As obesity spreads, paramedics brace for heavy lifting

The Kansas City StarJuly 5, 2009 

Ambulances are transporting more supersize patients than ever — several a day, including some as large as 800 pounds.

And as the number of morbidly obese Americans goes up, emergency crews are straining their backs and budgets to get them to hospitals.

Especially during a life-threatening emergency, the process requires not only brute strength, but creativity on the fly.

Area ambulance workers have enlisted brawny firefighters, makeshift pulleys, tarps, plywood and even a hydraulic-lift truck to get patients up or down stairs, through narrow hallways, out of houses and on the road.

“There’s a surprise around every corner,” said Jeff Johnson of Johnson County Med-Act. “If somebody’s life is on the line, we’ll do everything that we can to help that individual. But we also have to be very careful for our own safety.”

Although specialty equipment is making the process easier for ambulance workers and more dignified for patients, the devices are expensive and still not widely used.

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