Breathless but caffeinated

Spring is finally here. The morning is sunny, not warm enough yet but it will be. One of the off-going medics stands outside the half-open garage door smoking a cigarette as I arrive. “Morning. How was the overnight?” — my usual greeting.

“Not too bad. Truck’s in good shape.” — his usual reply. We chat briefly; the standard formalities and gossip. My partner arrives; the offgoing crew hands over The Keys, and we become officially responsible for the city.

It begins almost immediately. Before I can finish my morning tea:

Medic 9, respond for an elderly male, reportedly not breathing.”

It’s a witnessed arrest, with early notification and early CPR, an American Heart Associaiton dream. The engine company is doing a fabulous job of CPR when we arrive. We get pulses and a blood pressure back on scene, and we have some spontaneous movement while en route to the hospital.

It looks like a save. We’re riding high, and the supervisor buys our next round of caffeine in celebration.

“Medic 9, respond for the elderly male, reportedly fallen and now unresponsive.”

It’s not exactly as described, but close enough. His pulse rate keeps dropping to dangerously low levels. He passes out multiple times in the ambulance but always wakes to a quick shout. We treat the symptoms, but we don’t know the cause. By the time we reach the hospital his heart rate is back where it should be, and he thanks us.

More paperwork, another tea.

“Medic 9, respond for the elderly female, unresponsive.”

Another octogenarian. This one truly is unresponsive and has been for a while. It looks like a bad stroke. We support and transport. Only the CT scan will tell.

Time for yet more tea and an attempt at sleep.

The phone rings. “Medic 9, respond for the cardiac arrest.” No ambiguity this time. This one’s not quite an octogenarian, but he’s closer to it than I. Two paramedics, two EMTs, three firefighters and a few police officers crowd into the small apartment. We wield our AHA magic again, but the results are not immediate. At the hospital they get a pulse back, then lose it. I hover at a nearby desk, writing my paperwork and eavesdropping on the resuscitation efforts. The battle wages for close to an hour with neither side definitively winning. Finally I have to leave without knowing the answer. I know the statistics say it won’t be pleasant.

The sun is rising; time for one last tea before heading home to my own bed.

“Medic 9, respond for the elderly female, difficulty breathing.” If there’s time for one last tea, there’s time for one last emergency. As we round the corner the sun strikes the harbor. Between the rows of houses, a fantastic sheet of silver shines brightly.

And our heroes drive off into the sunrise.