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?”

“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?

Elizabeth

Her name was Elizabeth.

In a previous life, while younger, and less mature, she was known as Betty. She had worked first as a stripper, then as an escort, in order to support her drug habit.

But then she cleaned herself up. She went to rehab, got sober, and stayed that way. She quit stripping, and she quit hooking. She left all her old friends behind, and began a new life. She enrolled in college and began working towards a communications degree.

She met a nice man in college.

A nice man who had a dark side all his own.

Her new boyfriend had been involved in selling drugs in the past, but swore that he wasn’t involved in that life anymore. He was clean, sober, and was a manager at a cellphone store in a strip mall. She accepted his past and believed that it was in his past. He accepted her past and believed it was in her past.

By all accounts, they were a happy couple.

Then one day they both had a rare day off. Her classes had been cancelled, and he scheduled himself off so he could renew his car’s license plate. They planned a day together. They went to the mall together and shopped. They went to an early dinner at a local place, and decided to go back to his place and watch a movie on Netflix before she went home.

She refused to live with her boyfriend, and said she wouldn’t live with a man unless she was married. Plus, she had an early start in the morning.

But his apartment wasn’t empty.

His apartment was occupied by three men, two convicted felons and one man who had yet remained out of the prison system.

One man had been in and out of prison 6 times by the time he was 35 years old. He had accumulated a total of 25 years of sentences, serving only 5 years total. At the time he was an uninvited guest in the apartment of Elizabeth’s boyfriend, he was on parole, having served only 2 years of a 15-year sentence for possession of cocaine and obstruction of a law enforcement officer.

Another man was several years younger, but was more familiar with the criminal justice system, beginning his cycle of incarceration when he was only 17, and had served 6 separate stints in prison. He had racked up an impressive 111 years total of sentences, somehow managing to only serve a total of 23 months. At the time he was an uninvited guest in the apartment of Elizabeth’s boyfriend, he was also on parole, having served less than 1 year of an 8-year sentence for forgery.

Her boyfriend opened the door, and saw the uninvited guests in his living room. They weren’t unknown to him, but they were unknown to Elizabeth. Her boyfriend had, behind her back, been dealing cocaine again. And this time, he owed some money to some unsavory people.

The uninvited guests that were currently in his apartment.

He ran as soon as he saw them in his apartment, and he was shot in the side. A graze wound, if you will. It was minor enough for him to be treated and released on the scene.

Elizabeth didn’t get away.

The three men in her boyfriend’s apartment forced her inside and forced her to her knees. They repeatedly demanded to know where the money was, where the drugs were, and what her boyfriend did with both.

But she didn’t know. She was useless to them.

When it became apparent that she knew nothing about money, and nothing about drugs, a gun was forced to her forehead, hard enough to leave an abrasion, and she was shot.

The lowlife killers ran as fast as they could from that apartment, with no drugs, and no money, and they left a beautiful young lady on the floor, gasping for breath.

She was dead, but her body didn’t know it yet.

She continued to breathe agonally for the next 20 minutes or so. Long enough to traumatize a brand-new EMT. Long enough to leave her blood and brain matter on the floor of an ambulance, soaked into the stretcher pad, and on the pants of the paramedic who was tasked with taking care of her.

The suspects were caught shortly afterwards, mainly because they aren’t very intelligent criminals, and because of a police officer’s glance in the right direction at the right time. They still haven’t gone to trial, almost two years later. The suspects have languished in a county jail, while Elizabeth’s boyfriend has moved on. Elizabeth lays dead, her life tragically cut short for no reason whatsoever, and the wheels of justice have ground to a halt.

I didn’t run the call, but I know who did. I know calls like this can impact a paramedic, as I have run my fair share of them.

Also, I know her name. Other people know her name. But I have yet to see a news story about her story. I have seen only a snip or two of a newspaper article. I haven’t seen any liberals protesting over “another senseless death due to gun violence.” I haven’t heard any calls for justice from self-appointed “community leaders.” I haven’t witnessed any protests over her tragic, senseless death.

And those protests and calls and actions and outrage won’t come. They’ll never happen. Because nobody cares about Elizabeth. Nobody cares about a young woman who used to be a stripper and a hooker who straightened her life out. Nobody cares that three gang-bangers committed a gang-banger crime when they broke into that apartment and murdered a young woman. Nobody cares that one drug dealer got away because he was such a chickenshit that he left his girlfriend to die. Nobody cares that three young men who should have been in prison will never see the light of day again.

Nobody cares that, had the law been followed, and had sentences been served, Elizabeth would be alive today.

Nobody cares about Elizabeth. Because she had a future.