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Wednesday, September 28, 2022
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Texas Medical Students Deployed to Treat Firefighters


Executive Vice President of Health Systems Jessica Rangel with her students from UNT help treat firefighters | Image by NBC DFW

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As wildfire season rages across parts of Texas, students from the University of North Texas (UNT) Health Science Center in Fort Worth put their training to the test by helping to treat firefighters currently engaged in containing a dangerous wildfire.

A team of medical students traveled to Palo Pinto County last week to provide emergency and primary care services for the crews fighting the 1148 Fire near Possum Kingdom Lake, which has claimed more than 500 acres of land so far.

Palo Pinto County is located approximately 60 miles west of Fort Worth.

The students were able to provide medical services for minor injuries like cuts, scrapes, sprains, and some burns. Additionally, they supported firefighters by facilitating preventive hydration therapy involving the measured intake of electrolyte-heavy fluids.

“Heat exhaustion can be the most likely thing that would come across. So we treat that with fluids, Gatorade, Powerade, electrolytes, even pickle juice,” said second-year UNT medical student Jesus Tamayo, speaking with NBC 5.

The goal is to lower the core body temperature, which sometimes may require intravenous therapy. By monitoring the health of firefighters as they work in shifts, the medical students can prevent heat stroke, a potentially fatal condition if not treated immediately.

“If you’re feeling fatigued in this heat and you’re thinking, well, I’ve had enough fluids. I shouldn’t be feeling this way. Listen to your body,” stated Jessica Rangel, executive vice president of Health Systems, speaking with NBC 5.

Students and faculty assisting firefighters generally stay inside base camps and staff cooling tents that serve as field clinics. However, they do not stay overnight, instead returning to Fort Worth at nightfall.

“It’s really an honor and a privilege to go out there and provide aid in whatever way I can,” stated Tamayo, according to NBC 5.   

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