A recent grant should help keep first responders' backs in whack.
The Callaway County Ambulance District recently received a $4,997 grant from Missouri Employers Mutual to purchase Mangar Camel lifting chairs.
"They inflate using a battery-powered air compressor," director of the ambulance district Charles Anderson said. "It raises the person — let's say they were on the floor, it'll raise them up to a position where they're on a sitting position."
From there, the person can be helped onto a stretcher, if necessary, or just back into bed or a chair. Emergency Medical Services are sometimes called out for what's called a "lift assist" — helping someone who's fallen and can't get up.
"That probably happens two or three times a week," Anderson said.
Usually, a crew of two responds to such calls. The crew can usually handle helping smaller people, but it can be hard to lift a larger person from the floor without risking injury to the first responder.
"These chairs cut down on the amount of lifting that's necessary to get people off the floor, especially if you don't have adequate help to do it — if you just have a couple of people and a larger individual," Anderson said.
Statistics from the CDC show about 8,000 EMS workers in 2016 sought medical help for injuries caused by overexertion. Of that number, 40 percent specifically pointed to lifting someone as the cause of the injury. Anderson also pointed to statistics showing nearly half of all EMS providers have sustained a back injury while on duty.
"Back pain is the most frequent and expensive injury reported by the profession," he said. "This new equipment will assist us in reducing back injuries when picking someone up from the floor or ground."
The grant will cover half the cost of five lift chairs, with the ambulance district covering the rest of the cost, plus two more devices. Every ambulance in the fleet will be stocked with a lifting chair, Anderson said. While space is at a premium in ambulances, he said, a committee looked into the issue before applying for the grant and found a spot to store the chairs.