Jack Elder Alpharetta, GA

A Testimonial to the Northern New York EMS System

So many times today you only hear the bad news – the things that are wrong or have gone wrong, that the system never works, etc. I’d like to tell you of how the system and the people in that system worked, executed magnificently and most likely saved my life. A resident of Atlanta, GA, I was vacationing with my family on the North shore of Grindstone Island when on the morning of Aug 6th I experienced nausea and severe pains in my chest that then began radiating down my left arm. At the time I thought I probably couldn’t have been in a worse place – North shore, a stone’s throw across open water to the Canadian border and no access to the US mainland other than by boat – at least a 30 minute trip from Clayton. As it turned out I could not have been more wrong in my assessment. My daughter placed a 911 call and the Jefferson County 911 dispatcher took it from there. The first to arrive by boat (within 15 minutes) was Doctor Richard Withington – a volunteer with the Clayton Fire Dept. and resident of Round Island. He was followed shortly after by an EMT and 2 Paramedics with (TI-Rescue) – Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service based out of Clayton, NY. With a response district of over 154 sq. miles of mostly rural terrain encompassing a large portion of the St. Lawrence River along the US/Canadian border,TI-Rescue is the 9-1-1 ambulance service provider for the towns of Clayton and Orleans. In my case, the TI-Rescue ambulance was water based via The Clayton Fire Boat (Last Chance). My background and specialty is project and process management and I saw what I believe was the best example of a well-organized, experienced and fluid team that morning. The TI-Rescue team immediately began assessing and determined that I had a serious cardio blockage. They kept me apprised of everything they did – inserted IV’s, administered pain killers, gave me nitro, etc. And more importantly, made the judgment call to air-evac me directly from Grindstone Island via helicopter to Upstate Medical University Hospital in Syracuse versus taking me back by boat to shore. That single decision, as the cardiologist who attended to me at UHH said, was the key to my successful outcome. I was told later that had Paramedic Dana Reid not made the call to bring in the helicopter and get me to UMU immediately that my outcome would have been much different, possibly fatal. The call by TI-Rescue to airlift me to UMU resulted in LifeNet responding. Based out of Watertown Municipal Airport, LifeNet is a community based program that provides air medical transport service throughout New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut. The coordination between the various groups attending and involved Clayton Fire Department, (911), TI-Rescue, LifeNet and UMU) was incredible. Four independent groups all working in unison as though they had done this dozens of times before. The physical hand-offs of myself and data on my physical condition between the groups, the execution of tasks, and communication all went flawlessly. To say that they all executed beautifully is an understatement. They were extremely professional and attentive to my needs and it was evident their sole focus was assessing, stabilizing and getting me to a cardiac facility for treatment. The task of getting me from the home in which we were staying, to the helicopter, was not without significant challenges. The terrain/topography of this area of Grindstone made it impossible for LifeNet to land their helicopter near the home. Also, the location of the room in which I was stabilized and layout of the home made it impossible to transport me on the gurney through the adjoining hallway. As a result, the TI-Rescue/LifeNet team, as well as Dr. Withington and my grandson, had to pass me, gurney and all, through the window of my bedroom and then carry me more than a ¼ mile up a hill and across an open field to the LifeNet helicopter. The combined weight of both myself and the gurney required 6 men and 4 stops along the way, changing positions, to reach the helicopter. During high stress and critical periods like this, where you have multiple individuals/groups all interacting together, it is a significant challenge to insure information is passed correctly and timely, physical hand-offs are seamless, tasks are completed and time lines are met. I am so very thankful to the Clayton Fire Department, TI-Rescue, LifeNet and UMU teams for doing their jobs so very, very well. They have allowed me to embark on, what my cardiologist here in Atlanta expects to be, a full recovery and return to my normal life. With a few exceptions – my days of pizza, bacon & eggs, ice cream, and chocolate shakes are a fond memory of the past – not to be repeated. The Thousand Islands Region is very fortunate to have Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service (TI-Rescue), the Clayton Fire Department (Last Chance) and LifeNet helicopter available when emergencies happen.

Patricia Andraszek, Clayton

Impressed with TIERS

As it appeared in the Thousand Islands Sun:

This past weekend my husband fell getting into our boat at the Mary Street dock in Clayton. He hit his head when he fell, and was unconscious. He was unresponsive for several minutes, I yelled for help and someone to call an ambulance. Within minutes the Clayton Fire Department was there, and several people on the dock came to help. One kind man got in his boat and helped to secure our boat. I hadn’t even realized we were drifting.

The nurse that came running and the fireman that came to help so fast were such a comfort. By the time TIERS got there, he was conscious but unaware of his surroundings or what happened. Paramedics Doug and Emily evaluated him and quickly got him strapped into a backboard and all the firemen helped to lift him out of the boat. With the water level so low, it was quite a distance up to get him on the dock. They had to remove our boat seats. When we left in the ambulance, our seats were on the dock and our cabin was open.

I want to say that the paramedics were fantastic. They were so caring and professional and took great care of him. We are so lucky to have TIERS here in the area. The fire department too. Next time you get an envelope in the mail asking you to donate, remember that you just might may need them yourselves someday. We want to be sure they will be there.

Some kind people put our boat back together, also. The seats were in and the cabin closed and secured when I came back that night. My husband ended up with a pretty bad concussion but it could have been much worse. I appreciate you all very much!

Patricia Andraszek



Andy Green, Clayton

On September 11, 2008 our family was enjoying a day on the beach on the head of Grindstone Island, in The Thousand Islands. Our 3-year-old toddler Sam was eating an apple when he let out a squeal. He was able to tell us that he had been stung by a bee on his lip. Our older son had been stung before and no one in our family was allergic, so we didn’t think much of it. That all changed a couple of minutes later when his face began to rapidly swell and it was very clear that he was having a severe allergic reaction. At this point, we were on an island by boat, cell phone coverage was spotty and we didn’t have an epi-pen. We dropped everything where we were, jumped into our boat and my wife drove the boat as fast as it goes, while I called 911. Luckily the phone worked, the 911 dispatcher called Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service (TIERS) and the waves were relatively small. By now, Sam was in my arms and having a very hard time breathing, his swelling had continued and he had rashes covering his chest and back. We were very scared for Sam’s life and amazed by how long five minutes can feel. As we closed in on Clayton, we could see the flashing lights of the TIERS ambulance sitting right by the dock. My wife brought the boat in quickly and I handed our toddler up to the paramedics. They had the epinephrine syringe waiting and quickly administered the dose. Little Sam’s breathing improved almost immediately. At this moment, the enormity of the situation hit us. Any one of the needed steps could have failed and Sam could have died. The boat worked, the phone worked, the dispatcher did her job well and Sam held out long enough for TIERS to administer his life-saving injection. We can’t thank everyone enough, especially Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service.