Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Ready to respond

By Will Bublitz

Luke Vezey, a paramedic with the Limon Ambulance Service, stands ready to respond to medical emergencies day or night.

“I started with Limon Ambulance just over a year ago on January 1, 2014,” Luke said. “This is my first  job as a paramedic. I am really enjoying it.”

Luke is one of the three full-time paramedics who work for the Limon Ambulance Service. A fourth paramedic is a volunteer. The local service also relies on several Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and First Responders.  

While he likes his work as a paramedic, Luke admitted it can be challenge dealing with high-stress situations where a patient’s life may hang in the balance.

“Being a paramedic means that you have to be the manager of chaos,” he said. “Whether you arrive at an highway accident scene or at someone’s residence, you’re seeing people on their worst day. You have to be able to help the patient no matter how critical his condition might be.”

As a paramedic, he is the most highly qualified  medical technician to arrive at an emergency scene. It’s his responsibility to lead the effort to stabilize the patients and get them ready to be transported to a hospital.

“My job is to do a triage of the patients by quickly evaluating their condition,” he said. “As a paramedic, I’m the only Advanced Life Support (ALS) guy at the scene. I take the patient that most critical and direct the EMTs to handle the others. That’s all about managing the resources we have on scene.”

In emergency situations, it comes down to a matter of priorities in keeping patients alive.
“Arriving at the scene of a traffic accident, our first job is to control the bleeding and ensure the patients are breathing on their own,” he said. “When a patient has suffered severe trauma, we try to keep them breathing and their heart pumping, and get them ready for transport as fast as we can.”
Luke said he chose Limon as his first paramedic assignment because he wanted to work in a rural environment.

“In a city, there are a lot of resources available to paramedics, and it’s usually a 5 to 10-minute drive in an ambulance to the emergency room at a hospital,” he said. “Here I get to do extended patient care. When I get on scene, I take the most critical patients, stabilize them, transport them to the hospital, and stay with them at the hospital until they are airlifted. I can be with a patient anywhere from one to 8 hours depending upon the circumstances.”

Because its paramedics can provide Advanced Life Support, the Limon Ambulance Service also provides Emergency Room Transfers from outlying hospitals such as those in Burlington and Cheyenne Wells to Front Range hospitals.

“These transfers of critical patients can take up to 4 to 5 hours,” Luke said. “You’ve got to be able to do extended patient care, which is why I wanted to go into the medical field.”

The Limon Ambulance Service has at least one of its paramedics on duty ready to go 24/7.
“We work on a rotation of four days on duty which are followed by eight days off,” Luke said.

“Those four days require each paramedic to be being ready to respond at a moment’s notice over a 96-hour period.”

Some of these four-day rotations are more demanding than others.

“There have been some rotations where I’ve had to go on out on two or three calls over the four days,” Luke said. “Other rotations, it could be 10 to 15 calls. During the snowstorm a couple of weeks ago, we had to respond to 10 calls within a four-hour period. In situations like that, our volunteers really help. We usually have six to eight volunteers show up to help for each call. There would be no Limon Ambulance Service without our volunteers.”

Dealing with emergency calls can be stressful, but Luke is no stranger to dealing with those high-stress situations because he has served two tours in Iraq as a U.S. Marine. In addition, he has worked for several years in security companies before becoming a paramedic.

Born in California to parents Stu and Denise Vezey, Luke spent most of his childhood in San Jose with his two younger sisters and brother. The family moved to Monument, Colo. when he was 12 years old. He attended Louis Palmer High School where he competed on the football and basketball teams.

“A high school friend and I wanted to join the Marine Corps,” Luke said. “We actually graduated early in November 2000 so that we could go to boot camp and then were able to walk in the graduation ceremony with our classmates in the Class of 2001.”

Rejoining his Marine Corps unit, Luke was on duty when the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred.

“I had joined the Marine Corps Reserve, and we ultimately deployed to Iraq in 2003 as part of the security forces,” he said. “My first tour was for seven months. I was deployed again in 2005 for nine months. Being in Iraq in a combat zone was an experience that’s hard to describe. I’ve had mortars land 100 feet from me, and seen IEDs explode right outside our security area.

“It’s definitely important to have a personal support structure such as faith,  a wife or family to help get you through. They help keep things in perspective and help you adjust when you come home.”
After serving six years in the Marine Corps, Luke returned to Colorado and civilian life in 2006. On November 18 of that year, he married Rachel, the love of his life.

“After I got out of the Marines, I was kind of in a state of flux and readjusting to being a civilian,” he said. “I worked and went to school for a few years.”

Luke went to work for some security agencies headquartered in Colorado including the Cheyenne Mountain Security Center and U.S. Security Associates.

“During that time, I was also attending classes at Pikes Peak Community College and working an Associates degree in Criminal Justice that I received in 2009,” he said. “I then enrolled at the
University of Colorado in Colorado Springs to pursue a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.”

While taking classes at UCCS, Luke also attended classes with Executive Security International, a security firm that specializes in the security of executives in high-threat environments.

“While I was taking their security training, I really liked the medical aspects of the job,” he said. “One of the instructors said there were never enough medics and dog handlers in their overseas operations.”

After making some decisions about his career ambitions, he left the Executive Security International program and enrolled in EMT classes at Pikes Peak Community College in January 2011. Enjoying his studies more and more, he finally decided to upgrade his training and become a paramedic. He graduated in December 2013 as a certified paramedic and was hired shortly afterwards by the Limon Ambulance Service.

“I believe that being a paramedic is like being a Marine,” Luke said. “It is a sacred honor to serve. This is especially true in a small community like Limon where you may know a patient personally. It is an awesome responsibility.”

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