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Docs get taste of ‘uncontrolled’ emergency care

Matthew Collander resident Christ Medical Center's emergency medicine program drops down sewer shaft OrlFire ProtectiDistrict's training center Tuesday. He about

Matthew Collander, a resident in Christ Medical Center's emergency medicine program, drops down a sewer shaft at the Orland Fire Protection District's training center Tuesday. He and about 30 other residents at Christ took part in hands-on demonstrations simulating what firefighters and paramedics face on the job. | Mike Nolan~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 19, 2013 7:03PM



Matthew Collander is just months away from finishing his residency in the emergency medicine department at Christ Medical Center, on the cusp of a career as an emergency room physician.

On Tuesday, however, he was in the far-less-glamorous position of being hunched down inside a sewer line, slipping a breathing tube down the throat of an Orland Fire Protection District training mannequin.

He and about 30 other residents in the Oak Lawn hospital’s emergency medicine department got a feel for what firefighters and paramedics might encounter on the job — the emergency medical procedure in the sewer or crawling on their hands and knees toward a person, in this case also a mannequin, trapped in a collapsed building.

Sean Motzny, director of emergency medical services at Christ, called the outing to the fire district’s training center in Orland Park a “field trip” for the doctors, but it’s unlikely their grade school visits to the zoo or pumpkin patch bore any resemblance to Tuesday’s sessions.

Motzny described the emergency room as a “controlled, uncontrolled environment,” but for paramedics and firefighters it’s often “truly an uncontrolled environment.”

“Residents need to get an appreciation of the time and commitment” involved in extracting someone from a wrecked vehicle or collapsed building, Motzny said.

Collander got help getting into his safety harness from fellow resident Trale Permar, then was lowered through the open sewer shaft, the diameter of which matches what you’d find on any street.

Once down there, the residents had to intubate their victim, which Collander, upon emerging from the subterranean test, deemed “darn near impossible,” although he called it a “good experience.”

All the doctors got a chance to take the plunge as well as make their way through the simulated collapsed building. They got to heft heavy, hydraulic-powered tools to cut through a burned-out Cadillac in a mock rescue of trapped occupants.

The fire protection district first invited emergency medicine residents from the hospital 18 years ago, in what was then primarily “more of a show-and-tell” session, Battalion Chief Michael Schofield said.

It evolved over the years to incorporate the hands-on simulations that are meant to give the physicians a better idea of the complexity of some rescue operations, he said.

Echoing Motzny’s comment, Schofield said that in a hospital emergency room “you work in a pretty stable environment.”

“It’s totally different than in the field,” he said. “In the field, you are dealing with so many different conditions.”

Because some of the residents may eventually become ER doctors at Christ or another area hospital, the training session “gives us the opportunity to get a better relationship with the doctors,” Schofield said.



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