It’s the first cold night of the year, so I’m dressed for winter. In a few weeks I will adjust and be working in shirtsleeves again, but right now I’m layered and freezing. Long-sleeved Under Armour mock turtleneck, uniform shirt, Blauer EMS parka with removable fleece liner, and a black lined watch cap defend against the chill night air. And wool socks. If you’ve never discovered Smart Wool socks, you need to check them out. Warm in winter, cool in summer, non-itchy and moisture wicking; they are a wardrobe requirement inside my boots year round.
But I digress.
We keep the back of the rig warm. Trauma patients and little old ladies alike are in danger of hypothermia otherwise. We go from freezing to sweating and back again all night. The intense activity that goes with a critical patient just makes it worse for us.
This particular critical patient is bleeding all over the place. It doesn’t take long to contaminate the sleeves of my parka, so it comes off and lands in the footwell for future cleaning. I was sweating anyway by now.
We call ahead to Big City Trauma Center. I know my patch will be broadcast over the loudspeakers in the trauma bays for all to hear, so I try my best to sound like a veteran airline pilot. “Ladies and gentlemen, if you look to your right you can see the southern tip of Lake Michigan visible in the distance.”
I fear I sound more like a frightened child. “Daddy, make it better! Please?”
I know the reality is somewhere in between, and I hope it’s closer to the former than the latter.
We arrive at BCTC in good order. Our patient has strong vital signs and is still talking to us. He has a chance. It’s a scene normally only seen in movies; we roll authoritatively into the trauma bays to find a full team of doctors, nurses, and technicians waiting. All eyes are on us, and it’s time for the Captain Cool voice again. We tell our story and step back so the team can work.
Then I realize it. Here I stand at midnight in a major urban Level 1 trauma center. I’ve just brought in a critical patient who has the attention of some serious trauma experts. I’m wearing a long sleeved t-shirt which sticks out below my short uniform sleeves. My ‘scope is around my neck, my boots have come untied, and I’m still wearing my black knit hat.
I look like a Badass Urban Paramedic.
It’s good for a smile now and a chuckle with my partner later. The effect won’t last, though. We have a truck to decontaminate and paperwork to write. Then it’s back to being shiny suburban medics again.
In my shirtsleeves of course.