After the tragic events of Sept. 11, thousands of citizens responded by volunteering to help in any way they could.
To provide a framework for those volunteers, then president George W. Bush launched the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) in 2002. MRC units contribute their skill and expertise throughout the year as well as during times of community need.
Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital nurse Mary Cote volunteers her time with the McHenry County, Ill., MRC and recently became part of the newly formed Fire Rehab team.
This group of health professionals is a specially-trained team that responds when a larger fire occurs requiring multiple departments to respond to the situation. Their main role is to care for the well-being of the first responders who often dedicate themselves too much to rescuing lives and property and don’t focus enough on their own health.
“Our job really is to take care of those first responders. Not only do they wear 60 plus pounds of gear, but their body heat can rise to nearly 104 degrees,” Cote says. “Those types of extreme conditions with large fires are extremely dangerous to the firefighters.”
The McHenry County MRC is an important part of the county health department’s emergency preparedness and response strategy. MRC volunteers come from both medical and non-medical backgrounds and are pre-identified, trained and credentialed.
Since forming in April of 2013, the Fire Rehab team has already responded to a multiple alarm fire, occurring in Crystal Lake, Ill., in May.
“This fire was in a community with no fire hydrants and wood shingle roofs on a windy day. The conditions really couldn’t get much worse and the firefighters exerted themselves so much due to the need to carry the water themselves to the houses,” Cote says. “We work with the chief and incident command leader to identify when firefighters need to be pulled so they can rest and resume normal body temperatures and vitals. They must sit for at least 10 minutes to rest but ideally it would be 20 minutes. We can’t always get them to sit on the sidelines that long.”
Growing up, Cote wanted to be a paramedic and even considered being a medic in the military to get that critical care training. Instead she went to nursing school serving both as a cardiac nurse at Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill. and now in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU).
“I enjoy volunteering with the MRC and Fire Rehab team which allows me to give back to my community. The day of the Crystal Lake fire, we transported three firefighters to local hospitals and potentially saved their life,” Cote says. “I want to make sure those running into the fire make it home safe to their families later that night.”
This past spring, Mary was recognized by Good Shepherd Hospital as Nurse of the Year for Volunteerism.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.