Its only May, and my collection of DUI humans grows by the week. I had considered waiting until the end of the summer and doing a wrap up of all of the fun conversations I've had with alcohol-fueled drivers but I can't wait until August or I will forget them all.
First, I'm glad they had a mock DUI at the high school. They should have made parental attendance a condition of graduation. So far this summer every single one of my drunk-wrecked has been between 45-55 years old. Post-boomers: Get your crap together. Seriously.
Exhibit One: Love the One You're With, if in fact you are with her.
Patient: "Did I cause an accident?" (He rammed his car into a tree. There was a large bottle of vodka rolling around on the floor of the car.)
Me: "You had an accident, sir." (I'm holding his head while others are coming in from the other side to get him in a KED.)
Patient: "How is my truck? Did I have an accident?"
Paramedic: "You ARE the accident, partner. Just hang on and we'll get you out."
Later, in the ambulance: "Did I wreck my truck? Is Amanda* okay?"
Paramedic: "We aren't the police, so we don't care, but how much have you had to drink tonight, partner?"
Patient: "6 or 7 shots. Why?"
Paramedic: "Because you were driving a Dodge Neon and Amanda's not with you."
Patient: "OH MY GOD! I WRECKED MY MOTHER'S CAR!!"
Exhibit Two: In which its more important to look good than to feel good.
The patient failed to negotiate a 'T', rolled through the stop sign, and rolled his truck several times. When we got there, he'd self-extricated and the truck was on its roof.
Patient: "Oh, shit. My truck."
Paramedic: "We aren't the cops, so we don't care....but how much have you had to drink tonight, partner?" (See a theme? We get to say this a lot.)
Patient: mutters something about just a couple of beers, then turns to me earnestly and says
"Oh man, is my face all messed up?"
Me: "No sir, you are just fine, just a little cut on your head."
Patient. "Oh, good." I guess his modeling career is safe. "Man, that ditch, man. It just...." (Just what, jumped up and grabbed you?)
Later on...as we're bringing him out of the ambulance.....
Patient: "Well, that's the rodeo."
Exhibit three: Getting your story straight isn't always enough
We arrive to find a large motorcycle leaning carefully on the embankment with two guys sitting beside it looking for all the world like two kids who got caught stealing in a candy store. Neither of them will look at us directly. Not much debris other than a broken amber turn signal lens, a wristwatch, and a pair of glasses. Both refuse treatment, which seems fine for the one guy but the other one's forehead is busted pretty good and he's trying to nonchalantly swab the blood off with a headwrap. I'm thinking five stitches minimum. We start filling out the refusal paperwork. (Translation: we start killing time until the state police arrive.)
One guy starts to tell us how they were coming up the road and jeez, there was a deer. Just come out of nowhere & ran right into the back of the bike. Ran off that way. And so we called someone to come and get us and while we were waiting, we had a couple beers. Four beers. Apiece.
Now. This scene was about a five minute ride from town. We were enroute probably no more than four minutes after the call went out. So in nine minutes, these gentlemen did the deer tango, got the bike off the road, called a friend, hopped a squat, and had four beers apiece. Because nothing says Miller Time like a close encounter with wildlife. I suppose they were careful to stash the empties back in the saddlebags for recycling because I didn't see eight empty cans anywhere around. Gentlemen: Do not piss on my leg and tell me its raining.
I hand my guy a handful of 2 X 2s for his head. I take a walk in the direction of travel and see a thirty foot long scrape on the blacktop that extends from the apex of the curve and starts just over a rough spot and I get an idea that's where things went tits up for these two and no deer were harmed in the making of this film.
Refusal forms complete, we wait. Oddly, the ride they called does not arrive. But the staties do.
I can honestly say I've never been in the kind of trouble that involves the state police; once a very kind Delaware State Trooper gave me a ride to my office when my car broke down on a busy and dangerous stretch of highway. So I can't say what it is about that slow saunter across the road from the black and white car that changes things for a patient/victim/defendant, but suddenly, the deer story was abandoned in favor of a finger-pointing meltdown over who was actually driving. I had walked away but I overheard one of the troopers saying something like "Okay. So I'm gonna ask you ONE MORE TIME...."
State troopers have the magic touch when it comes to getting impaired folks to get in the ambulance. Its called the "You can come with us" speech. As in: "You have two choices: You can go with them or you can COME WITH US." Its downright miraculous how people have a sudden awareness of pain they had not noticed to that point and elect an ambulance transport. Our busted head guy did us one or two better.
As soon as he was immobilzed he started shaking. It wasn't so much an involuntary tremble as it looked like he was reprising Tom Cruise's role in Cocktail. Then it started:
"Oh man. I'm gonna go back to prison. I don't wanna go back there. Please don't send me back to the Gulf. (the hell?) I don't wanna go back. Three times was enough."
"Sir, we're just taking you to the hospital to get you taken care of."
This refrain is repeated all the way to the hospital. In between he manages to tell us he has PTSD, he broke his back in the exact same place three times, and suddenly his back hurts an awful lot. Despite my very best efforts with a handlight I cannot get his pupils any smaller than dimes. All the way to the hospital we have to assure him many times we are not shipping him back to the Gulf. I get his arm out of his leather coat without complaint so I can get a BP but as soon as the ED nurses touch him he shrieks like they set him on fire.
He ends up being released with a couple of stitches in his head.
Its only May.
Monday, May 19, 2008
Friday, May 9, 2008
All EMS professionals must face death. The need for coming to terms with death is universal; death is part of an EMT's everyday duties. These professionals must not only learn how to respond to death, but also how to react to it and integrate it into everyday life. EMS professionals employ several strategies to control the stressful effects of death. The most frequently used defense mechanisms are educational desensitization, humor, language alteration, scientific fragmentation, escape into work, and rationalization.-- Emergency Medical Technicians Forum, Encyclopedia of Death and Dying
Monday wasn't a duty night for me, I was hanging out at the station waiting for a meeting to start. I went to a quick NH call because I happened to be there, thought that was going to be it. Then we heard it.
Alert tones and two beeps.
Two beeps is a car accident, usually. It is also an invitation for our entire department to LOSE OUR FREAKING MINDS.
In twenty seconds every piece of equipment we have was screaming down the road at 80 miles an hour toward what we were told was a motorcycle accident. Helicopter was in the air, we're lurching all over the back of the ambulance pulling equipment out on the stretcher. I guess some of us were excited about the possibility of saving someone's life. I'm still new enough that I was hoping I'd be useful and not in the way. I don't know.
The first thing that I saw was a little cluster of young guys. Guys that looked like they'd been working on cars or something. Guys of the normally "I'm invincible" variety suddenly looked very young, and a little lost. They were standing a little way away from our patient/the body. Amazing how quickly he went from one to the other. We got there in time to help turn him over and watch as the paramedic attached leads to him, in time for the bright green line. We got sheets and covered him. He looked so small.
A lot of time passed, that was spent standing around waiting for the 'stuff that happens when this happens'. Painting lines. Lighting flares. Measuring. Taking pictures. People that have to come and give the official imprimatur to what we already know to be so very finally and permanently true.
I read a lot, see a lot of movies, and probably think about stuff like this more often than is any good for anyone, but standing there with someone who probably got up that morning and looked forward to riding his bike and enjoying the hell out of a beautiful day waiting for the go-ahead to put him in a bag kinda rams it home for you like nothing else does: every day we get through is a miracle and not a single one of them is guaranteed. I don't think I had real faith until I stuck my hands into how it all breaks down. Damage. Loss. Disappointments. Fatal errors in judgement. Things that happen that aren't fair. At the end of the day it comes back to a verse that just sounds better in the old King Jimmy translation: "Whatsoever ye do for the least of these my brethren: you have done it unto Me."
And that's why I'll be back tomorrow.