ANNAPOLIS, MD -- Each year, Maryland EMS crews respond to nearly a half million calls.
Some of those responses involved unique situations or treatment. And, some of the pre-hospital providers were lauded by state officials this week -- National EMS Week.
"The theme for EMS Week this year is 'EMS -- Everyday Heroes.' Certainly, all of our Maryland EMS providers are heroes. They are there 24 hours a day, seven days a week," stated Dr. Bob Bass, executive director of Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS).
During an awards ceremony, Bass applauded "the courage, expertise and compassion" of the state's first responders that include thousands of EMTs, CRTs and paramedics.
"As with any organization, it is the people who make the system work. What is so extraordinary about Maryland's system is that approximately two-thirds of the people are volunteers..."
He went on to say that those volunteers work side-by-side with career personnel to take care of their patients.
The people honored for their actions are associated with fire departments in different areas of the state.
Among the cases highlighted involved the fall of an elderly patient. While that doesn't appear to be a unique incident, there were exceptional circumstances involved. And, the crew had to modify their procedures.
On Feb. 6, 2010, during one of the worst blizzards in state history, the Ewell Vol. Fire Department on Smith Island was dispatched for an elderly patient who had fallen down a flight of stairs and hit a wall.
EMTs quickly realized they needed to get the patient to a trauma center on the mainland after assessment showed the possibility of a fractured neck, wrists and facial injuries.
Due to the weather conditions, both the Maryland State Police and the Coast Guard helicopters were grounded. There was only one solution -- transport the patient by boat across the Chesapeake Bay.
EMT Janet Tyler said the crew realized they didn't have any choice. "You know it's bad when the Coast Guard declines..."
The tiny island roads were blocked by 5-10 foot drifts, and the boat was full of ice and snow. "We dug it out, which wasn't easy," said Chief Otis Tyler.
"The trip across the rough water in white-out conditions was rough," he said adding that the usual 35 minute trip took more than an hour as they were tossed about in eight-foot waves.
Bass told the crowd: "Keep in mind, the boat was not equipped to secure a liter. The rescuers had to improvise and struggle..."
Once on the mainland, the patient was transported to Peninsula Regional Medical Center, the closest trauma center, in Salisbury.
For their efforts, the crew was presented with the Maryland EMS Stars of Life Award.
"We were surprised, but very honored when we were notified about winning the award," EMT Tyler said.
Holley Guschke, a emergency medical dispatcher in Talbot County, was lauded by Bass for her calm demeanor while talking to a man threatening to commit suicide.
While deputies were headed to the area to look for him, she "kept a very distraught subject on the phone for a substantial period of time."
He later hung up, but called her back telling her he changed his mind about killing himself. Bass said he followed her instructions to put down the weapon, and approach the deputies with his hands in the air.
After he was released following a mental evaluation, he stopped by the Talbot Operations Center to thank her. "He stated that without her assistance that night, he would not be here," Bass said.
He added: "I wish we could honor or recognize everyone for what they do for Maryland residents and visitors. These are just samples of outstanding contributions."