AUSTIN (KXAN) — Ambulances across Austin and Travis County have new technology to help them save lives.      

Ventilators were bought in 2020 as part of a one-time deal aimed at helping EMS providers during the pandemic. Nearly a year later, EMS commanders are getting their hands on these lifesaving ventilators.

“You’re more likely to injure a lung using the manual device. They are good, but the ventilator is safer option,” said Austin-Travis County EMS Commander Paul Mallon.

The manual devices make it difficult for EMS providers to provide services, especially in a stressful environment where patients are being transported to another location, according to Mallon.

“A lot of times, we see that we lost an airway when we do those big patient moves,” said Selena Xie, Austin EMS Association president.

According to Xie, taking someone out of a setting like a nursing home isn’t always easy.

There are now about a dozen of the ventilators in units across Travis County, many of them EMS command units. Austin-Travis County EMS said that makes sense, because commanders go to the highest priority calls, like cardiac arrests.

“I’m sure we will see lots of success stories,” said Xie. “When I worked on Christmas, I saw the ventilators being deployed already.”

Paul Mallon, Austin-Travis County EMS commander (KXAN/Kaitlyn Karmout)
Paul Mallon, Austin-Travis County EMS commander (KXAN/Kaitlyn Karmout)

Mallon said he used one two weeks ago on a middle-aged man suffering from a cardiac arrest.

“You can avoid intubating them in the first place, which helps the hospital,” said Mallon. “If we don’t have to intubate them, then they don’t need the ventilator. We can prevent it with something like this.”

Xie said Austin-Travis County EMS is ahead of many Central Texas agencies in getting these ventilators, but more pieces of equipment to do the job safely is never a bad idea.

“The association has consistently been wanting better forms of PPE to keep our providers safe, like hospital grade,” said Xie.

The one-time COVID-19 equipment deal in 2020 also included the purchase of medicine infusion pumps and butterfly ultrasound devices.

EMS got its hands on the ultrasound devices around Thanksgiving. There are about 60 devices inside each ambulance, and they’re used to diagnose trauma patients before getting to the hospital.

First responders can detect things like blood in the kidneys, bladder and cardiac heart injuries using the devices, which can help hospitals before the patients arrive at an emergency room.