It's no secret, Americans are getting bigger. But did you know those added pounds are added pressure on first responders? They are now turning to new equipment to keep themselves and those they serve safe.
Mid-Michigan paramedics now routinely treat and transport patients over 400 pounds. As recently as two decades ago, emergency crews rarely saw anyone overweight or obese.
"Our culture is overweight, no question about it we are seeing heavier patients," Rodney Palmer, with Lansing's Mercy Ambulance said.
Palmer says that's why first responders are making adjustments in planning and equipment.
"A lot of times you have to send extra help," he explained. "Or you call on extra help from the hospital staff."
Standard stretchers that have been used for more than 50 years, designed to hold patients up to 350 pounds, no longer make sense given our increasingly large demographics.
Current equipment, like the Lansing Fire Department’s new specialty stretcher, is bigger, sturdier and more advanced.
"We no longer have to put four people on each corner," Eric Weber with the Lansing Fire Department said. "By pushing a button the cot will automatically lift for us."
The department and Sparrow Hospital own the only one like it in the area and it is in high demand. Weber says the $11,000 mechanically operated gurney caters to all kinds of needs. It can help those in wheelchairs, the bed-ridden and patients weighing up to 1,000 pounds.
'Without this equipment we were using more manpower, using up to eight people to move and transport these people," Weber explained. "Patients were having to ride in uncomfortable stretchers." And firefighters were risking back and knee injuries lifting those patients from the ground.
The department says its new tool will help everyone stay safe, patients and providers. It was purchased through donations to the department’s EMS fund.