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Mt. Pleasant council honors medic for persistent effort to find injured woman

Mike Oplinger, Medic 10 station manager in Mt. Pleasant, stands by the service’s ALS squad vehicle. The unit was recently certified by the state Department of Health. It responds to paramedic calls when the Medic 930 unit at Frick Hospital is not in service.

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Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 12:51 a.m.

Mt. Pleasant officials honored Medic 10 station manager Mike Oplinger for his actions after a vehicle accident during the early morning hours of Aug. 30. But Oplinger doesn't understand the big deal.

“I don't think I needed it (the citation from the borough),” Oplinger said. “ I was just doing my job.”

Mayor Gerald Lucia and council members thought otherwise. On Sept. 3, before the meeting, they presented Oplinger with a citation for his actions that day.

On that foggy August morning, Oplinger refused to quit the search.

“The call came in at 5:38 (a.m.),” he said. “I wasn't scheduled until 7 a.m., but it came in as vehicle accident, possible entrapment, vehicle overturned. So I figured I'd come out and assist my guys. We all arrived on the scene — the ambulance service, me, the fire department. We couldn't find the patient. No one around it (the vehicle).

“So, we were up there, looking around the scene, down in the woods, just to make sure she wasn't lying anywhere. And then a passerby, a bystander, stopped and said they (had) just seen a young female walking down (Route) 819 by the Turnpike bridge, all bloody.

“At that time, we all took off, went down to that area, searched all around. (We) couldn't find anything. (We) probably searched for a good half hour to 40 minutes. At that time, we decided to give up. Went back to the scene for a couple of minutes, then everyone cleared up, and the police and tow trucks got there. For the amount of damage that was on the vehicle, and somebody seeing her all bloody, put big red flags up to me.

“I don't like to give up on people like that 'cause they could be lying in a field. So (after) everyone cleared up, I continued to look around doing my own search down around in that area. And I happened to go down one road, and I looked to my left, down Turnpike Road, and I saw her walking. I pulled up beside her. She kind of just gave me a ‘deer in the headlights' look.

“And I said, ‘Are you OK, ma'am?' And she said, ‘Yeah , I'm just going for a walk.' “And I said, ‘Why are your knees all bloody?' And she said ‘I don't know.'

“And she said, ‘I don't know where I am.' She was all confused and didn't know what was going on. I said, ‘I'm going to pull over here in my car and help you out.' She said ‘OK.'

“So I pulled over, started asking her questions, and she didn't remember anything. (She was) very confused and disoriented and didn't know where she was. At that time, I called for my ambulance to come back to the scene to evaluate her and take her.

“We examined her in the truck (ambulance). She kept trying to get up saying ‘I just want to go for a walk.' I said ‘No, you need to be examined.'

“She was pretty bruised up. So we got her in the back of the ambulance, did our thing, called Frick (Hospital), talked to the ER (emergency room) doctor up there.

“(We) couldn't get any helicopters into the air because it was so foggy that morning. My ambulance crew decided to take her to AGH (Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh).”

The accident victim has since been released from the hospital and is back home.

Medic 10 has added two vehicles to its roster — a 1998 Ford ambulance and a 2001 ALS (advanced life support) squad vehicle.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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