FARMINGTON — Davis County sheriff’s and Layton fire paramedics now have one extra tool to help save lives.
It’s called the rapid sequence intubation procedure, which in Utah is normally done in emergency rooms or by flight nurses.
“What we do is basically paralyze the patient so we can get a tube down their throat,” said Davis County Undersheriff Brett Peters.
First, the patient is given medication that paralyzes for less than five minutes. Paramedics then move quickly and use a video laryngoscope to get a breathing tube properly placed, said Layton Fire Capt. Paramedic Jason Cook.
The tiny camera, along with a high-definition screen, helps paramedics see down the patient’s throat, Peters said.
“No two throats are alike,” he said. “It would be nice if they were.”
Cook said the video camera also allows “us to document that we did this procedure in a timely fashion and safe manner. Also, doctors can see what we did.”
The Layton Fire Department and the Davis County Sheriff’s Office are running the pilot program for the next two years to see how effective it is to have paramedics trained in the procedure.
“We want to establish a best-care practice and raise the standard of care,” Peters said.
Thirteen paramedics in Layton have been trained to use the procedure, Cook said, as have eight paramedics with the Davis County Sheriff’s Office, said Sheriff Todd Richardson.
All of the paramedics underwent extensive training in September.
In November, Davis paramedics used the procedure after a minivan crashed into FrontRunner.
The minivan driver, Clara Lewis, 32, of Centerville, was semiconscious and had head injuries, said Davis County Sheriff’s Capt. Arnold Butcher.
The time it would have taken to get Lewis to an emergency room by ambulance or to wait until a helicopter arrived before a breathing tube could be inserted could have meant the difference between life and death, officials said.
Davis County does not have a trauma center for patients in critical condition, such as in Lewis’ case.
All Level I trauma centers are in Salt Lake County.
These centers provide the highest level of surgical care to patients and have a full range of specialists and equipment available 24 hours a day.
Weber and Utah counties have Level II trauma centers, which offer comprehensive trauma care and work in collaboration with and supplement Level II trauma centers, often transferring critical patients to a Level I trauma center.
Evan Lewis, husband of Clara Lewis, said he is grateful his wife received the procedure when she did.
He does not know what the outcome would have been if paramedics had to wait for a flight nurse or get his wife to an emergency room before she got a breathing tube.
She is home but still recovering from the head injuries.
“She doesn’t remember the accident and probably never will,” Lewis said.
Cook said he expects 50 to 75 patients a year will need this type of procedure.
Since the pilot program began, Layton paramedics have used the procedure three times and Davis paramedics have used it twice.
Officials said the hope is that, someday, more agencies in Utah will have trained paramedics who can do this procedure.