MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

July 18, 2013

Belt helps medics safely lift obese patients

County EMS has one in each ambulance

— Lifting obese patients can present risks not only to the patients but to those who are charged with their care.

Not only is back injury a concern for medical workers, no one likes to hurt a patient he or she is trying to help, said Jordan Stevens, a paramedic supervisor for Muskogee County Emergency Medical Service.

That’s why Stevens calls a new piece of equipment the best he’s seen in his 12 years as a paramedic.

The Vetter Belt looks like a piece of rock-climbing gear. But it’s actually a good way to lift patients weighing more than 400 pounds without hurting the patient or medical personnel, Stevens said.

An estimated 32 percent of adults in Muskogee County are considered obese, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. And that problem is on the rise.

“When you have a larger patient, it’s really difficult to help them up or lift them without hurting them,” Stevens said. “And lifting causes 70 percent of injuries to emergency medical technicians.

“So, this belt gives us something else to grab onto other than the patient — and the patients we’ve used it on so far are really happy with it.”

MCEMS was allowed to test one of the belts last spring.

“And two days after we received it, we had to use it on a woman who was so happy with it that she’s asked us to make sure and bring it back if we need to lift her again,” Stevens said. “She was amazed by it.”

It helped so much, Stevens said, that MCEMS added the belt to all 21 of its ambulances. The belts cost $300 each, he said.

Stevens says MCEMS can use the belt to:

• Lift a larger patient onto a stretcher.

• Help transport patients from the hospital to home or nursing homes.

• Assist an obese patient who has fallen out of bed and just needs help getting up.

The Vetter Belt was invented by Diane Vetter, a 16-year veteran firefighter and emergency medical technician, according to its website.

Reach Wendy Burton at (918) 684-2926 or wburton@muskogeephoenix.com.

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