By Jennifer Wadsworth, Bishop-Wisecarver Corporation
America’s ever-burgeoning obesity rate creates new challenges for the nation’s entire healthcare system, especially for emergency responders. Paramedics at the front lines have to physically lift overweight patients from ground to gurney then into a vehicle, risking physical injury and delaying emergency response time often up to several hours. To address the population’s steady collective weight gain, mitigation technologies for ambulances, gurneys, hospital beds and other healthcare equipment have surfaced over the years, including pneumatic lifts and linear slides. One specific motion control device playing a part in easing the pressure on EMS workers is the UtiliTrak® Compact Linear Guide using DualVee® Guide Wheels.
The motivation behind the UtiliTrak was Ray Crawford, mechanic-turned-inventor. A few years ago, Crawford’s co-worker slipped and fell from a rain-slicked big rig, sustaining serious enough injuries to merit an emergency hospital visit. But, the man weighed upwards of 500 pounds, making it difficult to hoist him into the ambulance. A rescue that normally takes minutes to handle turned into an hour-long ordeal. Inspired by the troubling events, Crawford created a patient handling system using a steel version of UtiliTrak after hearing about his colleague’s ordeal.
Crawford imagined a solution that was eventually built with help from the engineers he recruited. It took shape in the form of a heavy-duty steel lift actuated by retractable linear guides. He found no other rail that could withstand as much weight — up to 1,900 lb. With two vee-edge guide wheel-based systems working in parallel, the slide moves a gurney into the back of an ambulance without paramedics so much as lifting a finger once the unit is fastened into place.
The steel guide lent itself well to the heavy-duty nature of the application because of the alloy and stalwart engineering. Another feature that stood out is its resilience against liquid, such as blood and other biohazards common in emergency situations easily wipe off the rail’s smooth surface.