It’s no secret that hospitals nationwide are experiencing an influx of patients, given the scope of the global pandemic.

With this knowledge, a few Sandoval County Fire & Rescue personnel are at the forefront of a community medicine program that could help alleviate patient numbers at emergency rooms in the future.

Lt. Shannon Farrell, one of the first 12 first responders for SCFR, is spearheading this unique program with the aid of her husband David and Fire Battalion Chief Chris Bagley.

“We are at the infant stages of this program now,” Farrell said while en route to administer several in-home COVID-19 vaccine boosters. “Our goal is to go out in the community and help alleviate unnecessary hospital visits if needed.”

The goal of this program, she said, is to do in-home checkups on patients who just underwent surgery, offer COVID boosters or do an in home COVID test, etc., which in the end will help alleviate the number of people going into emergency rooms.

“As you well know, emergency rooms are overwhelmed with the number of patients that come in every day,” Farrell said. “With this program we can help lessen the stress these health-care workers are currently facing.”

Above, from left, Sandoval County volunteer firefighter David Farrell, rural resident Henry Adams and paid firefighter Shannon Farrell chat at Adams’ rural home while waiting for the 15-minute observation time to pass after Adam’s COVID vaccine. Sandoval County Fire & Rescue Department has started a community medicine program in which responders visit people in their homes, hoping to alleviate overcrowding in emergency rooms. Left, Adams’ donkeys relax in their pen at his house in Placitas. (Stephen Montoya/Sandoval County)

For example, Farrell and her husband dedicated an entire day to visiting homebound residents who requested a COVID booster in various areas of Sandoval County.

“This is the type of work the hospitals don’t have the time or manpower to take on,” she said. “So we are going out into the community to help where we can.”

After several turns on a dirt road with no signs in Placitas, Farrell and her husband pull up to a small shack surrounded by trees and a few penned-in donkeys.

As they prepare their equipment, an older man appears from behind the door of a shack, placing chairs for his unexpected guests in a circle in front of his abode.

“Hi,” he says with a welcoming tone.

The man is Henry Adams, and he has been living in Placitas for several years in an 8-by-8 house with running water and a wood stove.

“I have a coal stove that I burn wood out of, and I usually don’t get up until the sun has warmed up my side of this structure because it’s cold in the mornings here,” he said while raising his right sleeve to prepare for the COVID booster.

Farrell cleans the area where she will gives Adams the shot and asks about his living situation.

“I am originally from Pennsylvania,” he says. “I was an architect that specialized in making models and puzzles. I have a few of my designs on display at the Modern Art Museum in New York.”

The Farrells listen as they assess Adams for 15 minutes after the shot to ensure he doesn’t have any negative reaction.

After 15 minutes, the Farrells say their good-byes and prepare to head back to their vehicle.

“If he hadn’t asked for us to come out and administer a booster, we would’ve never known this man’s story,” Farrell said back in the truck. “Now we know where Henry lives and can check on him or try and gather resources for him down the line if need be.”

According to Farrell, this type of program started around the country five years ago and has been so productive that many first responders have picked up on it.

“Some places like Santa Fe…their community medicine focuses on mental health,” she said. “Each place can kind of customize what they’ve decided to make it, according to the needs of the community.”

Farrell said COVID testing and administering shots is her current main priority for Sandoval County.

“Community medicine is really a simple concept that gives aid to the community and helps alleviate long lines at the emergency room,” she said. “That’s the concept in a nutshell.”