New emergency equipment bought to aid overweight patients in Wisconsin

(AP) — The Janesville Fire Department has upgraded its technology and equipment to better help overweight patients and reduce the risk of injury to emergency responders.

Janesville ambulances are equipped with power-assisted stretchers that lower and lift, The Janesville Gazette reported. They can be attached to devices in ambulance beds that make helping patients into the vehicles less strenuous.

\"Personally, for me, within weeks after we got it, my back already started feeling better,\" said Tyler Maechtle, a firefighter and paramedic. \"This is a back saver for everyone. It takes a lot of the risk of injury out.\"

The stretchers can hold up to 700 pounds.

\"When I first got in 30 years ago, we thought 500 pounds was excessive for our cots,\" said Randy Banker, Janesville fire chief.

Fire department employees said they're responding more often to calls involving obese patients, but that their new equipment isn't always enough.

\"Believe it or not, they don't make homes with putting stretchers through them in mind, generally,\" Maechtle said.

Banker said that on rare occasions, helping an obese patient comes down to raw physical strength or unconventional methods. Banker said that at previous departments where he has worked, emergency responders had to tear out a home's wall to remove a patient too large to fit through the door. In another incident, firefighters had to create a pulley system to remove a patient from a basement.

\"Sometimes it takes some ingenuity and patience,\" Banker said.

Firefighter and paramedic Nick Kettle said it has already been determined that a wall will have to be removed if a 700-pound Beloit resident who lives at home should ever need aid.

\"If that person were to come out, it would be cutting out walls,\" Kettle said. \"The person won't fit through standard doorways or anything like that.\"

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