Tagged: EMS

Waiting – 011513




Polaroid SX70 Model 2 / Impossible PX100 Color Protection

There is a moment every morning when all four crews make shift change. Very rarely we all roll out and hit the streets at once, off to Save Lives and Make a Difference, or at least make a living. It's a wonderful sight and sound.


I confess this one needed a bit of post processing. My little Mint flash bar is great but not up to photographing a large apparatus bay at night.



It hasn’t been a great week. We ran all the usual EMS annoyances, from truck swaps through ignorant hospital staff to late calls. I’m still adjusting to my new schedule, and my family is having a harder time than I. They’ve all managed to contract the flu.

Yesterday we were reminded that sometimes Evil truly walks the earth, this time in the form of one young man in a small town a mere 180 miles from here. A small town very like this one. . .

Add in early orthodonture and the intricate ballet that is Christmas with three different sets of grandparents, and you can see that I wasn’t spreading much holiday cheer this morning.

And what happened, then? Well, in Whoville they say – that the Grinch’s small heart grew three sizes that day.

Thank you, Random Jeep Lady. It was a simple gesture, and I surely can afford my own drive-thru order. Your random act reminded me that there are still Good and Nice in the world and came at a time when I really needed it.

Pay it forward, folks. You never know.

Overheard in the Emergency Department

From the adjacent curtain bay:

“Good afternoon, sir. I’m Doctor Attending. What brings you in to see us this afternoon?”

“Well, back on March 15th. . .”


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The door rolls up as I approach, and I hear the Powerstroke cough to life. I’m not on the clock for another ten minutes, but I’ll do the right thing and relieve the overnight crew. Regular Partner arrives as I take the reins, and we are off into the crisp fall morning.

“Medic 9, be advised we’re giving pre-arrival instructions. Ambulance 9 is coming in behind you.”

My luck has run out. I haven’t had a cardiac arrest in ages. I got to bed late last night and was up an hour early. I’m still getting over a cold and feel exhausted already. I haven’t had my tea, haven’t checked the equipment, and I’m not even officially here yet. It’s not about me, though. Someone has stopped breathing; bring it on.

And so the day goes. Pulses return, are lost, and return again. Chest pain, overdose, morbid obesity, Jaws of Life; our routine is shot but we’re rockin’ & rollin’ & Making a Difference. Seventeen hours later we sit in the parking lot of the downtown Dunkin Donuts, exhausted and four reports behind in our documentation. I finally have my tea in hand, girding myself for another hour’s worth of writing, as Bert the Muppet cruises past on a moped.

Welcome to October in the Witch City.

Today’s theme: blood sugar

It’s been a while since I’ve had a theme day at work. Today started to look
like a Syncope Day, but that fizzled. Then we began to notice a pattern: all of our  patients have had blood sugar readings in the same 6-point range. Every last one.

If only I played the lottery.

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“Medic 9, respond for the unresponsive male. . .”


A BLS ambulance arrives before us and begins doing their thing. He has a pulse but isn't breathing. Oxygen and a BVM will take care of that for the moment. His environment suggests heroin overdose; his pinpoint pupils and track marks scream it. The Narcan performs its miracle and soon he's awake and talking to us.


Of course he denies using anything illicit. When asked if he realizes he wasn't breathing, he insists that “I'm just really tired.”




“Medic 9, respond for the shortness of breath. . .”


We arrive to find a befuddled fire crew staring at our patient, who sits on the edge of her bed waving a CPAP mask. “It's not working,” she says. “I can't go to sleep; I'll DIE!” As paramedic and resident sleep apneic, I am the appointed expert.


I really don't know much about anyone's machine other than my own, so I deploy my best cable company troubleshooting skills: unplug, wait 30 seconds, plug in. The machine beeps once, blinks twice, and begins doing its thing.




“Medic 9, respond for the unresponsive male with CPR in progress. . .”


We arrive in a perfect storm of fire engines, ambulances, and police all converging on one dilapidated apartment building. No one is doing CPR, but it isn't necessary. This looks familiar: environment, pupils, track marks. The treatment becomes routine: BVM, Narcan. Shortly he's awake and claiming, “I was just really tired.”



Two police cruisers idle in the cul-de-sac, lights off, projecting calm authority. Nothing to see here. Move along. An apologetic looking sergeant steps from his air conditioned refuge as we arrive. “She's off her medications again,” he tells us. “I've spoken to her doctor, and the paperwork is on its way.”

But of course it isn't here yet. We take a moment to discuss the situation and opt to wait. The officers say she won't go voluntarily, and there is no point in escalating the situation until we have all our tools in place.

She has different plans, however. Suddenly she materializes on the front lawn and walks to the side door of our truck, bemused police officer in tow. My first impression is of someone my age trying to look like an 80's pop star. Somehow I don't find that strange on this day, in this city. Her left hand clutches a half-empty iced coffee with which she gestures for effect. “Let's go.” She points at the ambulance with her straw.

Inside, I try to be nice. “So what's going on this afternoon, Ms. Lauper? Why am I here?” The response is vulgar and not informative. I try again, but now she feels my family and lineage are somehow relevant to her situation.

OK then.

I sit on the bench and initiate the Stare of Life. I have nothing to treat and she won't talk to me, so I sit quietly and watch. She alternates her time between looking out the back window at traffic and shooting confused glances at me. I'm not going to play the game.

I have seven minutes of intermission before Act Two will begin at the Emergency Department.

Rain delay

A mild summer afternoon has turned to a muggy evening. The June storms have arrived, bringing a paradoxical increase in the temperature. We stand in the open garage bay facing south as lightning illuminates the clouds above, each flash forming shadow images on the horizon.

The minor league ball game across the street has called a rain delay. Neil Diamond blares “Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head” as the crowd thins out. The bravest souls move up in the stands seeking shelter under the overhanging roof.

One by one, heavy jetliners appear over my left shoulder seemingly just beyond arm’s reach. They drone onward below the storm clouds on final approach to Big City International Airport. Occasionally the storm will silhouette one against the sky, burning its image into my memory.

Gunshots ring out across the city, faint but too irregular to be fireworks. We turn up the police radio and wait, as the ball field begins to play “Here Comes the Sun.”