EMS World

SEP 2018

EMS World Magazine is the most authoritative source in the world for clinical and educational material designed to improve the delivery of prehospital emergency medical care.

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PROFILES IN EMS 34 SEPTEMBER 2018 | EMSWORLD.com I n the fast-paced realm of EMS, a close- knit crew is invaluable. Deft communica- tion through a word, even a glance, saves precious time and can mean all the difference for a patient in need. While the relationships of most teams are cemented through lengthy shifts and shared on-the- job experiences, paramedic Cody Kunkel and EMT Brady Kunkel of Dodge Center, Minn., have a deeper well to draw from. They spent nearly two decades under the same roof as brothers. "Growing up together and living in close quarters, you learn how to communicate early on or the ship doesn't float ver y well," says Cody, 23, a volunteer at Dodge Center Ambulance. "Communication is a huge strength for us because if, God for- bid, we ever do have to get in the back of the rig with a critical patient, we can give each other a look or say a handful of words, and we instantly know ever y thing the other person is thinking." The two also have another bond shared by only about 20,000 other people in the United States: hemophilia. The brothers were diagnosed with severe hemophilia A before birth; an older brother, Jeff, was discovered to have the hereditar y bleed- ing disorder as a baby. "It's a disorder that prevents the blood f r o m clot ti n g n o r m ally. Pe o p le w i th hemophilia are missing a specific protein in the clotting cascade. For us that specif- ic protein is clotting factor VIII," explains Brady, 21, a full-time EMT at Dodge Center Ambulance. "Our bodies just never had the genetics to make the protein." Childhood Medical Education For the Kunkel brothers a childhood with hemophilia meant dozens of hospitaliza- tions for internal bleeds or a ssociated injuries at the Mayo Clinic in nearby Roch- ester. Most stays lasted just a few days, but more significant events, like a tear in the iliopsoas muscle, could take weeks to treat. When he was in middle school, Brady started hanging on to his old hos- pital bands. He's collected about 20 since then and displays them in his office. "When you're stuck in a hospital bed as a child, at a ver y young age you're sur- rounded by all of these Latin and Greek medical terms—hemophilia, hematoma— and you don't really understand them," Brady recalls. "And you have t wo pos- sible responses: You just want to get the hell out of there and go back to watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, or you want to know what they're talking about. I was the latter." During extended stays Cody remem- bers visits to the Mayo One helicopter, where he got to meet the medical trans- port team and tour the craft. For the most part, the repeated hospitalizations didn't bother him, since it had been his whole life. But having to stay away from high- contact sports like football, hockey, and lacrosse frustrated both brothers. While Cody and Brady may have felt hindered in their choice of extracurricular activities, they weren't coddled when it came to their condition. At just 5 years old, the boys took on the responsibilit y of self-administering injections of factor replacement therapy at home. They still routinely inject their factor product (usu- ally right before a work shift), which sig- nificantly bumps up their clotting ability in the hours after ward. Injuries still pose a risk, however, of taking longer to clot and to heal, requiring more intensive treat- By Jolynn Tumolo BLOOD BROTHERS A rare bleeding disorder isn't enough to keep EMS professionals Cody and Brady Kunkel on the sidelines Brady (left) and Cody Kunkel. Photo courtesy CSL Behring

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