Monday, October 29, 2007

Special Places in Hell

I don't use that phrase often; I hear people say it, "There's a special place in hell for people like that"...

Its very tempting in this case.

But what disturbs me more is that this didn't happen in a vacuum. This house was not situated on 10 acres in the middle of the mountains. It was in a neighborhood. Mail got delivered. Meters got read. People saw, smelled, and suspected, but nothing happened until things were irrevocably bad. This lady died on 25 October and the assault on her dignity doesn't rest solely with her grandson.

If you see things, suspect things, say something.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Whatsoever Ye Do

I was paged out on a call a couple of weeks ago on a 'difficulty breathing' call for a lady in 'the Manor'....a senior-living apartment building in our town. We go there a lot.
I arrived to find a tidy little apartment with the requisite crocheted blankets and pictures of Jesus. A large grey cat stood watch on a bed that seemed enormous in comparison to the tiny woman on it. She was carefully folded and padded with small pillows to protect her nearly translucent arms and legs. A lifetime of battling muscular dystrophy left her fragile and in constant pain. Another medic and I climbed onto the bed with her so we could scoop her up and place her on the stretcher as gently as possible, keeping her pillows intact and joints cushioned. She didn’t weigh much more than the bedclothes. All the way to the hospital her blue eyes were locked on mine. As we carried her out she squeezed my hand and said 'thank you'.
A week ago, Helen shed the broken body that caused her so many years of grief. I can just imagine those kind blue eyes laughing at finally being free.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Baby in the Air

00:30, we're called to assist at the helipad. Its a hot load, which means we go to the hospital first, collect the patient, and take them directly to the helicopter, which does not turn off its engine, and away they go. On the way to the hospital we find out its an OB patient. Haven't had one of those yet.
We get there and the mother-to-be is quiet and smiling. She also looks 1) not all that pregnant, and as we get her situated on the stretcher and I get a close look at her perfect skin, 2) very young. The nurse explains that she is in 'preterm labor', like she was with her first three. Her first THREE. All three times, a helicopter took her to a larger hospital with a NICU, all three times all was well, so her apparent serenity is well founded, at least from a medical perspective.
Once she is transported and in the air, I take a look at the paperwork provided by the ER. Our mother of soon-to-be four is nineteen years old.
This blows my mind. At 37 I can barely tolerate the company of anyone under the age of 12 for one weekend. When I was 19, I was even less inclined. I don't envy her position, but I do admire her willingness to wade into the chaos of motherhood and What May Come. Here's to Number Four....Happy Birthday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Enough Rope

I'd been on a call in the middle of the night, I don't even remember what it was, but we were still at the house doing paperwork.

Earlier in the night another department had been called to 'stand by at your the center for details'. That usually means either 1) There is a situation where someone is possibly dead or 2) There is a situation that is unsafe and the EMTs can't go until the police clear it.

In this case, it was an attempted suicide. A woman had tried to hang herself from a tree. The rope broke, and someone found her. Not dead, but unresponsive. She came to the hospital. They worked on her awhile and decided to fly her to another hospital, so they could have a go.

The helipad is a mile or so from the firehouse. When a helicopter lands we have an engine standing by, in case something happens. When the call came with their ETA we suited up in turnouts and went.

As the truck sped up the hill I looked the dark, still surface of the lake gliding by below. I wondered what it was like to decide to die. And I wondered how this woman will feel when and if she wakes up,to discover that things didn't turn out like she hoped. Will she be angry? Relieved?

It seems strange to me to bear witness to struggles like these. Hours of training and they don't tell you, hey, you'll sit up in the middle of the night staring at the stars waiting and watching for the calvary to come, for an attempt at saving, for someone who didn't want to be saved.

First Arrest

Sunday I had my first full arrest. The call went out as a patient unresponsive. Halfway down the winding dirt road that led us to the house they said 'full arrest'.
When I first started running I would spend my time in the back of the bus just trying to breathe and dissipate the burning in my lungs that came just after the tone-inspired adrenaline dump. My heart would pound in my ears over the simplest call; just being in there banging and swaying was enough. Lately I find myself in nearly a trance. I breathe. I think "what will I need?". I pull bags out of storage bins. Look through them. Get gloves on. Review the order of what will need to be done. Somewhere down inside my old panicked self channels the family's anxiousness.
We arrive and several relatives are standing on the porch. I am sorry to say I don't even remember what they looked like. I was focused on backboard, AED, oxygen, getting stretcher into house. Patient. CPR had been in progress for some time and it was obvious that it was too late. His tiny beeswax-yellow legs peeked out of a plaid blanket. Some well meaning friend was doing chest compressions on the bed, which meant nothing was really happening. (You need to be on a HARD surface or don't bother.) Just the same, we worked on him, worked on him all the way to the hospital. I came off the back step bagging him the whole way just like on TV. And as soon as we got to the curtain area the doctor looked at him and said 'Stop'. Such an odd feeling; even though I knew what the outcome would be I were surprised to realize that I harbored some tiny expectation that our efforts might be doing something. I felt like a dog running across the yard on a run that suddenly comes to the end of the line and stops short.
They got all the wires and tubes out and covered him up to the neck in a soft white blanket. I was still bringing in equipment when the nurse herded the kids and grandkids together and told them it was over. I crept away; I remember the EMTs in my own life; once the crisis was over I didn't want to see them again.
So that was the first one. There will be more.

First Post

Every time I go on a run I think about starting a blog about the things you encounter on a call.
Thanks to all sorts of laws that force us to hand every patient many pages of tiny print concerning their rights--no details on where I am or what-have-you. Its a small town. Word gets around.
Most people around here joined emergency services at 16 after growing up sitting on the bumper of a firetruck with their feet not touching the ground. I started at 36. I don't know why.
Its not my dayjob; that is something I should be doing right this minute instead of blogging. I do it for free. But you can't talk about a call with anyone other than the people on the call. First rule of Fight Club; that sort of thing. So where to talk about it? Here, of course.
Anyone else who would like to jump in and share their own experiences is welcome to do so.