With a little bit of luck and about $45,000, the McLean Volunteer Fire Department may be one of the first in Fairfax County equipped with two mobile medical intensive care units.
The prized intensive care units differ from traditional ambulances -- known in the trade as "basic life support" units -- by their sophisticated hardware and communication capabilities. Rescue workers on intensive care units are linked by radio to emergency room doctors who direct the highly trained workers in their life-saving work.
"Their job is to stabilize the patient," said McLean's Volunteer Fire Chief A.V. Connery. "Rather than jerk 'em up, throw 'em in the ambulance and rush 'em to the hospital, these workers spend a longer time on the scene discussing the patient's condition directly with the doctor."
Fairfax now has eight medical intensive care units to serve the 400-square-mile county, and fire officials say the length of time those workers spend on the scene and the vast geographical area they are required to serve makes it especially crucial to have some back-up units.
The intensive care approach apparently works -- Connery says that studies based on the number of "saves" made by various rescue squads show that critically injured people have a 40 percent better chance of survival when attended by the medical intensive care units than by traditional ambulances.
A $20,000 grant from the McLean Citizens Foundation has started the fire department on its way toward purchasing a second $65,000 unit.
But there is a catch.
The grant is in the form of a matching fund and only will come after the department has raised at least $20,000 on its own. Consequently, a great door-to-door fundraising pitch is already under way in McLean.
Fire officials say that in addition to the regular canvassing for funds, they are launching an effort to solicit money from the many corporations that recently have moved to the McLean-Tysons corner area.
"These businesses bring thousands of people into the area every day and all of them are protected by our medical intensive care unit," Connery says. "We think they ought to be willing to bear some of the cost of the new unit . . . and the business community is responding."