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Emergency Medical Services Work As The Backbone Of THON

With THON less than a week away, families, dancers, committees, and Penn State Emergency Medical Services are preparing for the big weekend. Generally when we think of THON we first think of all the dancers on their feet for 46 hours, but behind the scenes, EMS works to ensure all dancers stay healthy and able to complete the marathon.

The EMTs that work with EMS attend events around campus to support anyone who may need medical assistance, but for THON, having an emergency medical staff available is especially crucial. Thousands of people crowd into the BJC, and dancers face fatigue, hunger, and potentially dehydration. The staff at EMS prepares for weeks before THON weekend, filling out paperwork, getting equipment ready, and gathering Gatorade, crackers, and other supplies.

Throughout THON, EMS has between 12 and 14 staff members on call in the BJC, depending on how many patients there are. It accommodates for patients by adding or subtracting EMS staff. Supervisors like Tiffany Spiroff-Walstrom have the tough task of organizing these logistics during THON to make sure everything runs smoothly. Part of the job of supervising, Spiroff-Waltrom mentioned, is making sure people are stationed throughout the BJC in case they are needed. Each EMT has a radio communication device, so she can contact them if they are needed elsewhere.

Each EMT on average spends 8-9 hours at a time on shift, sometimes coming back for another shift later on. Alex Lieberman, President of the Emergency Medical Services Association, says he will have one shift Friday evening and another the following night. “THON is a great event for our service,” Lieberman said. “We get the unique opportunity to work closely with many students behind the scenes who are so dedicated to this cause and making this event a great experience for everyone.”

The EMTs enjoy helping the dancers stay on their feet, and help the attendees stay healthy and have a fun time. Another EMT, Samar Almarzooqi, said her favorite part about working THON “is being part of a group that is responsible for the well-being of both the dancers and spectators.” She added, “We work hard all weekend and it’s worth it if the dancers make it to the end of the 46-hour mark on their feet.” Clearly these hard-working EMTs care passionately about THON and the well-being of all the people present.

But EMS doesn’t just help by offering medical support. The group supports THON with EMSA, through which they have a Four Diamonds Family. The group doesn’t have dancers this year, but EMSA members have danced in previous years.

These staff members work hard every year for THON to ensure the health of each individual there, but for those helping such a cause certainly pays off. “For my co-workers and I, being a small part of this amazing team and keeping students and spectators safe is something we are really proud of,” Lieberman said. EMS provides necessary assistance that not only keeps the dancers safe and healthy, but keeps everyone else who attends THON on their feet. It’s thanks to organizations like EMS that THON is a safe success.

About the Author

Erin Servey

Erin Servey writes and copy-edits for Onward State. She's a Junior Schreyer Honors Scholar and Paterno Fellow at Penn State, studying English and psychology, with a French minor. Editing, poetry, and photography are her passions. Send questions and comments via e-mail ([email protected]) and follow her on Twitter (@ErinEServey).

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