A child's nosebleed has officials scrambling to change policy to ease future emergency situations. Mona Hudson, the secretary of Dearing Elementary School, appeared before the Dearing Town Council at their regular meeting last week to complain of a lack of emergency personnel response when a student was "bleeding profusely" on Wednesday, Nov. 7.
Dearing Elementary Principal Laura Hughes said she was out of town at a training during the town council meeting, and requested Mrs. Hudson attend in her place. In a telephone interview, Dr. Hughes said the 8-year-old student has had nosebleeds before, but "not with the severity of this one." Mrs. Hudson told the Town Council that she called 911, but an ambulance did not respond until 35 minutes later. Mrs. Hudson wanted the council members to address the lack of emergency personnel within the town limits.
"I will check on that personally," Council member Judson Story said to Mrs. Hudson at the meeting. "Because if we don't have protection, then I don't need to live here myself. ... That has upset me more than anything else that a child was not taken care of."
According to a report from 911 Director Tracy Neal, the call to 911 came in at 8:16:05 a.m. and an ambulance was dispatched at 8:16:10. The report reveals the ambulance was enroute at 8:18 and arrived at the school at 8:29.
"It took us 13 minutes, which is good for McDuffie County," said Tim Edwards, the director of Emergency Medical Services for McDuffie County. "Usually the perception people have is that it took longer than it did. ... When you are anxious or upset, one minute seems like 10 minutes."
Mr. Edwards said he understands the school officials' alarm because "nosebleeds can be severe. ... You can lose a lot of blood from a nosebleed, so it can become a dangerous situation." However, Mr. Edwards said the emergency technicians on the ambulance have no special equipment to treat a nosebleed. Dr. Hughes said the school has a full-time licensed nurse, who was "in control at all times" during the situation, but deemed it necessary to call an ambulance.
According to the EMS report, the child was en route at 8:42 a.m. to Doctor's Hospital in Augusta at the request of the parent, who was at the school. The ambulance arrived at the hospital at 9:13 a.m. Dr. Hughes said the child is fine and has returned to school.
Dr. Hughes said she was concerned that a first responder did not arrive before the ambulance, as has happened in the past.
"What they have to understand is that Dearing Fire Department is a fully volunteer fire department," said McDuffie County Fire Chief Bruce Tanner. "When they call for first responders, or even fire emergencies, there is no guarantee that there is anybody available to go. ... So it was probably the fact that nobody was available."
Chief Tanner said the Automatic Fire Suppression Agreement between the county and the Town of Dearing is for fires only, a fact that confused the town council members.
The agreement, which was signed in 2001 by then Mayor Ralph Menees and County Commission Chairman Charlie Newton, says "In the event of any fire or other emergency occurs in the response district, the nearest fire station, whether within the Town or the County shall furnish such fire suppression and services as agreed upon to cope with such emergency, as part of the automatic aid assignment."
"Emergency service is emergency service," Dearing Town Councilmember Allen Axon, who is also a volunteer fireman, said during a planning session last Wednesday. "Now he's saying they're different. ... They ought to share it with us if it's two separate type of calls."
Chief Tanner said "a lot of people get confused" with the auto aid agreement, "there's a lack of communication." Mayor Kelley said he has been in discussion for the past year with the fire chief about expanding the boundaries of the agreement.
"So I'm very disappointed that nobody told us it was not included," he said. "I say a child bleeding (profusely) is considered an emergency."
Chief Tanner said he has drawn up an amendment to the agreement to include first responders for medical emergencies. Mayor Kelley said he talked with County Chairman Newton to present the amendment at the next meeting.
"So I think this is going to be a good thing in that it's going to move us into getting help as soon as we possibly can," Dr. Hughes said. "It's a lot of responsibility having these kids at this school, and we just want everybody to be safe."