TEMPLE TERRACE — Yes, the firefighters here are packing new ultrasound equipment in their trucks, but it's not for drive-by sonograms. Instead, they say, the equipment will help make swifter decisions in lifesaving situations.
The city has added three laptop-size Sonosite MicroMaxx Ultrasound machines to its arsenal of rescue equipment in the past two weeks, making the Temple Terrace Fire Department the first in the state — and among few in the nation — to equip its vehicles with the technology.
Fire Chief Keith Chapman said the equipment will help emergency responders diagnose internal bleeding and other life-threatening injuries on the spot. Rescue workers will use the information to decide which hospital or trauma center would be best for the victim.
The sonogram equipment, which is similar to the kind obstetricians use, takes pictures of four areas highly susceptible to internal bleeding.
The test takes about two minutes and can be used on the scene or during transport.
"We had some real experiences where some folks had internal bleeding and had poor outcomes," Chapman said. "They insisted on being transported to a hospital that did not have major trauma care capabilities."
Chapman said firefighters have already used the equipment in emergency situations.
A 45-member rescue team of Temple Terrace firefighters and paramedics trained for more than six months with Charlotte Derr, ultrasound director at Tampa General Hospital.
"We put them through the same training a resident physician would get in their rotation at the hospital," Chapman said.
The three ultrasound machines, which cost $18,000 each, were paid for through a state Emergency Medical Services grant and Hillsborough County Community Investment Tax funds.
"We are used to dealing with things outside of a controlled environment (and) anything we can do to help make decisions on where to send our patients for treatment is part of our job," Chapman said. "We are just trying to give the best care to our citizens."
Jared Leone can be reached at (813) 226-3435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.