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.”


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.”


“Male assaulted. PD on scene” reads the MDT. It’s raining and traffic is heavy, so I have to actually pay attention to the roads instead of the book I was reading.

I’m reading the new Grisham book, Gray Mountain. I can’t recommend it yet.

We finally make it on scene to find a guy in his early thirties standing with local law enforcement in the living room of his apartment. He has blood streaming down his face, and he is holding a towel against his head.

Shaq is taking the lead on this one. He’s going to be in Paramedic school soon, and needs to get used to assessing patients. Plus, he is really good at it. Good enough that I rarely have any questions for my patients, or tips for my partner.

After sensing an opening in the conversation with local law enforcement and the injured gentleman, Shaq breaks in:

“Man, what happened to your head?”

“That bitch hit me with a smoovie!”

“A smoothie?”

“Yeah! A smoovie!”

A glance at the gentlemen with the firearms confirms the previous point: they have no idea what is going on either, and how a cold fruit emulsion could have caused such a wound.

“She hit you in the head with a smoothie?”

“Yeah! I said that already!”

“But how did it cut you like that?”

“Cuz it’s heavy, man! Damn!”

“But, it’s soft, and it’s in a styrofoam cup or something.”

“Naw, man! It’s heavy!”

“A smoothie is heavy?”

“Yeah, man. Heavy. One of them things you smoove your clothes with!”

“One of the things you smooth your clothes with?”


“But, I don’t really…I’m confu-oh! Do you mean an IRON?”


Another farewell to Slimm

He’s gone again.

This time for real. It is going to stick.

He turned in his notice, then a few weeks later, his uniforms and his badge and everything.

My partner left.

I don’t blame him. He got a really sweet job outside of healthcare, and I wish him the best.

I’m really happy for him. And I’m sad for me, too.

I’ve worked with Slimm for many years now, almost close to five. We have added a total of three children to our families, and both bought homes. We’ve run thousands of calls together. Good calls, bad calls, happy calls, sad calls, legit calls, bullshit calls. We’ve been on the local news several times, and delivered half a dozen babies. We have eleven cardiac arrest saves together, and every one of them is to his credit.

And now he’s gone.

We call eachother ‘brothers from another mother of a different color,’ and I think we both mean it. I certainly mean it.

Really, I’m happy for him. But it is bittersweet.

I stayed in EMS because of Slimm. He made coming to work easier. We understood each other. Mostly, he tolerated me, and kept me from getting fired.

I really do love the man, and enjoyed every minute of every shift we spent together.

I couldn’t even say goodbye when our last shift was over.

I just told him I would see him Monday morning.

My partner the bigot

Slimm and I are trying to take care of a gentleman who is a guest of the County in their local Adult Detention Facility. He’s been vomiting, has a little bit of a fever, and describes a very sharp pain that started over his right kidney, then has slowly started moving down lower in his abdomen.

So he has a kidney stone.

I’m feeling generous, so I’m planning on hooking him up with some Fentanyl and Zofran. I like giving people narcotics, especially if I think they might need some, they aren’t a jackass, and they don’t beg for narcs.

Slimm is getting an IV.

Owww, man! That hurts!” He of course yells this out just as Slimm gets flash, and jerks his arm back at the same time, blowing the IV attempt.

Come on, man, it doesn’t hurt that much, and now I have to do it again.”

He gets everything ready again after putting a 4×4 over the previous puncture.

Now don’t jerk this time, man. I need to get this IV so we can give you some pain meds.”

Whatever, man.”

Big stick on three. One, two, thr-”


Come on, man, it doesn’t hurt that bad.”

Shit, man, yeah it does.”


Man, you’re just trying to hurt me because I’m black.”


No narcs for this guy. Works for me. Less documentation, anyways.

Bad dreams

A female smells gas in her home. Dispatch tells us to stage with the engine. We don’t know why, but really don’t care.

A few minutes later, we find out. There was an alleged prowler walking around the trailer park. And now there is a ‘person down inside the home.’

According to the caller, at least.

Finally we make it on scene, after I lose a game of Mahjong, and Slimm finishes his coffee.

The fire lieutenant tells the caller that there is no natural gas hookup

“Maybe it is carbon monoxide?”

“There is nothing in your home that would put off carbon monoxide.”



“Well, maybe I had a bad dream.”


It’s like a Hollywood script

Finally, Slimm and I are back together. This will be our first time back on a truck together in what feels like years, but has really only been about one year.

I have to wake up 5 hours earlier than I am used to, but I think it’s worth it.

We hugged in the parking lot. It was a brief hug, but it was a hug nonetheless.

Then we got breakfast.

And our breakfast was interrupted because some guy fell out of bed. Now my gravy is going to be cold, and nobody likes cold gravy on their biscuits.

“Radio Med One.”

“MmmmGohead” I reply sleepily.

“Caller is advising agonal respirations.”


I turn to Slimm. “I hope the caller is just stupid.”

“Me too, bro. Me too.”

“Radio Med One”

WHAT?! “Gohead”

“Caller advises full arrest. They are starting CPR.”


This sucks. The sun isn’t up yet, and neither am I.

Sure enough, it’s a full arrest. The fire guy recognizes me.

“What’s up, C?” he asks as he’s doing compressions. “You pick up an extra shift?”

“Naw, man, I’m back on the truck with Slimm again. Whatcha got?”

“Glad to hear you guys are back. Wife woke up and found him here about ten minutes ago. AED says ‘no shock,’ Bubba got the LMA in, and Chester is about to start the IO.”

I feel around this guy. I don’t see any obvious trauma, but his skin sure is cyanotic. And cold. I mean, remarkably cold. Most people I have felt this cold before have either had lividity or rigor, but he has neither. He is in asystole, and his pupils are dilated and fixed.

Basically, he’s dead. But not dead enough to stop working.

“C, you want us to stop, or keep going?”

“Nah, keep going, let’s move him out into the kitchen, and we’ll work him there. We have more room there.”

Somebody gets the IO, and I see Slimm putting together the bicarb and epi. He looks over at me. “We going to do the two rounds then call it?” he asks.

“Nah, buddy. We’re gonna get him back.”

I wink. Just joking, of course.

But we did.

Five minutes later he had a pulse, was breathing on his own about ten times a minute, and had a blood pressure of 130/90.

“We have to stop doing this.”

“What? Getting people back?”

“Not that. But doing it so easily.

“They should make a movie about us.”

Listen and learn

Newguy is out today. He and his wife are finding out the gender of their new baby, so he is going to the appointment. Well, Mrs. Newguy says they aren’t going to find out, but Newguy says he is going to cheat and sneak a peek at the ultrasound. He even has a plan and everything for how he is going to do it.

Nobody tell Mrs. Newguy, okay?

I’m working with a kid today. I did the math, and he was in diapers when I started in EMS. And he already has a bad attitude.

There is a difference between burned out and a bad attitude.

We get a call for a lady who is sick. It turns out the lady is visiting her daughter from Oregon, and has been confused, febrile, and weak for the past few days, and it is getting worse.

Daughter hands me an insurance card and says she needs to go to the hospital about 45 minutes away. While she is saying this, Babyface pipes in.

“Well, we could take her to Local Hospital, and they can just transfer her if needed, but they will probably just let her go if she just has a fever.”

Daughter looks excited, then goes on to explain that the sick lady is allergic to Tylenol and Penicillin, and has a diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis. No other medical problems though, which is good for a grandmother in her late seventies.

Finally we see the patient. She’s confused, sure enough. She’s pale, and the jaundice is pretty apparent in her sclera. (What is the plural of sclera? Is there one?) So, she’s sick, and probably needs to spend a day or two in the hospital for some IV antibiotics.

“Okay, we’ll take her to Westside Hospital. We are going to go bring our stretcher in here, and we’ll be out of the way.”

Babyface is absolutely apoplectic. “Why can’t we just take her to Local Hospital? It’s across the street. Westside is forty-five minutes away.”

I get stern with him. “I know where we are, and I know where the hospitals are, and we are going to take her to Westside Hospital.”

Later, at Westside, he decides to assert his position once again.

“Man, we should have just taken her to Local. This doesn’t make any sense.”

“What is primary biliary cirrohsis?”

“She’s probably an alcoholic, and she drank too much, and now her liver is shutting down.”

“Wrong. What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear that a person is confused, weak, and febrile?”


“Fair enough. Does the diagnosis of primary biliary cirrhosis change that? You still thinking sepsis? What about her jaundice?”

“I don’t care about her cirrhosis, she just has a fever.”

“No, her ammonia levels are high, and she needs lactulose. She is very confused, and only responds to verbal stimuli, which suggests hepatic encephalopathy, and she needs an ICU. Taking her to Local Hospital would have been a bad decision, and a waste of time.”

He was still mad at me for the rest of the shift.

The dynamic duo is back

Slimm and I are going to be partners again.

We had to pull a lot of strings, call in some favors, make some offers, and do some shift trading, but we made it happen. A well-executed plan is quite something to be a part of.

I’ve enjoyed working with Newguy for the past few months, but I need to be back with my partner.

I wasn’t going to last much longer without Slimm.

We are already planning on hugging it out before our first shift back together.

I’m very happy.