Special Delivery

CHP Comes Through When Life Hangs in the Balance

Carol Ritzinger was in a bind.

As the pharmacist in charge of the night shift at NorthBay Medical Center, she needed to get some medication to NorthBay VacaValley Hospital as soon as possible. It was truly a matter of life or death.

An 81-year-old patient had suffered a stroke and needed to be airlifted to another facility. But the helicopter would have to wait until a blood product could be administered to slow the bleeding in her brain.

The courier was already gone for the day, and the taxi service Carol usually used to transport medications after hours would take at least 45 minutes to arrive. The ambulance service was dealing with another emergency. Several employees offered to make the drive, but Carol knew that could put them in danger, rushing at breakneck speed to make the delivery.

She was desperate, but suddenly remembered a time when she was working in Marin County and the California Highway Patrol had stepped in to deliver life-saving medication. She took a chance and made the call. CHP Officers Rodney Fitzhugh and Terry Cook arrived at the hospital in four minutes. They had the medication delivered to VacaValley hospital in less than 10 minutes, and the patient was airlifted within the hour.

“It gets your adrenalin going,” admitted Carol, who said that since NorthBay Medical Center became a Trauma Center and a certified Stroke Center, she’s seen a rise in the need for urgent deliveries of blood products.

“Many of these patients are older and on blood-thinners for other medical issues. If they suffer an injury that causes bleeding, it’s difficult to get it to stop,” she said. “That’s why we turn to using the blood product. It works in minutes once infusion begins and is very effective. It can mean the difference between life and death.”

Since that date in 2014, Carol has twice called upon the CHP to make urgent deliveries, even though paramedic partners such as Medic Ambulance stand ready to assist when possible.

“Sometimes they’re busy dealing with other emergencies,” said Carol. “This is our Plan B, and it’s critical.”

The CHP sees it as an honor to lend a hand. “The CHP recognizes our unique ability to provide expeditious transportation of life-saving medications in critical situations,” said Sgt. Brandie Dressel of the CHP Golden Gate Division. “We are truly devoted to the protection of life and embrace the opportunity to provide this vital service and caring connection with our community in the moments that count most.”

Carol and her team are grateful for the part-nership, she said. “And so are our patients and their families.”

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