "We're left not knowing."

Not knowing if their father would still be here if things played out differently that Saturday in July last year.

The Hansen's aren't pointing blame at anyone, but calling for a need to re-examine how rural EMS volunteer departments operate. 

Currently, the Hudson volunteer fire department is comprised of 33 unpaid volunteers who donate their time. Most have full time jobs, which means they respond as quickly as they can when they receive an emergency call. Hudson only has three volunteer EMS workers. 

The Hansens know they can't change what happened to their father, but they are asking for changes in the process of how rural EMS agencies respond in emergencies. Hansen has taken that challenge - working to change how volunteers communicate to make sure someone always shows up.

From speaking with other rural EMS departments like Dysart, to looking into latest communication technology using apps like "IamResponding," which lets volunteers respond right away after a page has been set out to let their department know whether or not they'll be responding. 

"Because those minutes could be critical, that if you waited ten minutes just to see who would show up you've wasted five to ten minutes," said Hansen. "If you had a program that you subscribed to where everyone just hit an app on their phone that said yes I'm responding or no I'm not responding-the first person there would know we don't have enough people to make this run-we need to call someone else."

Hansen says she'd like to see these rural departments find innovative ways to better communicate. She says she'd also be a proponent of having at least one paid EMS worker on staff, which is how Dysart's volunteer department operates.

"They have saved a lot of lives, unfortunately ours may have been that one that slipped through the cracks," said Hansen. I don't know how many others may be out there. When I volunteer for something, I show up. And I know they can't show up to every single call that comes in because of their lives outside of there as volunteers. But, I believe there's supposed to be a roster that is supposed to be posted, so you know that those hours are covered, that those days are covered. And then, if not, you call Covenant Medical Center and say we have no one today so our first call is coming into you. Not us, then you. That also can save a lot of time in that instance."

Hudson Mayor George Wessel says the city is working with Black Hawk County Emergency Management to roll out a new, county-wide communication system, which should also speed up response times. 

For now, the Hansen's continue to remember the moments that brought their later father happiness. 

"I think everyday it was send me pictures, I want to see pictures of the kids," said Hansen. "What they're doing today so they would have to send them pictures of what they're doing everyday. It started his day to see a picture of one of his grand kids."

This is a second installment in a series of investigative stories into the rural EMS crisis in Iowa

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