Americans are getting so heavy, and so ill, that our ambulances are no longer big enough to carry the patients who need them.
Though America is showing some gains in its war on obesity—we're at least no longer the fattest country in the world—the country still has a long way to go until it's where it should be. Take, for instance, our new ambulance problem: Cities around the country are now having to rapidly expand ambulances in order to keep up with the corpulence of the patients riding in them.
Boston was one of the first to retrofit their ambulances to accommodate more obese passengers—a $12,000 process—and now Fort Worth, Texas, is following suit, at the cost of $7,000 per vehicle. Fort Worth is also getting stretchers built to support 650 pounds, as the old ones, with their 500-pound limits, were occasionally proving inadequate. Boston's stretchers cost $8,000 a piece and can withstand 850 pounds.
"With a 300-pound patient, it’s not too bad, or even 400 pounds," Jose A. Archila, a Boston EMS captain told the Boston Globe in January. "But to be honest with you, with a 500-, 600-, 700-pound patient — it’s just too much for you."
But new equipment can only go so far. One problem more and more emergency personnel are running into is having to lift morbidly obese people. One paramedic in Worcester, Massachusetts, displaced two vertebrae while carrying a 400-pound woman, forcing him to miss a month of work.