Cardiac & Resuscitation, Communications & Dispatch, News, Training, Trauma

Paramedic Returns to Work with Prosthetic Leg

Issue 4 and Volume 38.

Thumbs UpDifferently Abled
In May 2011, paramedic Joe Riffe was enjoying a hike on the Fort Knox military installation with his fiancee (an EMT and former combat medic), her 5-year-old son and two fellow medics. After taking a wrong turn and ending up at the top of Tioga Falls, Joe slid in some mud and fell approximately 110 feet, landing in a pile of driftwood at the bottom of the falls. “My leg was mangled,” Joe says, “My leg was angulated from the knee down. I knew I had some major trauma.”

As his family and friends rushed to reach him, he removed his shoelace from the only foot he could reach and wrapped it tightly around a piece of driftwood to create a makeshift splint. An agonizing 30 minutes passed until Fort Knox EMS arrived on scene and Joe was extricated using a Stokes rescue basket and then airlifted to University of Louisville Hospital, a Level 1 trauma center.

Surgeons were able to save his leg by performing a femoropopliteal bypass, but after five subsequent surgeries over the next week, his doctors presented him with a choice: Remain in pain with an unstable knee and be unable to work in EMS, or have his leg amputated above the knee and be fitted with a prosthetic device that would allow him to return to work.

Joe struggled with the choice, but eventually decided to go through with the amputation. “I’m a paramedic,” Joe says. “I thrive in the back of an ambulance, and I can’t imagine not doing that.”

He was fitted with the Otto Bock Genium, a waterproof prosthetic leg developed for the military. “If a soldier can go to war with this leg,” he says. “I can go in an ambulance.”

And that’s exactly what he did. Only nine months after being wheeled into surgery, Joe returned to work at Rural/Metro-Kentucky. We applaud Rural/Metro-Kentucky for welcoming Joe back, and we acknowledge the courage and dedication to EMS exemplified by Joe and all other EMS providers who use a prosthetic device. We are inspired by their courage and commitment.

Thumbs UpBe A ‘Disaster Hero’
The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) recently released “Disaster Hero,” a Web-based game aimed at children of all ages as well as teachers, caregivers and others interested in learning about what to do before, during and after a disaster.

Players get to design their own superhero and then compete against a computerized opponent in a high-tech game show that tests their disaster knowledge and preparedness skills in a number of areas, including escape route and meet-up planning, avoiding common hazards, putting together an emergency supply kit, and even performing basic first aid. Points are earned by completing puzzles and playing arcade games tailored to the specific type of educational content.

The online game is available free of charge at It was developed as part of a grant administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“This game is a unique and entertaining approach to teaching families to have an active role in home disaster planning,” says Andrew E. Sama, MD, FACEP,  president of ACEP. We couldn’t agree more and we give our thumbs up to the ACEP for developing an innovative way for kids to learn about what to do before, during and after a disaster.

Thumbs DownDenying CPR
“Is there anybody that’s willing to help this lady and not let her die,” asked 9-1-1 dispatcher Tracey Halvorson on a tape of a 7-minute, 16-second call aired by media outlets across the country. She pleaded with a nurse at Glendale Gardens, a central California assisted-living facility, who refused to perform CPR on 87-year-old Lorraine Bayless, who had collapsed in the dining room. Bayless later died.

The nurse, who didn’t provide her full name during the call, responded, “Not at this time,” and claimed that facility policy prevented her from giving the woman medical help.

Halvorson asked the nurse if a resident, a gardener or anyone not employed by the facility could receive her CPR instructions. “Can we flag someone down in the street and get them to help this lady?” Halvorson pleaded, “Can we flag a stranger down? I bet a stranger would help her.”

The executive director of Glenwood Gardens defended the nurse’s actions, saying the nurse did indeed follow policy. However, Brookdale Senior Living, the assisted-living facility’s parent company, issued a statement shortly after saying there had been “a complete misunderstanding of our practice with regards to emergency medical care for our residents,” and stated there would be a companywide review of its emergency medical policies.

A criminal investigation into the matter was quickly closed by the Bakersfield (Calif.) Police Department.

The family said in a statement that it was their “beloved mother and grandmother’s wish to die naturally and without any kind of life-prolonging intervention.”

According to fire officials, Bayless did not have a “do not resuscitate” order on file. This has not been confirmed by the family or officials at Glendale Gardens.

We point our thumbs down to the seemingly confusing policy of Glendale Gardens and are hopeful that the parent company’s internal investigation will result in the ability for staff to clearly understand and communicate the wishes of their residents.