Category: EMS

Farewell Tour


My last shift in The City was average.  We ran a few cancellations, a chest pain at the clinic, a serious trauma, and. . .

04:00, on a small side street.  The police are already on scene as we roll in with an engine, an ambulance, and a paramedic unit.  The call is probably BLS; a woman has threatened to harm herself with pills.

No one answers the door, but we are sure we have the right apartment.  We knock, and we shout. “Ambulance!  Fire Department!  Police!”  Someone is in there, pretending they aren’t.

The farce continues for a few minutes before Bobby puts it to an end.  “OK, let’s get the ax!” he shouts as he stomps down the stairs.

And the door opens.


This is more a matter for the police than for us.  We wait on the porch while they talk to the patient.  Bobby leans on his ax and looks at me.

“You know you’re going to miss this,” he says with a smile.

By every objective measure my new job is better.  By most subjective ones it is too.  I’m really looking forward to it.

“Yeah,” I agree, shaking my head and walking away.  “See you ‘round.”

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The other medics have gone out on a call. If cancelled, they will stay out for coffee. I may not see them again until lunch. 

The BLS crews are all asleep. Some are recovering from a rough night shift while others rest up for the marathon ahead. 

I sit in the empty garage listening to the hum of the Coke machine, the drone of passing traffic, the whoosh of planes on approach to Big City International Airport. A cool breeze wafts through the open door. Dreading. . .

Dreading the conversation I must have later today. Dreading disappointing. Dreading change. 

Yet it’s time. 

Thank you Yellow & Orange Ambulance Company. I wouldn’t be here without you. I just don’t want to be here anymore. 

Earth-bound misfit

Into the distance, a ribbon of black

stretched to the point of no turning back

a flight of fancy on a windswept field

standing alone, my senses reel. . .

A shift swap has brought me back to the Witch City for the afternoon.  My old shift is now occupied by new medics.  I roll south along the straight gray ribbon of Route 1, under an overcast sky with the sunroof open and Pink Floyd blasting from the MP3 player.

Something in my soul loves coming back to this city.  I don’t know why.


I sit in traffic behind a Slow Down for Allie bumper sticker.

I was working that night.  I wasn’t on the call, but I watched the helicopter take off, and I saw the looks on the faces of the two medics who were.

We talk more now about PTSD and the toll this job takes on a person.  Every time I see one of those stickers part of me goes back to that night, and I say a silent prayer for those medics. (Thinking of you, guys.)

Tongue tied and twisted, just an earth-bound misfit, I. . .

Edit 11/2/15:  I changed the YouTube link.  While I love the song, the Official Video is a wondrous piece of 1980’s horribleness which I prefer not to showcase.

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Pinpoint pupils

Flagged down on highway 

Fell asleep in passing lane

Not overdose; high. 

Just ducky

It’s a relatively normal morning. We get our first call before coffee. She’s a regular chest pain patient; an uncontrolled angina. Oxygen, IV, monitor; 12-lead ECG and nitroglycerin. The only hitch is with the aspirin. She doesn’t like the taste and refuses to swallow it.

The early morning traffic is light, and we make easy work of the dance.

As I turn into the driveway of Local Suburban Hospital, I am greeted by a duck. A lone mallard stands authoritatively in the middle of my path. He’s a beautiful specimen with shiny green plumage on his head.

Spring is finally here, and I’m glad to see the birds returning. I don’t have time to admire this one though. He refuses to move. I creep up with the ambulance; he stands his ground.  I consider the siren. It would be reasonable, but I’m reluctant to use it on hospital grounds. It’s just poor form.

The standoff lasts a few seconds. I creep forward. He stands his ground. He knows I won’t hit him.

I blink first. I put a wheel over the curb and creep into the bark mulch, silently praying that the ground is solid enough to hold a Ford. I don’t want to have to explain this to the men from the Motor Squad.

As I pass, the duck turns his head to watch. In my mirror I see him waddle (saunter?) off in the direction of the retention pond.

Situational Awareness

For a while now I have been endeavoring to teach Kiddo situational awareness.  This is largely centered around parking lots and traffic, things like “Don’t put yourself between a moving vehicle and a stationary object,” and “don’t walk behind any car which could back up.”  It will eventually extend to the things any young woman needs to know when walking alone at night.

Today we had a slightly different opportunity to emphasize awareness:

  • If you are driving on a snowy interstate highway with two clear lanes and two slushy ones, which lane should you use?
  • If you chose wrongly and roll your SUV over, you should remember to put it in park and stop the engine before you climb out.
  • And finally, if there are no serious injuries and someone has already called 911, this is not a safe place to be in your personal Volkswagen.

The first two points were graphically demonstrated.  I explained the third as we drove away from the now-smoking SUV and its embarrassed owner.

Recorded for Quality Assurance

“[Redacted] Ambulance Company, your call is recorded. What’s the nature of the emergency?”

“Hey, Favorite Dispatcher, it’s M505. Can I get the dispatch time for our last?”

“[chuckles] Geezer Squeezer?”

Oh crap. Much of our equipment has nicknames. Some are silly, some are offensive. Most of them would be understood, if not appreciated, by the public. The rig is a ‘bus’, the stretcher is a ‘rack.’ We sometimes ‘light up’ patients with the defibrillator. The drug box is a ‘suitcase.’

The competing CPR machine is a Thumper; ours has a ruder epithet. I try not to use it.

“FD, please, PLEASE tell me I wasn’t sitting on my radio mic. Did that go over the air?

“Nope, you’re safe. Open phone line though. I listened to the whole resuscitation. You guys sounded pretty good, except for the squeezer comment. By the way, your time out was 0036. Have a good night. [chuckling, and a click.]”

Your call is recorded, indeed.

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A sunny Sunday morning. A crowded neighborhood; the closest thing we have to tenements, filled to the brim with people seeking the American dream and finding everything but. Paramedic 9’s diesel screams at the curb, nose to nose with a fire engine in the tiny one way street. They will have to back out.

We charge up the stairs with bags, oxygen, Autopulse, cardiac monitor, and the virtual suitcase that is our drug box. The firemen follow with a backboard, and the stair chair in case we are wrong.

We aren’t.

Grandma sits at the kitchen table, slumped over into her Cheerios, not breathing. The apartment is a beehive of activity and unintelligible chatter, but no-one does anything to help her. That’s our job.

Police officers corral the family to one side, quizzing them in Spanish and relaying the answers to us. We pull her down to the floor, start CPR. Push hard, push fast.

The ballet rolls on, each of us dancing his assigned part. Airway, IV access, drugs, electricity. The Autopulse does its job without fanfare, filling the now quiet room with its rhythmic VOOMPA-VOOMPA sound. Clear a path, prepare a way downstairs to the ambulance.

Partner hands an oxygen tank to the firemen. “Here, can you get me another? This one’s dead.”

A wail goes up; the room is filled with sound and fury.

I only know about 4 words of Spanish, but muerte is one of them.


What were you thinking?

Coming up on today's episode of What Were You Thinking? EMS Edition:

  • A dispatcher confuses the medic crews,
  • A diabetic takes his insulin and goes out for the day without eating,
  • Texting and driving almost kills a man,
  • A coworker loses his temper,
  • And I make a poor first impression.

Stay tuned!

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There is a memorial plaque in town. I pass it regularly. I remember.

I remember a sunny Saturday morning drilling at the firehouse.

I remember swearing loudly and running to the engine when the tones dropped.

I remember almost overshooting the address, and I remember the horrid moaning sound the engine's radial tires made as we literally skidded to a stop.

I remember leaping from the still-moving engine.

I remember the Doppler effect as the following ambulance shot past us, siren wailing, unable to stop in time.


I remember a tall staircase, narrow but straight.

I remember a tiny bedroom with too many rescuers in it.

I remember compressions, and ventilations, and “No shock advised.”

I remember an ambulance disappearing over the horizon.


I remember futility.

I remember we were too late.

I remember.