He’s alert

Some guy had a seizure. Or syncope. Or something like that.

A lot was “lost in translation,” as they say.

The house smells of strange cooking and there is fancy looking artwork and sculptures all around.

This guy was visiting some family, and just got to the States a couple of days ago. He’s from Angola, according to the passport handed to me.

We’re the second unit on scene, and the fire guys are busy trying to do an assessment. From all outward appearances, the guy is fine, but he doesn’t speak much, if any, English. They’re trying to determine his level of consciousness.

“Are you hurting any where?” one guy yells at him, as though increased volume makes it easier to understand your foreign language.

His translator repeats the question and the patient’s answer: “No.”

Fire dude number three reports the absolutely normal vital signs.

Translator says the patient doesn’t want to go to the hospital.

“Sir,” fire dude number one continues to yell, “I’ve got some strange questions I have to ask you.”

We all wait, impatiently, for these potentially pertinent interrogatories.

“Can you tell me what year it is?”


“Can you tell me what day it is?”

“Uh, Thursday.”

“Can you tell me who the President is?”*

“Jose Eduardo dos Santos.”

“Can you tell me how many quarters are in a dollar?”**

“I have no idea.”

“Well, sir, we are going to have to take you to the hospital, it seems that you are sorta confused, and you might need to get that checked out.”

I’m too busy checking out these cool ass paintings, but that’s when I hear Smokey chime in.

“Nah, he’s good.”

The fire dudes look at him with befuddlement. “But he’s confused. He doesn’t know who the president is, and he doesn’t know how many quarters are in a dollar.”

“He’s not from America, and according to his passport, he came to the United States on Tuesday, through LaGuardia. The president of Angola is Jose de Santos, and their currency isn’t the dollar, it’s the Kwanza, so he’s probably never heard of a quarter.”***

They look crushed and impressed at the same time. Later, Smokey would tell me he hit up the Wikipedia page for Angola while the fire dudes were yelling at the patient. We got the refusal.

He was alert.


*this question rarely, if ever, matters, and more often than not elicits a response that is unnecessary.

**this question is just as dumb.

***I prefer “What’s your name? “Where are you?” What day and year is it?” and “Can you tell me exactly what happened for us to be called here?” when getting a refusal. But hey, to each fire dude their own.




We did the wrong thing

An old lady fell in the bathroom at her nursing home. She hit her head and suffered a minor laceration.

It wasn’t even bleeding when we got to her.

There wasn’t any bleeding from her head, and no blood to be found on the floor of the bathroom.

A band-aid probably would have been too much.

But she had to go to the hospital to “get checked out.”

She cried when we picked her up out of the bed to put her on the stretcher.

She cried the entire 30-minute ride to the hospital.

She cried for the duration of her 5-hour hospital stay. She didn’t even get a band-aid.

She cried for another half hour when the other ambulance took her back.

She stopped crying when they put her back in her bed and covered her up with her special blanket.

Only to fall again a day later.

Stupid policy #73,893

So a local assisted-living facility called our service directly today. Usually not a big deal, it’s something that happens quite routinely, as matter-of-fact. But it was the notes in the call that were strange:

M subj fell/No inj/No comp/Facilty req code-4 chk/No RLS/Prvt req/

So, deciphering the jargon, some guy fell, isn’t injured, doesn’t have a complaints, but the facility wants us to “check him out.” Which is complete bullshit. They don’t want us to “check anyone out.” They just want to pawn off some perceived liability.

“Med two.”

“Go ahead.”

“Your subject will be outside on the porch, smoking. White male, khakis, red sweater, approximately 70 years of age. Patient is aware you are responding, but states he does not want an ambulance.”

“Two clear.”

What fresh hell is this? So some guy fell, says he’s okay, isn’t hurt, doesn’t want an ambulance, and decided to go outside for a smoke break, yet we still have to go “check him out.”

“This is probably the dumbest thing I’ve done all year.” Smokey says.

“Don’t count them chickens just yet, buddy, we still got almost a week left in this year.”

Sure enough, there’s some old guy in a red sweater and khakis, sitting in a rocking chair, smoking. He looks pleasant.

“Hey there, feller!”

“Well howdy! I told them ladies in thar not to call all y’all, but they done did!”

“You hurt?”

“Naw, I don’t reckon so.”

“You want an ambulance?”

“Wouldn’t have much use for one of them.”

“You want to go to the hospital?”

“I really wanna finish that puzzle I got goin’ inside.”

“Cool. You mind if I smoke with you for a little while?”

So we sat down for a few minutes, Smokey had his smoke, I worked on my crossword puzzle for a bit, then an employee came out. I did my best to keep my mouth shut, and I let Smokey do all the talking.

“Hi, guys. Sorry to bother you. We just have to have him checked out.”

“Y’all can’t do that here?”

“No, we have to call the ambulance to do it.”

“Then why do y’all have nurses in the building?”

“Nurses can’t have him sign a refusal.”

“Well, we can’t neither.”

“But he has to.”

“No, he doesn’t.”

“Our policy says he does.”

“Good thing I don’t work here, cuz that policy makes about as much sense as a trapdoor on a canoe.”


And that’s the story of the second incident report I had to write in less than two weeks.

Sex, gender, and yet another complaint

“I’m going to sit behind you and call the hospital to let them know we’re coming, okay?”


<Ring, ring>

“Emergency Room, Brandy.”

“Hey Brandy, it’s C on Med 2. I’ve got a report for you.”

“Alright, whatchagot?”

“We’re about ten minutes away. We have a twenty-year-old male who-

“Umm, excuse me?”

“Hang on a sec, Brandy…Yes?”

“Umm, did you just assume my gender?”

“Did I what?”

“Did you just ASSUME my GENDER?”

“I have no idea – what – no…wait – what?”

“You don’t know me, and you just ASSUME that I’m a MAN?”

“Well, I did see your penis a few minutes ago, remember? When you were running around your apartment naked and screaming?”

“That doesn’t make me a MAN!”

“But, like, seriously, you have a penis. Your sex is male. Your gender is none of-”

“My penis doesn’t make me a man!”


Seriously, though. Sex and gender are two different things. A patient’s gender doesn’t matter one bit to me, and neither does their sex. A patient’s sex only matters on the PCR, and in the patient report. I’m just saying, if you’ve got a penis, your sex is male. That doesn’t mean your gender is, but again, I don’t care.

I really don’t have time for this. I’m getting tired of writing these reports.


Just when I thought I was out…

…they pull me back in.

And like that, I’m back in an ambulance.

The escape plan worked, but was short-term. It was fun to take a break, and do something else for a little while. I learned a lot, and met a lot of neat people.

But now it’s back to the ambulance.

I guess that’s okay, though. I was asked to come back full-time to Local Ambulance, and we negotiated some fair terms. I’ve got the schedule I wanted, on the unit I wanted, and with a new partner, Smokey, that I wanted.

Smokey comes from some part of northeastern Tennessee, somewhere he calls ‘tha hollers,’ whatever that means. He describes his hometown as having lots of pet chickens and rusted pickup trucks in yards. He should be interesting.

Our first day was sure interesting. Got a complaint and had to write an incident report in the first 4 hours.

Welcome back, huh?