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Competition Gives North Carolina Paramedics Greater Training

All that the paramedics knew was that a "hunter" had fallen from his tree stand.

Within minutes, they were saving lives.

The "accident" happened Sunday in the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro as part of the 21st annual North Carolina Paramedic Competition, organized by the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Service.

The scene was staged.

The hunters were actually actors.

About 200 colleagues, friends and relatives of the paramedics sat in bleachers and watched.

But the paramedic teams treated the situation as if it were real. In fact, the teams from Forsyth, Stokes and Surry counties had a lot on the line. Surry County is the defending champion, and the three counties combined have won nearly half of the competitions.

"It's competitions like this one that make you better at what you do," said Scott Brown, a member of the Forsyth team who was once on a Stokes team that won the championship.

The competition had strict rules.

For example, four judges were brought in from South Carolina to ensure impartiality.

Each two-man team was scored on the same criteria, including how well they assessed the problem, how well they communicated, their professionalism and the outcome of the patients.

Every year, it's a different scenario. It may be a golfer struck by lightning, for example, or a NASCAR accident. This year, it happened to be a hunting accident.

"We prep for everything. It's almost the same as getting a call tomorrow," said Fred Lawson, a member of the Stokes team who has won the competition with Brown.

In keeping with the rules of the competition, all the paramedics were sequestered so that each team would arrive with the same level of information.

As they arrived, they found out quickly that they would have to deal with much more than a fallen hunter.

For one thing, that hunter had eaten a sandwich with peanut putter, which threatened to cause an allergic reaction, send him into shock and possibly kill him.

Within minutes, the man got a shot of epinephrine and Benadryl, and he was breathing well.

But while that happened, a pair of hunters walked into the scene. One of them was bleeding to death.

"My friend needs help now! He's shot in the leg," one of the hunters said while the other howled with pain.

As soon as a tourniquet was applied to stem the bleeding, a third hunter collapsed, apparently weak from the thought of having shot his hunting partner.

Each team -- from Forsyth, Surry, Stokes, Lincoln, Cabarrus and eastern Wake counties -- had 13 minutes to work on the three patients.

The results of the competition will be announced Tuesday at a banquet, part of the Emergency Medicine Today Conference, which began Saturday and runs through Wednesday.

The reward comes in the form of bragging rights.

"They don't do it for the money. They do it because they love it," said Regina Godette-Crawford, chief of the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Service.



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