About a dozen county firefighters were honored yesterday morning by workers at the Hospice of the Chesapeake for their work with terminally ill patients.
Firefighters in their dress-blue uniforms accepted certificates from Betty Asplund, director of the Hospice Bereavement Center, who praised their compassion when dealing with hospice patients.
"They are giving comfort measures to our patients just like we give comfort measures to our patients," Ms. Asplund said. "It's a good marriage for us to work with the Fire Department."
Two firefighters received special awards for teaching the county's emergency response personnel how to treat patients who wish not to be resuscitated.
Chronically or terminally ill people can take part in a state program that gives them control of their treatment in an emergency.
A patient fills out a form from his primary doctor and wears an alert bracelet or keeps the form where a paramedic can see it.
When firefighters respond, they do what they can to make the patient feel comfortable, but they do not try to keep the patient alive.
"The official state program is the only thing prehospital care providers can accept as a valid 'do not resuscitate' order," said Michelle DeLalla, coordinator of the Fire Department's Emergency Medical Services training.
"We cannot accept living wills or notes."
Greg Grevera, coordinator for the hospice's after-hours nursing, said paramedics and other firefighters have gone beyond the call of duty to help hospice patients. He said he calls on them for help in the early morning when he can't lift patients who have fallen or gotten stuck in bathrooms.
"I used to hesitate calling them, because I thought they had better things to do, but now I'll call in a heartbeat," Mr. Grevera said.
"They've always been courteous, kind . . . and all the other Boy Scout things I can think of."