Fenwick Hall Resident Assistant Mark Ritchie says he was moved to organize Eagle Emergency Medical Services last year after his friend Kevin Eidt '00, was stricken while playing basketball at the Flynn Recreation Complex on Jan. 23, 1997.
An emergency medical technician who had worked for ambulance companies in his hometown of Utica, NY, Ritchie was playing volleyball nearby when Eidt collapsed. Ritchie tried to keep his friend breathing while waiting for help to arrive, then assisted campus police in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation efforts. Attempts to revive Eidt, who suffered from a congenital heart ailment, were unsuccessful.
"You see life in a different perspective," Ritchie said in a recent interview, recalling the tragedy. "I wanted to find a way to help others in the University with emergency care."
The Eagle EMS he organized now serves as a medical auxiliary to the Boston College Police Department. Outfitted with police-issued radios, ID badges, jackets and medical bags, the 21 student EMTs are on call from 6 p.m. to midnight to assist on emergency calls that range from sports injuries to diabetic seizures.
BCPD Sgt. John Derick with undergraduate EMTs (from left) Rob Fogerty '02, Mark Ritchie '00, and Jae Yi '00.
"Basically, they back us up on our calls," said Boston College Police Sgt. John Derick, an EMT who oversees the student program. "It has worked out very well. It's an extra set of hands for us out there."
Students joining Eagle EMS are required to be licensed in their home states as EMTs, meaning they are trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation, administering oxygen and using a defibrillator to revive victims of heart failure. Ritchie, the Eagle EMS executive director, and two others in the group also have been certified as paramedics, capable of performing more advanced tasks such as administering intravenous medication.
Having trained emergency personnel close at hand can make all the difference in a medical crisis, Derick said.
"Timing's everything," he said. "Once your heart stops beating, the brain is the first organ to be affected. If you can get to the person within four to six minutes, whether with CPR or a defibrillator, the person has a great chance of surviving."
Derick would like to see more members of the BC community trained in use of defibrillators, which he said are increasingly being placed as life-saving devices in public buildings. A 110-hour training course offering EMT certification is already provided at Boston College. Since it was begun three years ago, the training course has typically attracted between 15 and 20 registrants, most of them students, according to Derick.
Student graduates of the course are eligible to join Eagle EMS. The course, which meets two nights a week, has already begun for the fall semester but will be given again in February.
"Once you're an EMT, you'll always be an EMT," said Ritchie. "You've dealt with cases most other people never have. You're out here because you care."
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