Friday night I took a four hour piece of the duty section for a couple who were on their way back from somewhere. I was folding laundry and making some sort of point about something or other when my pager went off. Difficulty breathing call. I went to the station and arrived pretty much at the same time as the rest of the pinch-hitting crew and we responded quickly. The driver asks me as I go to jump out whether the patient is a man or a woman.
"A woman. Why?"
He cuts his eyes sideways. "You'll see. Just go inside."
I go inside and it doesn't take too awful long to figure out what he was talking about. Before I can even say it the call goes out for lifting assistance and pickups start pulling into the driveway.
I'm not good at eyeballing such things but I'd say my patient is somewhere in the region of 400-500 pounds and all day she has felt like she hasn't been able to catch her breath. We help her stand, turn, and sit on the stretcher, and when we try to pull her up the blanket rips in half. I suddenly feel very grateful I've been spending five days a week at the gym because lifting one of her legs onto the stretcher takes pretty much all I've got.
Anyone who knows me is probably wondering why I'm even writing about this; I'm not a small person. I guess that's the point. This lady scared the holy hell out of me. She couldn't move. Her body wasn't just betraying her; it was suffocating her. It made me think of what it means to live in a prison of your own making, and how much further I still need to go to break out.
You hear a lot of still, small voices in the ambulance. One of the most chilling and persistent is 'This can happen to you'.