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STARS program helps paramedics and vulnerable patients

The STARS program helps coordinate and coach first responders and patients with special needs.

ST. LOUIS — The sound of a siren is sometimes the soundtrack of a neighborhood.

Engine House 10 in the Ville Neighborhood is one of the busiest companies in the country.

"In a 12-hour shift we'll run anywhere between low end nine, high 19 runs," explains Matt Zoia of the St. Louis Fire Dept.

From breathing problems to drug overdoses to gunshots, these paramedics respond every time someone calls 911. But the most stressful calls are the ones involving children.

"A medic much wiser than I once said that calls a pediatric, there's two patients," Zoia said. "The first patient is obviously the child and the second patient is the parents."

And it becomes even more taxing when the emergency involves a child with special needs, like little Carly Jackson.

"She's been in and out of the hospital since she was born," Briana Jones said of her daughter Carly.

Carly was born premature and needs a machine to help her breathe. If she had an emergency, even well-trained paramedics may not be familiar with her complex medical needs.

That's where Tricia Casey comes in.  

Casey is the program coordinator of STARS at Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital. STARS stands for Special Needs Tracking & Awareness Response System.

"What we do is we create unique emergency care plans for children who have complex medical needs, "explains Casey.

Casey and her team coordinate and coach ambulance districts, fire districts and community hospitals to get to know the special needs of patients inside their coverage area and to give them specialized training.

"We are spread throughout Missouri and Illinois. Right now in our electronic system, we have around 700 children, "Casey said.

And for Casey, who started the program, this mission is personal. Her daughter has special needs.

"When I would think about her and how unique she was, it would scare me to know that she could have an emergency when I wasn't there," she told us.

"Stars has helped us be more prepared for a situation like that," said the Fire Department's Audrey Barton.

For a child like Carly, every second counts and that's why Tricia hopes to one day take the STARS program nationwide.

"Our motto, our hashtag is one kid counts. So that's something we've always said in our team is that if you put all this work into just saving one kid, that would be worth it," Casey said.

Tricia Casey and the STARS Program.  Helping both patients and paramedics breathe a little easier.

For more info, click here.

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