KING COUNTY, Wash. — Doctors and nurses from Harborview Medical Center got a first-hand look at the work firefighters do every day. 

The group visited a South King Fire & Rescue station in Des Moines, to work with hoses and hydrants, climb a ladder truck, and practice using the jaws of life on a ruined car.

Dr. Tam Pham, director of the UW Medicine Regional Burn Center, worked to crack open a fire hydrant in full gear.

“I feel like it’s going to pop off, like a pressure cooker,” Pham said.

He said seeing their work gave him a new perspective on burn victims' experiences.

“We take care of one part, but these guys bring patients to us, so what does it take to get patients out of the car, what does it take to put a fire out, and what does it take to bring patients to us?” he said.

The visit was the brainchild of South King Fire & Rescue’s Mickey Randahl, a firefighter engineer with the department. She was treated in the Harborview burn center as a child following a car accident. She said meeting firefighters as part of her recovery inspired her to become one.

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She still volunteers at the hospital.

“Through that, I met a lot of the burn doctors, burn nurses, and they approached me about wanting a ride-along,” Randahl said. “Ride alongs are fun, but I thought I could do something a little better.”

She wants to help open the lines of communication between medical staff and first responders in hopes that better mutual understanding will translate to a better working relationship, and better patient care.

“I want it to be a great learning opportunity for them, let them see what our gear feels like, why they’re seeing different burn patterns from our gear, and what kind of causes that,” said Randahl. 

Dr. Pham said it was enlightening to see the work that happens before patients reach the hospital doors.

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“It makes me appreciate the whole part that I do, as part of a bigger picture of the chain of survival,” said Dr. Pham. “Makes you humble and appreciative.”