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    Tuesday, July 16, 2024

    Old Lyme gets new ambulance

    EMT Carlos Diaz, left, and EMT Sydney Bryan demonstrate a new ambulance’s power load stretcher at the Old Lyme South End Volunteer Ambulance Association, Thursday, June 13, 2024. The ambulance company received a new ambulance with pandemic-relief funds. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    The new ambulance, Thursday, June 13, 2024, that the Old Lyme South End Volunteer Ambulance Association received with pandemic-relief funds. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    EMT Carlos Diaz, left, looks on while and EMT Sydney Bryan demonstrates the Lucas automatic CPR device in the new ambulance at the Old Lyme South End Volunteer Ambulance Association Thursday, June 13, 2024. The ambulance company received the new ambulance with pandemic-relief funds. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Old Lyme ― The Old Lyme South End Volunteer Ambulance Association on Thursday officially put into service a new ambulance that leveraged federal pandemic relief dollars to bolster its commitment to an up-to-date fleet.

    Carlos Diaz, who has worked at the ambulance company for about four of his 14 years in the field, said the nonprofit organization is always trying to stay ahead of trends.

    “We are definitely – blessed is the term, I guess? – that they give us the equipment as best they can,” he said.

    That goes for the 2022 AEV Traumahawk Ford F-550 ambulance, which is now at home in the Cross Lane fire station thanks to the $275,000 American Rescue Plan grant.

    The funds were authorized by the Board of Selectmen two years ago at the recommendation of the town American Rescue Plan Committee. The committee had been tasked with allocating $2.1 million as part of a federal effort to help communities respond to and recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

    Equipment in the new ambulance includes a track to raise and lower the stretcher at the push of a button.

    Having access to the most modern equipment makes it easier for him to accomplish a life mission Diaz described as “helping people when they need it.” In addition to working part time in Old Lyme, he’s a full-time employee with Hartford HealthCare’s American Ambulance and a volunteer EMT in Westerly.

    He said some calls involve the relatively simple act of lifting an elderly person off the floor. Others require attending to the victims of serious accidents that can leave responders with their own trauma.

    “I’ve gone for pediatric cardiac arrests, I’ve gone for a 2 year old who shot himself in the hand,” he said. “You don’t think about it in the moment. You're just focused on doing what we’re trained for.”

    Association Chief of Service Dave Musto said the association has 12 part-time, paid positions and about 20 active volunteers currently.

    The paid staff covers shifts from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Musto said the association relies on volunteers the rest of the time with each active member assigned a different duty night.

    The town pays for the part-time employees as well as vehicle insurance and workman’s compensation insurance, according to Musto. The association pays for equipment and volunteer stipends with revenue from patient transports.

    Ambulance volunteers receive stipends of $50 per call on weekdays. On weekends, they get $50 per six-hour shift and $50 per call. The system has been in place for about a decade, he said.

    “Nobody wants to do it volunteer anymore,” Musto said. “So we had to do something to get people to come to calls.”

    He said the number of volunteers fluctuates, but cited an influx over the past month of people interested in joining the association. The 10 applicants included one 16 year old, some in their 20s and a few in their 30s.

    Musto described the infusion of youth as encouraging.

    “Everybody’s getting older,” he said. “Myself, I’ve been doing it for 38 years. Trying to shuffle a full-time job and a couple part-time jobs and doing this volunteer, it takes a toll.”

    There is $172,855 allocated in the current town operations budget for the paid staff and expenses. Musto said the association’s operating budget comes in at over $200,000.

    Tax documents for the most recent year available show the organization earned $356,764 and spent $341,228 in the 2022 fiscal year.

    Musto said the newest ambulance in the fleet of three replaces a roughly nine-year-old Braun ambulance. The group bought a new ambulance in 2022 and replaced the chassis on the third ambulance around 2020.

    A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the fire station Thursday evening.

    e.regan@theday.com

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