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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


October 6, 2001 - Issue 46


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 Teens Form Lifesaving Squad with Life-Changing Effects


 by Danielle Wolffe The Tundra Drums- October 2, 2001

Aniak, AK -- Last month three teenage girls hopped out of their fire truck and extinguished a blazing smokehouse fire before any adult volunteers arrived on the scene.

The experience was fun, but not exceptional. The girls are members of the Dragon Slayers, a team of 13- to 20-year-old female firefighters and paramedics who function as part of the Aniak Volunteer Fire Department.

Through practice, each girl learns what it feels like to hold someone's life in her hands.

"When they come up to you and hug you, and say thank you, it's the best feeling you'll ever have," said Mariah Brown, 16, a petite girl with red-tinted bobbed hair and an ever-present rebellious expression.

The Dragon Slayers were started in 1993, largely because the department needed staff for daytime calls, according to Pete Brown, fire chief and police chief. The first were mainly children of parents who were already firefighters and wanted to join. The majority at first were boys, Pete Brown said.

The Dragon Slayers comprise half the team and are still depended upon to handle daytime calls. All teenagers who are passing their courses and have completed Emergency Trauma Training, the American Red Cross advanced first aid course, and Basic Life Support, the American Heart Association's CPR training, are eligible to become Dragon Slayers.

The young women carry beepers to their high school classes and when calls come in, teachers let them leave without hesitation.

Most acknowledge the adrenaline rush is one of the benefits of volunteering. It also helps to cushion them and keep them alert while they are working on patients, said 17-year-old Patricia Yaska.

Last winter, a man drove into an open hole in the ice on his four-wheeler. The Dragon Slayers who responded knew they had to strip off his clothes and warm him with hot water bottles and blankets. They also knew something more important to the patient's recovery.

"We have to treat hypothermia victims with the greatest care," Yaska said. "If we are aggressive we can make it complicated. We can make them go into ventricular fibrillation."

"It's like a really, really fast, unproductive heartbeat," said Mariah Brown.

Their location in rural Alaska has allowed them to perform operations many other paramedics may never see in their lifetime, said Pete Brown. On a windy night last month there was an accident in Kalskag that the helicopters would not be able to get to until morning.

Brown and two Dragon Slayers, Yaska and April Kameroff, 20, navigated the foggy Kuskokwim River by boat. Three and a half hours later they found the patients, alive but in critical condition. One man had a fractured skull and punctured lungs.

"It was the most interesting call I've ever been on," Kameroff said. "We were out for 17 hours. We didn't even have any food. Patti and I shared one plum."

The team worked through the night and the men recovered.

Kameroff is taking medical courses online and hopes to be a doctor someday. This winter she will travel to Anchorage for certification as a phlebotomy technician. She may stay in Aniak to work, or she may travel elsewhere.

"These kids are overachievers," Pete Brown said. "We'd love to keep them, but most of them don't stick around the village after they graduate."

   Maps by Travel

EMS Contacts-Alaska

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107.  

Canku Ota is a copyright © 2000, 2001 of Vicki Lockard and Paul Barry.


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