The science behind my life

Haiti’s first ever EMT’s (Emergency Medical Technician’s)

Hello, my name is Jonathon Franz and I am a student in Amber Caracol’s Survey of Biology class at North Seattle Community College. I am attending Amber’s class in order to apply to a Master’s program at the University of Washington in 2013. The program is termed the “Medex Northwest” program and it is a Physician Assistant’s program.

A little background about me: My heritage is mostly German with 1/8 Chinese descent and 1/8 Hawaiian descent, both from my Mother’s Father’s side. My mother was raised in Hawaii as a child and to this day still has a lot of family in Hawaii. My grandfather died from a brain tumor when my mom was a teenager. Shortly after his death, my Nana (grandmother) thought it necessary to move to California where she continued to raise my mom and her 3 younger siblings as a single-widowed mother. Although I have many cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, 2nd nieces, etc. in Hawaii, we only see them every few years when we go to visit. For the most part, my family resides on the windward side of Oahu near a place recognized as “Chinaman’s Hat.” We also have family members on Maui. In fact, my uncle Dougie owns a store called “Halfway to Hana” It is a common tourist stop (for shaved ice) on the winding Hana highway, near the town of Wailua.

I am a Firefighter/ Paramedic with Central Pierce Fire & Rescue in Tacoma WA. I have been working as a Firefighter/ Paramedic since 2008. The area CPF&R serves is also a very diverse area. We proudly serve the areas of South Tacoma, Parkland, Spanaway, Waller, Midland, Fredrickson, Puyallup, North Puyallup and South Hill. We provide Fire and Emergency Medical Service to nearly 200,000 people in 84 square miles. The diversity ranges from a mostly elderly white population in the city of Puyallup to a much more ethnically diverse population along the Pacific Ave. corridor in Parkland/ Spanaway. South Hill is historically an area of higher household incomes, while the South Tacoma/ Parkland/ Spanaway are historically lower. We have two colleges, one of which is a University in our area (Pacific Lutheran University), which has its roots as a Norwegian University and also prides itself in diversity and student travels. We also have a handful of Buddhist temples along our northern border in the areas of Midland and Waller. Finally, we have Fredrickson, which is an Industrial area with a diverse workforce powering the Boeing, Ikea, Whirlpool and Puget Sound Energy plants as well as many others.

As a Firefighter/ Paramedic, I observe science on a daily basis. As a paramedic I am constantly monitoring blood pressures, heart rates, respiratory rates, end-tidal carbon dioxide in exhaled air, partial pressure of oxygen attached to the hemoglobin of blood, blood glucose levels, partial pressure of carbon monoxide attached to hemoglobin, temperature of the temporal and carotid arteries, electrophysiology of heart rhythms. I am constantly observing anatomical/ physiological changes in my trauma patients, always considering the mechanism of the injury, solving the puzzle in my unconscious patients, having their symptoms tell me what happened to them. I apply chemistry when I give medications, I consider how will my medication interact with their currently prescribed medications, how it will help and how will it hinder, what I can do to potentiate its efficacy, giving the proper dose in the proper manner whether it’s through an IV line or given orally.

As a firefighter I am constantly applying physics and mechanics. How will I get 2000 gallons of water up 4 stories to hit the seat of a fire? What size hose will I need battle the British thermal unit’s that this fire is generating? If this fire consists of polar solvents or hydrocarbons, what percentage of foam do I want to mix with the water to be able to put it out? Should I hit the seat of the fire with a straight stream or should I apply a fog for increased surface area thus increasing heat absorption? If I ventilate the roof of a burning structure to let the byproducts of combustion out, where will the fire move and do we have a company in place to battle that flame movement? If I have an unconscious victim that weighs 300lbs on the 4th floor, what is the maximum load of our ladder tip fully extended? And how many 200-250lb firefighters are we going to need to safely secure this 300lb patient on the ladder? As you can see, science is a constant activity around the fire station!

In September 2011, I had the opportunity to travel to Haiti, with a team called EMPACT Northwest, to teach the first ever Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) class in the country.

Haiti is a Caribbean country; it shares an island with the Dominican Republic. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Most Haitians were born there and will never leave the island. If you have heard of Haiti it is probably because they suffered a tragic earthquake in 2010, killing approximately 300,000 people, injuring 300,000 people and leaving another 1 million people homeless. While I was there, I got see first hand how science and diversity can go hand in hand. Although most of the Haitians are of native descent with some mixing of French, as it was once a French colony, most of the people I worked along side with at Bernard-Mevs Medishare Hospital were foreign.

Bernard-Mevs is a volunteer run, American hospital; it simply cannot function without volunteers. Most of the volunteers are nurses and doctors from around the world who, through the goodness of their heart, volunteer for 1-2 weeks. I was only in the hospital for two 12-hour night shifts in between teaching classes, but I can say that it was incredible how selfless the volunteers were that were working there. None of the medical supplies were up to “American standards” but the staff made it work and at the end of the day it is much better than nothing, for the patients. There are other hospitals in Port-au-Prince but Bernard-Mevs Medishare is known for it’s high level of care, and that westerners rather than Haitian’s mainly run it. Although many Haitian’s are well trained in the western medicine, there are still many “doctors” in Haiti who, to this day, often practice voodoo. Bernard-Mevs Medishare does have a core Haitian staff as well, mainly nurses but a few doctors as well. This helps that there isn’t a 100% turnover of staff every week or two. Many of the Haitians I came in contact with had rarely ever seen a white person, and now thanks to Medishare, white doctors, black doctors, Indian doctors, European nurses, Californian medical students and even Firefighter/ Paramedics from Tacoma were helping treat them. If there is anything I can say from my observations of diversity and science, it is that they have a direct relationship. That is, as diversity grows, so does science and if diversity were to decay, science would follow.


2 thoughts on “The science behind my life

  1. […] traveling in Asia in the Navy and his experiences living on the diverse ship, the USS Kitty Hawk,  the science behind the life of Jonathon Franz, who works as a firefighter and paramedic in Tacoma and traveled to Haiti in 2011, and Rebecca […]

  2. Claudy Pierre says:

    My name is Claudy Pierre
    i work as night manager at Hospital Bernard Mevs Project Medishare and i’m one of the EMT’s. It was really sad for me the day of my graduation because after the earthquake i saw so many injured people on the ground and i didn’t know what to do for them because i didn’t know nothing about Medical,I saw all kind of cases this January 12th 2010,some of them was calling for help i could only watch them without doing anything.
    Now as an EMT i’m doing my best to help my people and i’m still learning a lot from these american volunteers who come every week at the hospital.
    A special Thanks to all of you who support us in everything,we still need your help in here.

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