It worked

The drug overdoses (that either aren’t dead, or are awakened) always go the same way: Shaq and I stand around with between four and six firemen, and at least two police officers for upwards of an hour trying to convince this guy to go to the hospital.

And they always wind up going. But we waste a lot of time.

The cops can’t threaten these patients with arrest, because the state has an amnesty law. Basically, if a call for help is made, then a cop can’t arrest for drugs that are found out in the open. I think that is a bit ridiculous, but it is what it is.

Doctors won’t commit these patients involuntarily, so we can’t threaten them with that.

Usually it is just a matter of wearing the person down.

And it gets tedious.

So we ran one of those today. A guy in his thirties relapsed, and shot some heroin after being sober for two years. This guy can’t help that he’s an addict, but he certainly has to take responsibility for shooting heroin into his veins. It turns out his ten-year-old son found him lying in bed, not breathing, then called 911. The son woke the patient with a glass of water splashed on his face.

And enter Shaq and C.

There’s the requisite crew standing around: six firemen, two cops, one shirtless guy with dirty hands sitting on the floor, and one crying mother in the living room. Of course the patient first attempts to deny that he did the drugs, then admits to it when confronted with the full syringe in the bathroom. Then he says he is fine, and doesn’t want to go to the hospital. Shaq and I are standing kinda in the background when he nudges me: “watch this, dude.”

Shaq makes his way to the shirtless guy on the floor, and stands all of his 78 inches over the guy on the floor. Kneeling down to get somewhat on his level, he delivers an excellent oration:

“Hey, dude. Check this out. You’re going to wind up going to the hospital with us today, that’s a fact. You say you don’t want to, but you’re going to. These guys in light blue? They’re from the fire department, and they get off at 7 in the morning. These guys in dark blue, they’re cops. They won’t arrest you, but they won’t leave until we tell them it is okay for them to go. Your mother out there in the living room? She’s calling your wife at work, and she already called your father. They are both on the way over here. Between the twelve of us, we will wear you down like a cheap pencil, and you will walk down those stairs, and you will sit on our stretcher, and you will go to the hospital. So what my partner and I are going to do now is walk outside. We are going to go outside to your front door, lower our stretcher, raise the head of it up, and undo the seat belts. And then we are going to stand there, and stand there, and stand there, until you walk outside and sit on our stretcher. It’s up to you how long that takes, and how much bitching you want to hear from your parents and your wife. When you’re ready, we’ll be outside.”

Then he stands up, turns to me, winks, then walks out.

I’m dumbfounded. I just witnessed a sentinel moment. So, I turn on my heels, and follow Shaq outside.

We barely make it outside before he’s trying to sit on our stretcher.

We’ve been on scene for less than five minutes, and now we’re leaving. On a call that would typically take at least half an hour.

I can’t wait to try that again.

Dispatching Wolf

“Med four, call radio please.”

Sigh. I hate when they want us to call on the radio.

We have radios. They are called ‘radio’ (or dispatch, depending where you are, whatever) for crying out loud. We have multiple channels that we can talk on, and they have the ability to contact us directly through our radios.

They can even send messages to us through our MDTs.

But they want us to call them on the phone. I hate talking on the phone.

And it’s never for anything important that couldn’t be handled some other way. It’s always crap like “hey, you guys have a call coming out soon,” or “do you have a phone number from that lady from that wreck six hours ago?” or “did you guys see a purse/license/keys/stuffed animal in the back of the truck? A patient from two days ago is missing it.”

  • I don’t care. Just dispatch me when it’s time to go.
  • What lady? No, I don’t have her number. It’s on the PCR.
  • Yes, I found it, and I sold it on eBay.

I cannot stand talking to radio on the phone. Well, frankly, I don’t like talking to them on the radio either. Shaq and I came up with a new strategy:

“Medic four, can you call radio?”

“No, ma’am, we can’t. Neither one of us have a cellphone. But we can switch over to private.”

Burn

Shaq and I are dispatched to a suicide attempt by carbon monoxide poisoning. The MDT says someone has been in their running car in the locked garage all night. The caller says the person is still alive, and that they have turned the car off, and opened the garage door.

PD has us staging down the road.

It’s barely 5 in the morning.

We didn’t get breakfast this morning.

And I haven’t tucked my shirt in yet.

PD clears us to come in to the house. They gave me just enough time to tuck my shirt in.

As we get close, one of the cops stops us in the street.

“This guy is being a jackass, and he might have a weapon in the car or something. So just hang out here for a little while, cool?”

You don’t have to tell me twice. “Cool, bro. Just let us know when to do what.”

So Shaq puts the ambulance back in park. I start to wonder what the hospital is serving for breakfast in the cafeteria. Maybe they’ll have those cheese grits again. Or the hashbrown casserole. My culinary contemplation is interrupted by a knock on Shaq’s window.

Some guy in a bathrobe obviously needs some attention.

“Yes, sir, can I help you?” asks my partner.

“Yeah. What’s going on up there?” pointing at the house in the cul-de-sac. “What happened?”

“Nothing, really. The police are taking care of everything.”

“Well why is the ambulance here?”

“I’m not really certain, sir. I imagine that someone is sick.”

“Well, what were you dispatched to?”

“I’m not really certain I can tell you that.”

“Don’t you know who I am?”

Shaq looks at me. I shrug. I’ve only halfway been paying attention to their conversation, anyways. “No, sir. I don’t believe we have ever met.”

“I’m one of your medical directors, Doctor Bathrobe.”

This just got interesting.

“Well, Doctor Bathrobe, you should certainly be aware of the fact that I’m not supposed to share any information with the general public. That could possibly be a HIPAA violation. If you would like to call dispatch, I am certain they would be happy to give you any information you desired.”

Lame excuses

My employer runs a paramedic program. When I say that the company runs a paramedic program, what I want you to take away from that is that the company supplies a physical location for a paramedic program, and students to fill the chairs.

But, they attached the words “EMS Academy” to it, so maybe it is sorta-kinda-official.

Whatever. It’s a moot point.

My employer runs a paramedic program.

Being one of the company’s Field Training Officers, I get to see the aftermath of the paramedic program, when the newly graduated paramedics spend several shifts riding with me. Some of them aren’t prepared, but most are.

I was having a talk with another FTO, Tony, while at the hospital a few days ago. This must have been early in a shift, because I actually cared about the topic.

Tony mentioned that he rarely sees the same paramedic student more than twice, and that each student does at least twenty rides at our company. He thought it would be wise for a student in our paramedic program to be ‘assigned’ to an FTO for the duration of their preceptor rides.

While we’re on the subject…our program is putting paramedic students on ambulances for their preceptor rides after three months of school. They don’t know how to read a monitor, and they aren’t allowed to perform any ALS interventions. What the hell is the point of riding for twelve hours on an ambulance if you can’t do anything?

Anyway.

Tony made a good point. After ten rides or so, there should be a pretty good rapport between an FTO and a student. They should be able to communicate openly with each other, so the student can get the most out of their classroom time, and their ambulance time. After twenty rides, any bad habits should be corrected, and the FTO can feel confident in his evaluation of the student. Alongside the FTO’s confidence in his evaluation, the course director can feel confident in the evaluations he gets from the FTO.

But instead, the students just ride whenever, and wherever. Rarely more than once with the same paramedic, or even with an FTO.

So Tony and I brought it up to the director of the program.

“Assign each student to an individual FTO. We have twenty-five students, and eighteen FTOs. Surely we can come up with a list of seven competent medics to fill the roster of needed FTOs. Once a student is assigned to an FTO, that student does all of their rides with that FTO. It only makes sense.”

We got a reply:

“Well, that would just be too hard, and we don’t want to make it any harder on the students.”

This is why I don’t care.

Lame-ass excuses.

Unconscionable

One of my coworkers caused the death of a patient. In layman’s terms, my coworker killed someone. There really isn’t much to discuss, or wiggle-room, or room for doubt.

That’s what happens when you act arrogant and talk a big game around veteran EMTs and Paramedics – your actions are scrutinized just a little bit more.

And it doesn’t help that my coworker doesn’t understand what she did wrong. She tries to defend it, when her actions scream negligence.

We’ve all seen the EKG. We’ve heard the report. We’ve heard the excuses. We know what happened.

A person is dead now because of the negligence of one of my coworkers. Sure, the patient may have died anyways, but my coworker assured that the patient would die.

And that lady still has a job.

And she won’t be fired.

Because she shows up to work on time.

I can’t respect management that allows that to happen.

I won’t respect management.

They are unconscionable.

Guilt trip

“You two work so nicely together.” says the dowager octogenarian, looking at Slimm. “It is nice to see two handsome young men who care so much about other people.”

“Thanks, ma’am. We’ve been together for quite a while now.”

“Oh? How long have you two been working together?” she asks.

“Going on four years now, ma’am.”

“Oh, that is delightful. You make a great team.”

“Thank you for your kind words. C and I are actually brothers, and partners.”

“I bet it can seem like you are brothers, working together for so long.”

“No. We are actually brothers.”

“But, but…you’re black” she whispers, furtively glancing around. “and, and…he’s white.”

“Yeah, well, C is adopted.”

Look here, Miss Bubbly

I get it. Your bubbly personality is part of your ‘shtick.’ Everyone understands, you were a housewife, but your husband was a meany-head, and you divorced him, and had to get a job, and for some reason chose EMS. Whatever.

And you like to make cute little jokes, thinking your personality will make up for your lack of experience or real-world knowledge. But they don’t.

Making jokes and trying to be all cutesy is just fine and dandy, at the appropriate times. But that time is not in the middle of a patient’s home while they are having a myocardial infarction. I needed a hand with vitals, IV, and meds, but you had to go pet Sadie instead.

Oh, you didn’t realize that’s what was happening?

Maybe you could shut your mouth and open your eyes. Pay attention. Look at the patient. Hell, I don’t know, maybe you could follow the cues of your paramedic partner, and the fire department medic. Our combined experience may not be exactly as many years as you are old, but we know what we are doing.

But at least the dog was happy, right?

Rhetorical

A “person shaking and cold after having an ultrasound” according to the dispatcher and the MDT

We are going by ourselves, and a quick glance at the directions tells me it might be a 15-minute ride. Just enough time to set my fantasy lineup for the weekend.

How do we know which house it is, if we are having trouble locating? That’s right, it’s the one with all the cars in the driveway.

Four cars this time.

Sure enough, some lady is sitting on a couch, shaking. She complains of being cold, and thinks this is some sort of a reaction to the ultrasound she had earlier.

I have already checked out, but we load the nice lady up anyways, and do a full workup.

Her pressure is better than mine, 12-lead is a sinus rhythm in the sixties, blood sugar is around 100, she’s afebrile, blah, blah, blah.

So we head on over to the hospital with, you guessed it, a guy following us in his car. He’s playing it tight, too. Less than one car length behind us, and he even has his flashers on.

Instead of brood over how stupid people are, I try to decide between starting Antonio Brown or Dez Bryant in my flex spot.

Before we can get this lady out of the ambulance, the follower is all up in Slimm’s face.

“What took you so long to get to the hospital?!”

“Nothing? It took about ten minutes.”

“Why didn’t you go emergency? Use the lights and the siren?”

“Because it wasn’t necessary? Because your wife’s vital signs are all just fine.”

“Hell, I could have brought her here in less time!”

“Okay…”

“Why the hell did I call an ambulance if I could have taken her to the hospital just the same?!”

“…uhh…”

Gotta love it when they answer their own questions.

Not even close

We’re posting. We have a new hire, and Slimm is in the back. From the sounds of it, he is in deep slumber. I’m pecking away on my computer.

“What are you doing over there?”

“Just writing.”

“Oh. What do you write?”

“I have a blog. I’m just writing some posts out.”

“Oh, you have a blog?”

“Yeah.”

“Where’s your blog?”

“It’s anonymous. I don’t put my name on it.”

“Oh. So, like, you write stories about EMS and stuff?”

This chick is brilliant. “Yeah, something like that.”

“Like, ohmygod! Are you Burned-Out Medic?!”

“Ha! Not even close.”

“OOOOH, I BET YOU ARE.”

I don’t think my mom even reads my blog. Heck, I don’t think my mom even knows that I have a blog.

Yonder

Yesterday, I wrote about how Slimm and I were discussing the definition of ‘yonder’ while on the way to a call to pick up a bossy lady.

Seriously, that’s what we do.

We suggest that everyone eschew the common, accepted definition of yonder, which can be found at dictionary.com. While it may be used to describe some “place, more or less distant; over there,” we propose a new definition:

yonder

[yon-der]

adjective

1. further than you can throw, but not too far to walk

“I’m going to head over yonder to pee. Holler if we get a call.”

Now you know.