Why you should wait for an ambulance

- Many believe jumping into a car and heading to the hospital is the best fastest way to deal with an emergency.  That decision got a Chicago man a $1,500 speeding ticket last September while rushing his father to the hospital for a possible heart attack. 

While there can be a cost when you do call for help, there are also many benefits to waiting for the ambulance to arrive.

Christopher Mygrant, who works at the 911 call center in Tampa, says as soon as you call in, dispatchers virtually click into action.

"We have 90 seconds to get this call out and we do it," he said.  "When the person dials 911, they are the most upset they have ever been. We're trained to stay calm. To them a minute seems like an hour."

In those critical minutes, "Even though we're asking the questions doesn't mean we're stopping and sitting there; we are constantly processing their call."

Taking matters in your own hands could make injuries and conditions worse on the way to the hospital. Traffic congestion could delay care. Moving the person yourself could cause more harm. 

Lt. Jeffery Johnson, a paramedic at Tampa Fire Rescue, says, in most cases, an ambulance is the quickest and safest way to critical care but admitted, "There's exceptions to every rule, of course."

That may include times when EMS is overwhelmed, like after a disaster or if you're in a remote area and a call for help won't go through.  Beyond that, Johnson said, Tampa's response time is in the seven-minute range and they're fully stocked.

"Pain medication in the event of a major injury, we have medication to help vasodilate the coronary arteries to help oxygenate to prevent more tissue death," he explained.

Dispatchers are also trained to help you prepare for the team's arrival and guide you through treatment options you can do at home.  They're also in contact with the hospital's emergency department.

"Our ability to make the hospital aware of the patient that they are getting can expedite them getting to the cath lab or provide the care necessary to prevent a negative outcome," Lt. Johnson continued.

Because of the high tech cost and personnel, after being transported to the hospital, you might receive a bill.  Depending on your insurance coverage, the cost can vary, but it's likely to be less than a $1,500 speeding citation.

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