SCWEMS healing

Emergency Medical Service Board member recovers from minor stroke, is pleased with new board members added to service


March 14, 2018

Mike Armstrong

Felicia Million, right, takes a minute with Donna Pipher, at the Hanna Senior Center before they start serving lunch to members.

When Donna Pipher went to the South Central Wyoming Emergency Medical Services (SCWEMS) emergency meeting on Feb. 27 at the Saratoga town hall, she did not imagine she would be leaving in an ambulance after suffering a minor stroke.

The SCWEMS meeting room was packed and many people were standing.

Mayors from Encampment, Elk Mountain, Hanna, Medicine Bow, Riverside, Saratoga and the Carbon County Commissioners were at a large table in the front. Approximately a dozen EMT personnel stood in the back of the room and there were no seats left for anyone who came after the meeting started.

Jeb Steward, the former chairman of the SCWEMS joint powers board, spoke first followed by the County Commissioners.

Sue Jones, County Commissioner, said SCWEMS would serve Carbon County best by staying together and fixing problems that had come up.

The mayors then gave their assessments in alphabetical order.

While individuals spoke, all the bodies in the confined room, caused the temperature in the chamber get progressively warmer as the meeting went on.

Pipher, who was the Carbon County representative for SCWEMS joint powers board, noticed it was getting hotter.

"You know when I first entered the room, it was cold and I had my coat wrapped around me," Pipher said. "I started to feel warm and even a little like something was not right, so I focused on Sue Jones because her voice is calm and I just found myself focusing on her even when she wasn't speaking."

Pipher said she kept sitting there as the meeting went on and people spoke, but she felt a tightening in her chest and felt the room was becoming unbearably hot.

"I got up to get some air and I went to put my hand on the chair in back of me and it was like I didn't have an arm-and that is when I went down," Pipher said. "I remember seeing the floor coming at me and then I heard gasps."

She was turned over because she had fallen flat on her front side. Pipher said she started to come back into lucidity as she heard the voice of Carbon County Fire Warden John Rutherford.

"When I realized it was him and I saw who was around me, I knew it was going to work," Pipher said. "I asked for Heidi and she came next to my side and told me to take breaths although it was hard to breathe because of the tightening in my chest."

Pipher acknowledges what many people in the room were saying in low voices. If she was going to have a medical crisis, she could not have picked a better place with all the trained medical emergency personnel in the room.

911 was alerted immediately.

"They had life flight ready, because whatever Heidi (Sifford) had seen on the monitor made her want it," Pipher said.

She said Mike Farver, Intermediate EMT, was outstanding in his demeanor and care as she rode in the ambulance.

"That is what SCWEMS is about," Pipher said.

Pipher was kept at Memorial Carbon County Hospital overnight for observation.

When she saw the doctor in Casper a few days later, she was told a minor stroke had happened at the meeting. He advised her to take as much stress out of her life as she possibly could.

Pipher had felt under pressure by some individuals concerning her position as Carbon County board representative because she was the board member to ask Steward to step down as the joint powers board chairman at the SCWEMS board meeting on Feb 20. Steward resigned that evening as did Kelly Ralston, board member and representative from Riverside.

"As much as I love SCWEMS and have fought strongly for what I felt was right for the service for the past six years, I realized no board was worth my health," Pipher said.

Sue Jones called her right after she had seen the doctor in Casper.

"She asked me how I felt and my thoughts on being on the board." Pipher said. "I told her I couldn't risk my health and that Heidi had mentioned a good candidate, so I felt it was the right time for me to resign."

Jones asked her if she was sure. Pipher said 'yes' and then learned that Rutherford had agreed to be Carbon County's representative for the board.

This was great news for Pipher.

"John Rutherford will be good, because he knows the ins and outs of EMS and you need people on the board that knows what the ambulance services need," Pipher said. "I believe the service will go forward and it will be good as the board comes together."

She was also glad to learn Elk Mountain had chosen John Page, Wyoming Highway State patrolman to be their new representative.

"John will be an awesome board member," Pipher said. "I think the problem became was the founders and first board members wanted a service for the community-and as time went on the model was one for a business that could sustain the service to the communities. This caused conflict, but everyone wants to see SCWEMS succeed and that is the important thing."

Pipher feels the new board members picked show SCWEMS is going in the right direction.

Jones said Rutherford had graciously volunteered to help for the short term. She said because he has a full time job, six months is probably realistic for him.

"He is willing to step up, because he realizes how crucial this service is and how important this juncture of time is SCWEMS," Jones said. "He knows it is time to get the board back on track and he has knowledge of what EMTs are doing in the field."

Encampment has appointed Mark Dunning, Big Creek Ranch manager, for their representative on the board.

Like Pipher, Jones said the new members coming onto the SCWEMS joint powers board gives her confidence the service is going in the right direction, but she wishes more citizens of the communities were coming to the meetings.

Jones said the public needs to stay aware of what SCWEMS is doing and understand that the partnerships of the communities can sometimes be fragile.

"Also the public has to understand these volunteers that are running the service are doing an impressive job," Jones said. "Even with all the upheaval of the past, not a tick is missing when it comes to how well the volunteers are responding."

She said citizens from all the communities have to be proud of the EMT volunteers who want to service Carbon County. Jones said there is lot of involvement of the entities that formed SCWEMS at the moment and the public has just as much investment in the service working.

Pipher agreed with Jones' evaluation of the public need to be aware of SCWEMS.

"What if we had not had this service when I had what happened to me?" Pipher asked. "It could have led to me not making it to the hospital in time."

This is what the SCWEMS joint powers board is trying to prevent.

The next scheduled SCWEMS joint powers board meeting is at 6 p.m. on March 20 at the Saratoga Platte Valley Community Center.


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