Voices From the Front Lines: Dennis Ganc, Lehigh Valley Health Network EMS
BY KIRSTIN REED
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives, none more so than those working on the front lines of this crisis – our health care heroes. Voices From the Front Lines is a series of interviews with Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) health care providers who are working to care for patients who are ill with COVID-19, as well as those who are dedicated to helping prevent the spread of this virus.
Dennis Ganc has been an emergency medical technician for 20 years, serving Luzerne, Schuylkill and Carbon counties. He is the general manager at Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) Emergency Medical Services (EMS). LVHN EMS had been American Patient Transport Systems Ambulance until it was acquired by LVHN in July 2018.
What is every day like during the COVID-19 crisis?
It’s been a unique experience to say the least. I’ve never had to deal with anything like this in my 20 years as an emergency medical technician (EMT). Every day, I make sure we have proper personal protective equipment (PPE) so that our team is safe while they are out taking care of people. I want them to feel safe while they are doing their jobs. We are doing our best to keep a positive outlook by staying educated and informed. The COVID-19 crisis has shown just how resilient our team is.
How has this experience changed you, professionally or personally?
When people call us, they need help. They typically aren’t having a good day. As first responders, we always say, “You don’t schedule heart attacks and strokes.” So, we’re trying to operate business as usual because people still need our help. But our awareness is heightened because we’re dealing with a little bit of the unknown and the invisible.
Professionally, I’ve become a better listener. I take more time to speak with my colleagues to see how they’re holding up. Change is tough, wearing masks around the clock is tough, and I’m always here with my door open so I can check in with my team while socially distancing.
We’ve got a great group of people here who are doing a great job keeping morale high.
Personally, this has been an eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize how much I appreciated my routine pre-COVID-19. I’m used to seeing my family and friends all the time. Having to stop those visits, when I was used to seeing them so much, that’s tough. My wife and I both work for LVHN in Hazleton, so we have changed the way we do things at home. We’re cleaning more than usual, and we’re learning to protect ourselves while we live in this new normal. We are helping more than we did in the past and stepping up to help in different ways. We’re taking care of our extended family and neighbors as much as we can from afar.
What’s inspired you? What is a defining moment during this?
The LVHN EMS team watches out for one another. From day one, we’ve been a team, and it’s been inspiring to see the resiliency of this team. We’re all here for one another, and the team continues to rise to the call. That makes me really proud to lead this team.
What have you learned about yourself or your team?
Our team constantly decontaminates ambulances and other vehicles after every patient interaction, just like Lehigh Valley Physician Group (LVPG) practices and each of our hospitals. We clean after every single patient.
If we transport a patient with COVID-19, we have a partnership with the local fire department to decontaminate the entire ambulance inside and out. We are taking every measure here to ensure the vehicle and all the equipment is safe.
What are your rituals to keep you and your family safe?
Since my wife and I both work for LVHN, we’ve taken extra precautions to keep our family safe. We’ve got an area on our enclosed front porch where we leave our shoes and our belongings. We spray everything with disinfectant and wash our clothes every single day. We do everything possible to not bring the virus into our home.
What words of advice or encouragement do you have for health care employees or the community?
Stay the course. We’re doing what we need to do to protect ourselves, and it is working. Continue to be vigilant of when you’re out in public even though we’re starting to open up again. This virus is something that’s going to be here, and we need to learn to live with it. I think we’ll be fine.
We don’t want to be fearful, but we want to be mindful. Practicing good personal hygiene in your home and in your workplace, wearing a mask and using your best judgment when you leave your home are so important. If we stay positive and help each other, we will get through this, and we will be better for it.
Are there any other thoughts you would like to share about this experience or about the resilience of patients?
To our community, we’re here to help you. Don’t be afraid to get in the ambulance, go to your doctor’s office or go to the hospitals. You still have to take care of yourself.
If you need us, call us. If you need to be seen by a doctor, go. We’re doing everything we can possibly do to make sure your experience is safe and you are safe.
We’re going to do everything we can to keep the virus at bay, and we’re doing it. The proof is in the numbers.
For more Voices From the Front Lines, please visit LVHN.org/COVIDSTRONG.