Friday, December 28, 2007

Disaster Night

We were joined by a group of new recruits last month, and Anthony (the training officer)decided to welcome them to the division by scaring the pants off them. He planned a massive disaster scenario, with them as the patients and us as the responders. It was a great idea and a lot of fun, but since only 3 of us showed up as responders, it became a lesson in how NOT to manage a disaster......

John, Shane and I pull up in the truck as we hear Anthony call over the radio, "There has been an explosion in the building, with casualties trapped. Fire has cleared the building so it is safe to enter, but EMS is unavailable due to a massive accident on the highway. Treat and evacuate all patients." Even though Shane and I know this is only a scenario, I can tell we're both excited. John just shakes his head at the two of us, I can almost hear his sighing thought, "Rookies!" We grab the stretcher and our gear and head into the building, the oh-so-familiar building where we've spent countless hours training and otherwise goofing off.

I push open the door and stop in shock - I don't recognize the place. Anthony has done an amazing job, along with his team of moulage artists. I step forward into the darkness, my flashlight beam picking up 'broken glass' covering the floor, furniture strewn about haphazardly and wires hanging from the fallen ceiling tiles. He's found disaster sound effects of some sort, ominous creaking and groaning provides a perfect backdrop for the screams and moans of the casualties. We move forward and find our first patients, an arterial bleed/spinal victim, an amputated hand and a woman in labour. After taking care of the arterial bleed, they leave me assessing the pregnant lady, and move towards the back of the building. An obviously dead woman with grey matter splattering the floor lies in their way, she is quickly moved aside, next to the fractured femur. Upstairs is a severe asthma attack and a few other minor casualties, they have their hands full.

I'm still with the woman in labour, I don't want to leave her - although there are much more serious patients to attend to. Eventually I clue in that I'm wasting time and leave her with a friend who has only minor injuries. It is complete chaos now, John and Shane have stair-chaired the asthma patient down, but since they didn't notice her puffer, she dies before they reach the door. Playing the role of the first responding paramedics, Paul chews them out for bringing him a dead patient before a critical one. They scurry back in, passing me as I quickly treat the amputated hand. Roy and Kyle show up now, still in their EMS uniforms, they both just left work. They just wander around the disaster scene though, not being very useful. Their arrival means EMS has been freed up though, so now we can evacuate more patients.

John disappears into the back room and I join Shane as we board the spinal victim. We're missing straps and he's lying in an awkward position in the dark, backboarding him is a challenge. We get him secured and bring the stretcher close, but Shane disappears around the corner. He returns very quickly, saying that Roy is coming to help lift. "No way!" I say, "We can lift him, just grab the other end, c'mon!" He looks concerned, "You sure?" I just nod and crouch at the head. We count and lift, straight up from the floor and over to the stretcher. Roy turns the corner as we begin to strap him on and jokingly says, "Lift assist for the wimps?" I scoff at him, "Pifft, we can handle it." He disappears just as the stretcher drops - freaking out our patient and both of us. I look up at Shane, "What did you do???" He sheepishly shrugs, "I guess it wasn't locked properly..." Fortunately, the guy we boarded is only slightly fazed, and not a real patient! We wheel him out to the lobby and let him loose, the poor guy has had to pee for the last hour and hasn't been able to leave.

Anthony comes over the radio again, "There is a VIP in the building, the deputy mayor. Have you located him yet?" We all look at each other and shrug, nope. We scurry around, doing another sweep of the building, looking for any patients we may have missed. Finally, one of the guys pushes open the bathroom door - revealing a pale, sweaty man who is clutching his chest. Darn it. Looks like we missed the dude having the MI! After a collective smack on the forehead, we wheel him out quickly and return to collect our last few patients. The scenario ends as the last patient is evacuated, we breathe a massive sigh of relief.

Even though it wasn't real, there were times in that hour and a half where we were flustered, overwhelmed and getting tunnel vision like crazy. We talked it out afterwards, and find a million things we did wrong. Granted, having only 3 initial responders made it close to impossible to set up a triage station and properly treat everyone, but we could've done a lot better. The newbies were impressed, anyways. We're going to do this regularly, with every group of new recruits, there will be another disaster scenario to welcome them to the division. It's something good to get practice doing, and besides, it's a ton of fun!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Amazing Story

My favourite blog authors have come up with another 'Perspectives' post, it is definitely worth reading. Start with Lawdog the police officer, then move to Ambulance Driver the paramedic and Babs the nurse. Make sure to have Kleenex handy, I still haven't stopped crying. Great writing, a touching story.

Monday, December 10, 2007

My First MFR Duty

Well, last night was my first duty as a Medical First Responder, my first duty in charge. It was a great night, with a grand total patients. Now, it was a Celtic fiddle concert, which explains the lack of people getting hurt or sick. There really aren't that many ways to injure yourself while sitting still and listening to awesome music! It was fun though, I had a great partner, Shane. We ended up sitting outside the concert hall and talking for the entire 2nd half of the show.

It was a neat experience because my first duty ever was at the same venue, about this time last year. I was so nervous then, pacing around the house for hours beforehand, terrified that somebody was going to die and I wouldn't be able to handle it. I'm sure I drove all my housemates crazy! During the show, I was still incredibly nervous, I would jump every time an usher walked by, certain they were coming to tell us somebody was dying. Every time the radio went off, the same thing. It was a terrible night, I was so nervous that I was a complete wreck by the time I got home.

Last night was very different. In full uniform and with my new MFR epaulettes proudly fastened to my uniform sweater, I strode into the venue with confidence. I knew where everything was, I knew many of the staff members. We strolled around for a while, just getting a feel for the evening, then settled into our chairs to watch the show. The musician was amazing, I got completely wrapped up in the performance, just enjoying the music.

It was really neat to be in charge on duty, although a little scary as well. I've had such an amazing safety net for the past year, John and any of my other partners were always there to catch my mistakes, ask questions I forgot and suggest better ways of doing things. Now that is gone for the most part, I am on my own. True, I have a partner, but they are trained to my level or less. This means it is my decision, my call. I love the new responsibility, but I also fear it. I don't want to mess up, I don't want to let any of those guys down. They have a lot of faith in me, they insist I know what I am doing and can do it well. I hope I can prove them right.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Medical First Responder


I am now a medical first responder, woo! It was an intense course, although not nearly as hard as I thought it would be. This weekend was a weekend of testing, and I came through with flying colours. 93% on the written test, top of the class, I am very happy about that. Skill stations were all perfect, and the scenarios were good as well. There are things I missed and need to improve on, of course, but for now I will enjoy the new certification.

Such a stressful weekend though, my stomach still hurts. My BP hit 134/82 this morning, it it usually around 114/70. I am glad it is all over, glad to finally have the qualification. Next weekend will be my first duty on my own, I am looking forward to it. I love this!

Friday, November 30, 2007

I think we just saved his life.....!

It was yet another football game this past fall, a chilly, windy day. The team is terrible, they are losing yet again. I am partnered with Jackie today, a woman who has been doing this for many years now. She is a lot of fun and we share a lot of common views, it is a nice change to work with her. John and NDP are partners, covering the other side of the stadium, while Anthony is control, sitting up in the tower with the stadium radio.

I'm returning to the truck as quickly as I can after grabbing Jackie and I some dinner, freezing inside this jacket, simply a thin windbreaker. I round the corner and see that Jackie is gone, I instantly assume she is on a call and begin scanning the area. My radio battery had died earlier, so I have no clue what is going on. The motorcycle cop that usually drops in on the games sees me and heads over quickly. "Your partner got a call, she's up there", pointing towards the top section of the stands nearest to us. "You better hurry, I think she needs help." I thank him, drop the food in the front seat of the truck and charge for the stairs. Cops at every turn and landing are urging me on, "Hurry, hurry!" they say, frantically pointing up into the bleachers. I'm now used to cops getting excited about medical calls, but since the police population on this section of the bleachers is easily double what it should be, a little concern creeps into the back of my mind.

Sprinting up the stadium stairs, I reach the last corner and turn into the stands, scanning for the patient. I look up, way up, to the top of the stadium, and see Jackie kneeling, a prone body in front of her. Hmmmm, this actually looks serious. I take off again, ignoring the lascivious jeers of the drunk football fans. I attempt to manoeuvre my way past the police that have clustered around Jackie and the patient, but instead they physically move me forward through the ranks. I feel like a pinball, each cop I bounce into takes me by the shoulders and moves me forward, bouncing me into the next one in line. I finally reach Jackie, she is holding the patient on his side as liquid vomit dribbles from his mouth. She looks up, "Where's John?" I shrug, certain he and NDP are on their way up, and check the patient's airway. The man is cyanotic - blue-grey from the neck up. His airway clear, I turn to check breathing - or lack thereof - as John roars up behind me.

He sees the man, blue and limp, and swears. I think he hurdles over my head, he is on his knees at the patient's head before my mind can even register that he is on scene. With practiced skill and confidence, he rips open his bag and inserts an oral airway, barking at me to grab the BVM and set up the oxygen. NDP helps get it set up, and we hand it to John, who now has a nasal airway in place as well. They begin to bag the patient as I am pushed back slightly. His vitals are bad, and getting worse. His girlfriend says "he got quiet about 10 minutes ago, but I thought he was just sleeping." Duh. She also reveals that he drank a mickey of vodka before the game, and is taking some prescription pain meds. His pinpoint pupils and completely depressed respiratory drive indicate an opiate overdose, as does the history. John tells me to set up the AED, his bp has dropped yet again, and he is still not breathing on his own. It's not looking good for this guy, but for some reason I am perfectly calm. I am not freaking out over this call, I am running through everything I need to do, thinking of what I would be doing if I were running the call. I wish I were running it! Fire shows up but hangs back, asking if we need anything, then running to get a stretcher to carry him down in. I write vitals, switch O2 tanks and keep the equipment organized, anything they need or ask for, I do for them.

Overdose guy has begun to pink up, his bp is no longer in his boots, so John calls me over. He tells me to start bagging as he holds the mask to the man's face. I can't hide the grin on my face or the excitement in my eyes as I do so, this is so cool! I squeeze the bag and watch his chest rise - I am actually breathing for this man! I squeeze again - his chest rises again. Wow, this is so cool! I know I am thrilled at this because I am new and inexperienced, but I really don't care. I love getting to do all this for the first time, it's a magical experience to be breathing for him. His colour has improved even more, he now looks normal. He moves his arm - he's waking up! It is incredible, this man was getting closer and closer to dead when we got there, and now he is beginning to wake and breathe. He moves his head, fighting the tubes and the mask. He begins to get agitated and swings his arm towards me. John orders me back right away, and I reluctantly obey. The paramedics show up, the one woman takes over with an enviable presence. She assesses him, calls out orders and hooks him up to the monitor. I watch her, wanting to be her. I love this, it is exciting, it is amazing, I want to do this. I want to be her, looking confident and attractive in her uniform, running this call without ruffling a feather.

Fire returns with a cloth stretcher, and in one fluid movement, they help John and the paramedics sweep the man onto it. He is continuing to breathing on his own, and is getting rather combative. The cops close in as they begin to carry him down the bleachers, fighting and swinging his arms wildly. The stands are a mess of bags, Fire, EMS and us all have them strewn about. I pick up John's dropped cell phone, NDP's discarded jacket, 2 trauma bags and the AED. Everyone collects a bag and joins the procession, I hand off the AED to a female officer who asks if I need help. I look around, wanting something else to do, wanting to be useful. I see overdose man's girlfriend standing lost and alone, wiping tears from her eyes as she watches the sea of uniforms move out. I may not be able to do anything medically for the patient right now, but comforting people is my specialty. I introduce myself, ask her name, and with a hand on her shoulder, guide her down the stairs. I look below me, and feel enormous pride at being part of this procession. First in line are the paramedics and John with the patient, then comes fire with all the bags. Following them are a mess of police officers, then comes I, little ol' me is part of this - I love it.

Reaching the bottom of the stairs, I see that they have dropped him onto the ambulance stretcher and are fighting to restrain him. The man has gone from not breathing and almost dead to fighting like a madman in less then 10 minutes. It is an incredible transformation, I watch in awe as they load him into the back of the truck, still fighting. Several officers pile in as well, this guy is just nuts.

I drop the gear and stand in the growing darkness, awash in flashing lights. I realize something. I think we just saved his life. I run over the call in my mind - he had stopped breathing, his vitals were crashing, bp was lower then I'd ever seen it. We were on scene for at least 5 minutes before EMS got there, and in that time, we got him breathing again. That's not to say that he might've made it even if we weren't there, but I feel like our efforts saved his life. Lost in thought, I keep watching as they insert an IV and get him fully restrained. Another new thought hits me. I think I can do this. Not only that, I think I really want to do this. I kept my cool in that call, I knew exactly what I would've done if it were my call to run. I really think I want to do this - I think I can do this.

John walks up behind me and lays his hand on my shoulder. Rubbing my back, he asks if I'm ok. I grin up at him. Of course I am. That was incredible. The concern in his eyes turns to amusement and then pride when he sees I am fully composed, merely excited. He tells me I did well, and thanks me for my help. He then freaks out a little, he can't find his phone. I grin again and pull it from my shirt pocket, no worries, I've got it. I think about this call for days afterwards, it amazes me each time. I love what I get to do, I want to do more of it, I want to do it all.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Snippets from my Weekend

I looked up on our way back inside from the call, way up at the beautiful CN tower, all lit up in the night sky. It was incredible, to be on duty in downtown Toronto. It was a bit of a drive for our division to cover the event, but the organizer wanted us, which made it all the more amazing.

The cops there seem to be friendlier then cops here, which I wasn't expecting. I talked to many of them all weekend, it was a lot of fun.

Playing football with a crowd of drunk Saskatchewan fans at 2:30 in the morning while in uniform is not the best idea. It was fun though.

After having a nice conversation with the police officer beside me, I decided to take a catnap on the table. It was only about 10, but I was exhausted, the weekend was long. I can nap very easily on duty now, falling into a semi-conscious state that is surprisingly rejuvenating. I didn't even hear him come in. My partner snuck up on me and flicked my ear, jolting me awake and sending me halfway out of my chair with fright. As I collapsed back down and tried to still my rapidly beating heart, the room erupted in gales of laughter. The cop beside me didn't find it amusing though, he shot Practical-Joker Partner "the nastiest look I've ever seen!!". Haha. Serves him right.

I saw a postictal patient, my first one. After a major seizure, people go into this weird, confused, exhausted state, I didn't realize how out of it they would be though. This woman had never had a seizure before, she collapsed in her boyfriend's arms, seizing wildly in the street. By the time we got there she was done, but barely conscious. EMS showed up shortly thereafter and took her straight to the hospital. I do hope she is ok, healthy young women just don't seize like that for no reason.

I made friends with a police Sergeant Friday. He then proceeded to tease me all weekend.

I saw Don Cherry, Ron McLean, Great Big Sea and Jim Cuddy.

I get silly at 2 in the morning when I'm running on less then 4 hours of sleep and am finishing up my second 18-hour shift in 2 days. Chocolate brownie ice cream probably doesn't help matters.

I learned that drunk football fans like redheads in uniform. It was rather disturbing.

I love my partners.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


A quick, intense summer thunderstorm sends us scattering for cover. It is nice having the trailer set up at these festivals, we can take cover from all sorts of hazards; thunderstorms, dusty winds, the sun, noisy crowds, screaming kids....We watch the rain and lightening from the shelter, glad for the brief respite from the heat. The humidity just intensifies though, it's brutal.

A festival employee tears up on a gator as the rain slows and the sun begins to peek through the clouds. "A man is bleeding over in the food tents, c'mon!!" Why is it that people freak out over blood so easily? I guess I really have learned something this summer, people freaking out just seems to make me more calm. I hop on the back of the cart as John and Roy hop in the front. We follow the frantic employee through the crowd, which parts only slightly faster then January molasses. As we pull up to the tent, I quickly hop off - right into a patch of mud. Great start. I dodge the other mud puddles and make it to the patient with only minor soakers. It is an older man sitting on his walker, a wad of paper towels being pressed to his lower leg. Blood is running down his leg into his sock, and the paper-towel holder looks up at me with relief, his eyes begging me to take over. I love that feeling, people looking to me for help.

I introduce myself and my partners and kneel in front of him to take a look. There are a few gouges on his leg, but nothing that should be causing this much bleeding. Further questions reveal that he takes Coumadin, a blood thinner. Bingo. John hands me sterile gauze and I replace the dirty, blood-soaked paper towels. Holding pressure with one hand, I attempt to wrap roller gauze around his sizable leg with the other, smearing my uniform shirt and arms with mud and blood in the process. Lovely. The man makes a snarky comment about my struggles, but I choose not to hear it, I don't really care what he said. John also sees me struggling and bends down to help, together we create a nice, neat white bandage in no time at all.

I rise and begin to take his vitals, the guys usually make me do it. I don't mind, I figure the more bp's I take, the better I'll get, especially in noisy or otherwise adverse conditions. I have trouble finding his brachial pulse, his arm is rather large and extraordinarily flabby. As I wrap the cuff around his arm, he looks up at me with a sneer, "What, have you never done this before? Figures I get stuck with the girl who can't do anything." I look him directly in the eyes and smile politely. "I have done this many times, sir, I know what I am doing." He sneers again and I grit my teeth. There is no need for his attitude, but I am a professional and I will not let him get to me. I pump up the cuff and listen closely, slowly releasing the air. I note the pressure and release the cuff the rest of the way, he starts growling even before I remove the stethoscope from my ears. "That hurt, you didn't do it right. You never have done this before, have you? Silly girl. If you were a nurse you'd be like the one who had to poke me twenty times to get the needle in. Don't know what you're doing, I can tell." I say nothing, just turn and put the cuff away. His words hurt me more then I let on, more then they should.

I take the sterile water and gauze from John and kneel at his feet once again. I gently loosen and remove his blood-soaked shoe and begin to wipe away the blood. I am humbled beyond belief, washing the dirty feet of a crusty old man who has come close to reducing me to tears. I thank God for the love He has filled my heart with, I now see this man as God does. He is lost, bitter and hurt, his heart hardened by the life he has lived. I blink back tears again, but tears for the man in front of me this time, not tears for my injured pride. I begin to replace his shoe, but I have trouble pulling the back of it over his heel, so he yanks it away angrily. "Can't do anything right, silly girl." He mutters as he jams it back onto his foot. I wipe the last traces of blood from his leg, then take his hands and clean them off as well. Looking directly into his eyes as he stands to leave, I wish him well. He grunts and limps off.

I look down at myself. My boots are covered in mud, my socks are soaked, and there is a mixture of blood and mud smeared across both forearms, as well as across the front of my white uniform shirt. Something has changed inside me though. It is hard to explain, difficult to understand. I feel a sense of peace in my heart, I feel like I can love everyone, no matter how they treat me or what they say to me. I have been humbled, and it has brought a joy that I never would have expected.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Fun Weekend

This past weekend was a lot of fun; a lot of laughter, a bit of pain, and a lot of experience gained. We covered a massive martial arts tournament, which is a totally different world, seriously. I had never been to anything like it before, it was amazing what these guys did to each other on the mat, and even more amazing that they'd hug, shake hands and chat when they finished.

I was partnered with John and Roy on Saturday, it was one of the best duties I've been on in a few months now. We had very few patients, as the kids were fighting, and they don't usually make enough contact to really hurt each other. There were mostly just skill demonstrations against invisible opponents. The weight room just off the main gym was our first aid post, and I got the bright idea to try out all the machines. Of course, they're all huge, scary, completely foreign looking things, so the guys taught me how to use them all. I'm not as strong as I thought, but I'm stronger then John and Roy thought, so that at least is a nice feeling. I found out I can lift over twice my weight with my legs, but can barely bench-press a pillow. I won't even mention how weak my triceps are.....

After trying out all the machines, I decided that I wanted to learn how to punch 'properly', and as John was on the boxing team in college, I got him to show me how. I went at the punching bag for a while, all three of us were laughing as much as we were fighting, it was hilarious. One of the men in charge is on that 'Ultimate Fighting Champion' show, apparently he was watching me punch and laughing his butt off. Ah well, I figure a guy like that has every right to laugh at my fighting skills - he could probably kill me with his pinky! I really enjoyed learning how to punch and fight, it was quite entertaining and we had a lot of fun. We were interrupted when a woman stuck her head through the door and hollered for us, so John and I ran off to treat a little boy who had gotten hit in the ribs a little too hard. Sweet kid, he was ok, just a little winded. Those kids are awfully tough, they knocked each other around pretty good!

Sunday was a lot busier, we were run off our feet with a steady stream of patients. Anthony and NDP joined John, Roy and I, which was definitely a good thing! Anthony and I ended up working together, we treated probably around 20 patients throughout the day. The injuries were all identical - it was really weird. Different person, different tattoos, and different body part, but they were all the exact same injury, something was always torn, banged or bruised. The men would limp through the door and ask for ice, I came very close to responding, "Let me guess, somebody beat you up, right?". Some of them were really nice, realizing it was part of the game, while others were serious pricks about it, swearing and angry that they were out of the competition, barely sitting still long enough for me to assess them and throw on some ice.

I'm not even sure why this event was so much fun, the same partners and same routine as usual, with no memorable calls. The organizers treated us like royalty though. Their insurance policy says they can't run the event without us, so since we are volunteers, they bend over backwards and give us anything we ask for and more to ensure we come back with a good team next year. We asked for sandwiches at lunchtime, they returned with fruit, water, pop, chocolate bars and sandwiches. The UFC fighter kept coming over to chat, and his Dad brought us all event t-shirts. The weight room kept us entertained, and we had front-row seats to watch the bloodbath if we so desired. It is really nice to be appreciated and it was a very good weekend, even if my knuckles are killing me and every muscle in my upper body is still aching. Haha, I guess I should lift weights and punch things more often, I obviously need the practice!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another view of old

It is day 3 of a 4-day festival, and though fun, it is beginning to take a toll on me. I am used to my 8 hours of sleep, so working for 6 hours, then volunteering for 10 on only 4 hours of sleep is rather exhausting. I wouldn't trade it though, and I know none of my partners would either. We’re having too much fun, playing cards, watching movies, eating yummy but oh-so-unhealthy festival food, and oh yeah, treating patients. A lot of patients actually, it has been a very busy weekend.

John, NDP and I are tooling around in the golf cart - it even has lights and a siren, although I must admit that the siren is rather dinky, it sounds more like a bike horn. Nevertheless, it is a very cool cart, we can scream around the park rather quickly if needed, with a stretcher on the back to transport patients to the waiting ambulance or just back to our post. John is talking with his former preceptor at the edge of the park; we're just wasting time, since we have a lot of it. Sitting on the back of the cart, I look over the crowd, milling about in the summer sun. I love knowing that I am here to help these people; it is a really cool feeling to be the one that people call for help. I hear Roy call us over the radio, but neither of the guys hear him, so I answer. "There is a woman bleeding by the washrooms on the East side of the vendor area." He responds. "We're on our way,” I answer back as I shout to the guys that we have a call. They saunter over and I tell them what's up, not that I can give them any details. Flicking on the lights, we cut through the crowd to the other side of the park.

There is a small crowd there; I pull on my gloves as I hop off the cart and head towards them. The woman in the centre is very old, but stands straight and tall as the blood drips down her leg. Her daughter, who is also quite old, hovers around nervously, much more concerned then her injured mother is. As I have her sit on a chair borrowed from the nearest tent, I ask her what happened. "I was looking at the beautiful roses, see, and I wanted to get close enough to smell them. You can't go through life without smelling the roses you know; I just failed to realize they were quite so thorny. It really isn't that bad, not worth all this trouble, but I can't seem to stop the bleeding." She speaks very properly, almost regally. I wipe the blood from her leg and hold pressure on the deepest wound, but she firmly declines my offer to wrap it. "I'm 86 years old and this is nothing, dearie." I suggest she see a doctor if she has any more trouble getting bleeding to stop, which she also firmly dismisses, "Look at all of these, " she says, pointing to numerous scars, "I never saw a doctor for any of these - look at that one - this is nothing compared to that one." She is incredibly wrinkled, but there is a healthy confidence about her, I get a sense that she has lived a very good life.

As she waves her hands around, I notice the rings. Oh wow, look at all the jewels. Massive diamonds glitter on her fingers while gold bracelets studded with gems circle her withered wrists. A gold chain hangs about her neck, diamond earring stud her ears. They are all very real and she wears them well, there is no gaudiness to her attire. She is full of spunk, laughing and joking about the fact that my male partners are not treating her, she expresses her disappointment clearly. She speaks of her love for roses, how she simply cannot resist them, even with all their thorns.

I hold pressure for a few more minutes as John fills out the paperwork, then with our release, she walks off on the arm of her daughter, her head held high and her back straight. John and I discuss her several times over the course of the day, something about her made an impact on both of us. Her manner of speaking, her attitude, her appearance, her daughter's obvious love and careful attention. She is an incredible woman, we only hope to be half as spry when we reach 86.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

An Old Story about an Old Man

Back in high school, I volunteered at the relatively small local hospital. I loved it, a whole new world was revealed to me that my rather sheltered childhood had not disclosed. The Emergency room was my favourite department, mainly because I got the opportunity to talk to all the paramedics and police officers who came in. They would tease me, tell stories and joke around, treating me like an equal instead of a lower life form. When Mom would pick me up after a shift, I would pepper her with excited stories about what paramedics spoke to me, what they said, the jobs I did and all the amazing things I had seen. There is one story I don't believe I ever shared though, and I remembered it last night in vivid detail.

The nurses in Emerg were always very busy, and they loved it when I showed up for my shift, I had been volunteering there for a while and they knew they could give me a task and have it done right. Already that morning I had fetched and delivered the mail, ran X-rays to every corner of the hospital, restocked all the forms and brought countless stretchered patients to their tests. That was my favourite part, if any patient was going to a ward or up for a test, I was called to bring them there. I loved steering the massive stretchers through the busy hallways, I loved being responsible for them, if only for a few minutes.

I usually enter the ward through the back hallway, lined with stretchers if it was busy, and today it is. There is one old man there I keep giving a wide berth to, he is not quite with it, moaning, thrashing around, screaming, babbling and calling out for unseen people. I must admit that he scares me, he looks like a crazy, scary old man. Returning to the ward after a delivery, a nurse pops out of nowhere and asks, "Are you busy, can you do something for me?" I say I can, and she drags me over to the lunch trays, most of which are empty and waiting to go back to the kitchen, as it is after one o'clock. She plucks one off the bottom rack, all the dishes still neatly covered, and heads towards the back hall, motioning with her head to follow. I do, and my heart drops as she stops beside the scary old man. She plunks the tray down on the table beside his bed, "He's confused, but not combative. Get him to eat what you can." Then she disappears, leaving me alone with him. Gingerly, I peel the covers off the dishes and reveal a blended assortment of food, like baby food. I figure I'll just try feeding him like I did my baby sister, I have never fed an adult before.

I dip the spoon into the nearest dish and bring it to his lips, he jerks his head around and smacks at it hungrily. His confusion is evident though, he keeps calling, "Sandy, Sandy!", staring at the walls with unseeing eyes as he thrashes around. As I feed him and wipe the excess off his stubbled chin with a napkin, I am inexplicably drawn to this man. Who is he, what was his life like? I imagine his youth, his family, his gradual descent into the wizened frame he is now. I shake my head and blink back tears. I focus on who he is now and what I am doing, he is no longer just a scary old man in the back hallway. I imagine him as a loved and respected Grandfather, and take his hand as he continues to moan out for 'Sandy'. I start to talk to him, it doesn't matter what I say, I just talk as I spoon the food into his eager mouth. He grasps my hand tightly and begins to calm down, he starts to call me Sandy. I don't know who Sandy is, a wife, a daughter perhaps, but I feel honoured to be mistaken for her. Perhaps it is not right to play into it, but he doesn't understand who I am or where he is, and I don't bother trying to enlighten him.

A nurse calls me away to do another task, and I hurry through it as fast as possible, we had not quite finished our lunch. I return to him within a very few minutes, but he is once again distressed. "Sandy, Sandy!" I take his hand again and brush his white hair back from his wrinkled forehead. I begin to talk again, soothing him as I feed him his tea. I pour all the love and comfort I can into my words, he soaks it up like a parched sponge. The tray is rapidly emptying, and his appetite has been sated. I wipe his whiskered chin once again, removing dried crusts that had been there for far longer then our brief interaction. I wipe his hands, soft and warm, wrinkled and twisted into painful configurations. I place everything back onto the tray as I hear the page, "Volunteer to the nurses station, volunteer to the nurses station." I gently remove my hand from his, pat him on the shoulder and reluctantly, head back into the fray.

I make a point to head by his bed an hour later, and notice him sleeping peacefully. There is a middle-aged man on the stretcher behind him, and his wife stops me. With her hand on my arm, she thanks me. "He hasn't been this quiet since yesterday." She says softly. "Thank you for calming him down." I nod, blinking back the tears that have threatened to surface again, and smile at her and her husband as I run off to fulfill another task. I am busy for the rest of the day, running all over the hospital, stopping in my department only long enough to be sent elsewhere. Ten minutes after my shift is done, I am finally heading out of Emerg, and take the back hallway to check on him once more.

His bed is empty.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Frequent Flier

Most people in EMS can tell stories about a 'frequent flier', a patient that regularly calls for help, whether warranted or not. At the football games we cover, we have one such patient, a young women who works in the concession stand. More often then not, we get a call at the beginning of the 4th quarter, consisting of any variety of complaint, from an injury to chest pain to dizziness. I have helped out with her treatment before, assisting in splinting a 'broken' arm that most certainly was not, but have never been the primary responder. At the last game, Roy and I were the closest when the call came through, so we got the dubious honour of treating her.

It has been raining almost all evening, we have gotten soaked, as we were posted throughout the stands. The rain didn't seem to matter as Roy and I were talking to the man in charge, casually chatting as the rain poured down, dripping down our faces and soaking through our uniforms. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and ignore the weather, we don't usually work in ideal conditions. We were happy to get back to the warm and dry truck, however, and jumped in the front to chat and will the clock to wind down more quickly. Our team always loses anyways, so the dying minutes of every game are rather pathetic, this one is no exception.

As we stare out the rain-spattered windshield, a girl runs over to the security guard at the gate and we hear her ask, "Is the ambulance here, are they in there?" The man nods and Roy rolls down his window as she ducks beneath the barrier and beelines it for the truck. She is very excited, "At the concession stand, a girl fainted, she collapsed, she might have epilepsy, she needs help!" Roy and I exchange knowing glances as we hop out of the truck into the ever-falling rain. We grab our gear as Roy radios the call and our ensuing response into control. I can practically hear the laughter of John and the others echoing throughout the stadium, every one of them knows who the patient is.

We follow the excited girl through the crowd and behind the counter of the now-closed concession. Carefully maneuvering past the giant deep-fryers with our gear, we round the corner to see her slumped against a shelving unit, head buried in her arms. Roy has treated her for several years now, he knows her history and takes the call. "Hi, Caitlin." He says as he crouches beside her. "What seems to be the problem today?" She mumbles something about being dizzy and lightheaded as he checks her pulse. She refuses to make eye contact, keeping her head buried and eyes averted as he talks to her. "Why don't we go over to the truck, do you think you can walk over if we help you? You usually feel better after you rest in the truck for a while." She likes that idea, but is unsure if she can make it. We help her up and start her walking, we just need to get her to the truck, a warm, safe controlled environment is what she needs. As we emerge from the close quarters of the concession booth into the rain, she starts to falter. "We're almost there, almost to the truck, just a bit farther" I encourage as I take her arm. I feel pity for this poor girl, she obviously has issues, and nothing we can do for her in the truck is going to come close to fixing them. Nevertheless, we need to get her inside, she like creating a scene, so we need to get her out of the crowds.

Once in the truck, she starts to shiver violently, now complaining of shortness of breath, dizziness, severe light-headedness and a variety of other symptoms that sound good to her at the time. Roy talks her through all the symptoms, and soon, all but the light-headedness has disappeared. She now feels the need to go for a walk, perhaps that will make it go away. We try to change the subject and convince her to stay lying down, but she adamantly insists on going for "just a little walk, it'll make my head feel better." Roy looks at me and shrugs, we both know what will happen as soon as she gets back into the crowd, but we may as well get it over with.

I step out of the truck and help her down, leaving the back doors open so Roy can hear me when I call. She immediately heads around the side of the truck - rather quickly for somebody so ill - and out of Roy's line of vision. She asks if we can go 'down there', pointing down the aisle under the stands. I don't want to get far from the truck, but I agree for a very short walk and we duck under the barrier. I hold her arm lightly, I want to know what she's planning. We take no more then 2 steps and I feel her about to go. A slight pressure increase on my arm, and as soon as she confirms I have her, she does a perfect swan-dive, the back of her hand pressed to her forehead, down to the dirty wet concrete. I knew that was what was going to happen, so as soon as I sensed the change in her demeanor, I stepped behind her, grabbed her other shoulder and controlled her fall, exactly as she knew I would. The crowd seems rather concerned as I shout, "Roy!" and kneel down beside her, supporting her in a sitting position. Roy sticks his head out of the back of the truck and sees us on the ground. Without surprise and with very little concern, he steps down and heads over. I get in her face and try to make eye contact with her, "Caitlin, can you hear me? Are you ok?". She jerks her head away and says "Yes!" in a rather forceful tone for somebody who is supposed to be semi-conscious. Roy leans over us, the question in his eyes obvious, and I shake my head, bringing my hand up to my forehead and mouthing "Swan-dive". He nods and I see the humour return to his eyes as I continue to talk to her. "Caitlin, we need to get back to the truck. We are going to help you back, now take my arm. Ok, up we go." Roy helps lift as I force her to stand, she leans on me heavily as we walk her back. She glibly hops into the ambulance, then loses all her strength as she swoons back down onto the stretcher.

We get her to call her mother, who is coming to pick her up anyways, and learn she is 'just a minute away'. Her mother arrives with a knock on the back of the truck, I open the doors and help her in. She looks at her daughter with loving exasperation but very little real concern. She is tired of this scene, that is obvious, but she doesn't yell or berate her daughter, I am impressed by the patience and love this woman shows. She does not put up with it though, she very quickly states, "Ok, we're going home, you're fine, now let's go." Caitlin insists she cannot possibly walk to the outer gate where Mom is parked, and Roy says we'll wheel her out. The crowd parts with drunken interest as we wheel her through. We lower the stretcher and she swings her feet down as her mother takes her arm, leading her to the car. I step forward to take her other arm, but Roy indicates not to bother. He leans over the stretcher and whispers, "She won't faint with her mother watching." She doesn't, and we head back to the truck without incident.

The game has ended by now, and the others have begun to return to the truck. We lift the stretcher in as they all laugh at us. We lost, we had to treat Caitlin. I am not comfortable with that prevailing attitude. I realize she is an annoyance to them, she regularly ties up at least 2 responders with her BS complaints, and I agree that is not right. I appreciate Roy's attitude towards her and the entire call though. Although he knew, we both knew, that there was nothing wrong with her, we treated her with professional respect and dignity. Regardless of her past history or what we think of her, she deserves nothing less, no patient does. We are there to treat all people, all illnesses and all issues. We need to treat everyone with the same respect, it doesn't matter if they are drunk, mean, annoying or 'frequent fliers', they all deserve our best care.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


It's a cold, fall day at a football game and a light, misty rain has been falling, it's just wet enough to add that extra chill to the air. John and I are partnered up and hiding under the bleachers in the concourse, biding time until we can switch positions and get back to the nice, warm truck. Suddenly the radio blares a heart-stopping message; "Sierra Eight, Control. Man down in section 22, suspected heart attack." John and I exchange adrenaline-infused glances as we grab our gear and sprint up the stairs towards the unknown.

A middle-aged white male is sprawled across the bleachers as frantic family members and bystanders scream desperately for help. His face is blue, he has no pulse. John barks at me to start CPR, and I do, terrified beyond belief. He radios for help and pulls out the BVM and O2. As I reach 30 compressions, he throws in an airway and gives two breaths. Roy and NDP skid to a halt beside us, they have brought the stretcher and stair chair. The rain soaks us all as we rush him down the bleachers into the shelter of the concourse. I continue CPR and feel his ribs break under my hands with an audible snap. I look up, horrified, and Roy commands "Keep going!", the intensity in his eyes just daring me to defy him. I keep going as they hook up the AED, with John taking over ventilations. EMS is on the way, I hear the sirens descending on us. "Clear! Everyone get back!" I step back as Roy presses the button, the man twitches and jolts. No change. "Clear!".............

........I wake with a cry, jolt out of my daydream with a start.

In my dreams, the man wakes up and the incoming paramedics congratulate us on our save.

In my nightmares, he dies, and the desperate wailings of his loved ones echo in my ears for years. I can't stop feeling his breaking ribs under my hands, can't stop seeing the dead look in his eyes.

This scenario repeated in my mind with frightening regularity a year ago. When I first started going out on duty, I was terrified that this would happen, that something would happen that I could not handle. As I gain experience and training however, I have become less and less worried about it, to the point I am at now, where I know I could run that call. I have seen people not breathing, I have helped save a life. I know how I react in tense situations, with a calm head and busy hands. I also know that most calls are not life-threatening. Most of what we do, most of what anybody in EMS does, does not consist of saving lives.

When I am tired or doubting myself, this scene may replay itself in my head, but now I catch it, I think my way through it, and I turn it into what I know I would do. I no longer envision myself falling apart or freezing, and I no longer put the guys in charge. With increasing confidence and skills, I am able to do this on my own, and in another month, I will have the official certification that enables me to do so. I am looking forward to it. John has taught me well, he has taught me a lot, and I am ready to jump out on my own. That's not to say that I know everything, or that I'll never fall, but I know I can do this. I want to do this.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Wound Care....or lack thereof

Wound care has always been about common sense to me, even growing up, it was never something that had to be taught. With all of us sisters it was the same, you get a cut, you clean it and keep it clean. Simple enough, I thought. I'm amazed at how many people seem unable to grasp that concept though, it can be rather disgusting...A warning to my squeamish sisters and friends.....Haha

The man moved towards us slowly with a barely-perceptible limp. John nods towards him, "Looks like you've got a patient." I stand and turn, watching him come over. Mid-thirties, slightly rough looking. He could be the down-on-his-luck family man who is fighting to support his kids or your worst nightmare in a back alley. I prefer to think of him as the former, but John's closer then normal proximity tells me he is considering the latter and is prepared to protect me.

"I cut my foot on my bike gear and was hoping you could bandage it for me." I nod and have him sit, "When did this happen?" I ask. "Last week sometime, I've been wearing workboots all week, but my shoe is bothering it today, it feels like it's rubbing more." He slowly, carefully slides off a dirty sneaker and I pull on a pair of gloves, not quite sure what I'm about to see, but it can't be that bad, just a cut, right?

An angry red gash cuts a jagged swath through the dirt and dried blood of the grotesquely swollen foot. Pus is oozing from the wound, the dried edges of skin gape open to reveal multiple layers of flesh, all swollen and fiery red. Surprised, I draw a quick breath, only to be assaulted by the overwhelming and unmistakable stench of infection. Alright, no more gasps from me, it's not safe! "Uhhh, Sir, it looks quite infected, you need to go to a hospital and have them take care of this." John leans over my shoulder and agrees, we begin to discuss with the guy how he really needs to go have this looked at. It takes key words from John like "gangrene", "amputation", "severe infection" and "blood poisoning", but eventually the guy's shoulders droop slightly and he agrees, "If you think it's really that bad....." I firmly state that is indeed that bad, backing up John's message for proper wound care. He spent a week working without socks in sweaty work boots, I shudder to think of the neglect.

"This may sting a bit, Sir, but I need to clean this up." I say as I begin to swab at the wound, cradling his dirty foot in my gloved hands. I'm not at all sickened by it, more amazed at how nasty this infection is, although I must admit the smell bothers me a bit. "Clean away, girlie" He says with a swaggering grin. "I've been stabbed twice, shot once, this is no big deal." Yet he flinches as I clean, it hurts a great deal more then he'd care to admit to a 'girlie' like me. I finish cleaning, and although there is less dirt and dried blood, it doesn't look any better. I take the gauze John hands me and begin to wrap it up, creating a nice, neat white bandage. I sit back on my heels to admire my handiwork, it doesn't even budge when he jams his foot back into the filthy sneaker.

I ask him to remove his sweater as I begin to take vitals. He pulls it and his T-shirt off, the quick movement catching the eye of the police officer standing across the aisle at the beer tent. He looks away as fast as he looked over, but I am now conscious of the fact that he has been watching every move. As I strap the cuff around his arm, I notice the scars bearing witness to the stories he told mere minutes prior. No previous experience is necessary to recognize the stab wounds or bullet scar that mar his chest. Again I am thankful that John has stayed close, and that the police officer has been watching. I'm not overly concerned, but, like the two of them, I'm just not at ease with this patient. I feel the need to be more cautious, more aware. I finish up and reiterate to him that he really does need to go to a hospital. He promises he will, replaces his shirts and heads back into the crowd. John and I turn, and as one, strip off our gloves and head straight for the hand sanitizer. A lot of hand sanitizer.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Myers-Briggs Test......very interesting

This morning while procrastinating - - I mean, working hard on my lab report, I came across an online Myers-Briggs personality test. The results were very interesting, I looked up my letters, INFJ, on another site, and got the following blurb back. I can't believe how accurate it was, I'm still fascinated by it. Here are the may learn more about me then you care to know, consider yourself warned, hehe.

The Protector (Or Counselor, as other sites say)

INFJs are gentle, caring, complex and highly intuitive individuals. Artistic and creative, they live in a world of hidden meanings and possibilities (Like Anne of Green Gables!). Only one percent of the population has an INFJ Personality Type, making it the most rare of all the types.

INFJs place great importance on having things orderly and systematic in their outer world. They put a lot of energy into identifying the best system for getting things done, and constantly define and re-define the priorities in their lives. On the other hand, INFJs operate within themselves on an intuitive basis which is entirely spontaneous. They know things intuitively, without being able to pinpoint why, and without detailed knowledge of the subject at hand. They are usually right, and they usually know it HaHa - I hope my sisters read this one!). Consequently, INFJs put a tremendous amount of faith into their instincts and intuitions.

INFJs have uncanny insight into people and situations. They get "feelings" about things and intuitively understand them. Most INFJs are protective of their inner selves, sharing only what they choose to share when they choose to share it. They are deep, complex individuals, who are quite private and typically difficult to understand. INFJs hold back part of themselves, and can be secretive.

But the INFJ is as genuinely warm as they are complex. INFJs hold a special place in the heart of people who they are close to, who are able to see their special gifts and depth of caring. INFJs are concerned for people's feelings, and try to be gentle to avoid hurting anyone. They are very sensitive to conflict, and cannot tolerate it very well. Situations which are charged with conflict may drive the normally peaceful INFJ into a state of agitation or charged anger. They may tend to internalize conflict into their bodies, and experience health problems when under a lot of stress.

Because the INFJ has such strong intuitive capabilities, they trust their own instincts above all else. This may result in an INFJ stubbornness and tendency to ignore other people's opinions. They believe that they're right. On the other hand, INFJ is a perfectionist who doubts that they are living up to their full potential. INFJs are rarely at complete peace with themselves - there's always something else they should be doing to improve themselves and the world around them. They believe in constant growth, and don't often take time to revel in their accomplishments. They have strong value systems, and need to live their lives in accordance with what they feel is right. In deference to the Feeling aspect of their personalities, INFJs are in some ways gentle and easy going. Conversely, they have very high expectations of themselves, and frequently of their families. They don't believe in compromising their ideals.

INFJ is a natural nurturer; patient, devoted and protective. They make loving parents and usually have strong bonds with their offspring. They have high expectations of their children, and push them to be the best that they can be. This can sometimes manifest itself in the INFJ being hard-nosed and stubborn. But generally, children of an INFJ get devoted and sincere parental guidance, combined with deep caring.

In the workplace, the INFJ usually shows up in areas where they can be creative and somewhat independent. They have a natural affinity for art, and many excel in the sciences, where they make use of their intuition. INFJs can also be found in service-oriented professions. They are not good at dealing with minutia or very detailed tasks. The INFJ will either avoid such things, or else go to the other extreme and become enveloped in the details to the extent that they can no longer see the big picture (Yeah, this is so very true!). An INFJ who has gone the route of becoming meticulous about details may be highly critical of other individuals who are not.

The INFJ individual is gifted in ways that other types are not. Life is not necessarily easy for the INFJ, but they are capable of great depth of feeling and personal achievement.

Monday, October 15, 2007


I'm not sure who first brought it up or when, but the idea had been raised that we should go play paintball together as a division. The guys have been raring to go for a few weeks now, and I'm totally pumped as well. I've never done it before, the scariest thing I've shot is a water gun, but I am SO in! John insists that I am going to get killed, and although I protest that I can take care of myself, I kinda have the same thought. At 5'2", most of the guys tower over me, and I weigh much less then they do. Ah well, I figure that'll make me faster and a smaller target, perhaps I won't get hit as easily. Besides, I'm tougher and more feisty then most people would ever assume.

The gun is surprisingly heavy, but looks so very cool. I've always wanted to learn how to shoot, but this will have to do for now. John isn't playing, so I torment him for a while about being too scared of me, which he just laughs off. The first field looks amazing, two steep hills meet in a valley, with long grass, trees and bunkers spread throughout. Each team starts on the top of a hill, but as we are out of range of each other, we have to charge down the hill into the valley to start the shooting. Crazy!

I start on the side of our hill, crouched down in the long grass with my heart rate just flying. I'm so excited, it's insane. The bullets start flying and suddenly my excitement turns into terror. My head knows that it is not real, but I have never been shot at before, I'm having trouble convincing my body that it's not about to die. Jack spies me and starts firing, my heart is literally pounding in my throat. Paint pellets rain down on every side, hitting the grass with an unmistakable 'THWACK!'.
Ouch! Shoot, that hurt! I just got one in the thigh, it didn't break though, I'm still in the game. I force myself to fire back, half running, half falling down the hill towards better cover. I'm firing wildly, I just want to make it out alive. Suddenly, *WHAM!* I get hit right in the face mask. Spitting paint everywhere, I raise my gun, holler "I'm hit!" and make a beeline for the safety of the boundary line. The terror has subsided, now I'm just excited. Wow, that was incredible! I give myself a mental kick in the seat and promise myself that next time, I'm going to fight for all I'm worth. After all, I got hit a couple times this round, and once the initial sting wears off, it really isn't that bad. I start to grin, my game has only just begun.

The next round takes place in a forest, with fortresses at either end and a car in the middle. I take a deep breath as I hear the ref shout "GO!". Time to knock these guys on their butts. Still learning, I do my best to hide, provide cover fire, and knock out the enemy. I look around after my last ally staggers off the field, a paint-riddled mess. It's me vs. three of the enemy. There's no way I'm going to win this, but I'll try my darnedest to take them out if I can. Hiding behind a tree, I see one sneak up on either side, but can't see the third. I guess they're out after all. I fire to the right while dodging incoming from my left, then reverse. I get hit in the hand, it bounces off, no paint. I step around the tree and fire wildly at the enemy to the right, I know the left enemy isn't in a position to shoot right now, I think their gun has jammed. Suddenly I get hit right in the kneecap, I feel my leg buckle. I look down to see if it broke, forgetting to cover myself. A bullet ricochets off the top off my head, leaving me seeing stars. I raise my hand to see if there is paint, once again forgetting that I am exposed. All three of them - drat, there were three left! - open fire and I am hit for good this time, a giant blue splotch shows up on my leg. I raise my gun in surrender and limp off the field, still seeing stars. That was awesome, I actually held out the longest of my team!

The other two girls are fading fast, one of them takes herself out for the rest of the night, fearing injury. The other stays in, but in sniper mode, hiding behind impenetrable objects and just trying to pick people off. Perhaps I'm a bit stubborn, maybe it's pride, or possibly just the red hair, but I want to show those guys that I can fight just as well as they can. They may be twice my size, but we all have the same gun. The next few games are fast and furious, we refill paint and air multiple times as we all get a little more winded, a little more bruised, and a lot dirtier. This is soooo much fun, I've pegged a few of them off, made a few good moves, I'm loving it now. We shoot up the frontier village a few times, then move on to 'The Fortress'. Sounds good to me!

The Fortress looks fun already, it's a different style of game then all of the previous ones. Two men, Roy and Jack, hold the fort, the rest of us have to take it. We win when they're both dead. These two have been the leaders all night, mobilizing their teams into action. Now that they're on the same team, there is a huge leadership void. I think I can fill it! Haha, this is going to be good. We start at the end of the field, too far to pick them off from here, they have some great defenses. I start to move forward, yelling at my team to follow me as I charge. Jack peeks his head through the tower window and sees me running across the open. As he raises his gun, I throw myself through the air, it's my only hope to make it to the bunker alive. I land hard as paintballs fly overhead and thwack against the wood. I fire at will, trying to pick him off as he tries to nail me. I need to get closer. I do the same crazy charge again, making it over halfway up the field. I've lost sight of Jack, but I spy Roy off to the other side, trying to pick off one of my partners. I try to nail him, angling myself behind the boards to protect from his fire.

Out of nowhere, a Mack truck slams into the side of my neck, instantly compressing my airway as I'm dropped to my knees. I feel wetness as I raise my fingers to my throat, hoping to God that it is paint. I'm having trouble focusing, and I suddenly realize that I'm still in the middle of the battlefield, still being fired upon. I fight off the urge to faint and stagger off the field, trying to hold my gun in the air, but I seem to be lacking the strength to do either. I pass the ref, who steps towards me and asks, "Need a medic?" Half joking, he knows who we are, half serious, I look half dead. I don't answer, I just want to get to the group. I collapse into the grass near Amelia and try to calm myself. I can breathe, and I'm pretty sure it's paint I'm covered in. I'm on the verge of tears and try to settle myself down before anybody notices, I hate creating a fuss, especially in front of people I have so much respect for. Amelia kneels down beside me and asks if I'm ok. We're great friends, I don't have to act brave with her. I gasp out what happened, and she pulls back my hoodie to take a look. She starts, then hollers, "Blood! There's blood! Red's bleeding!" Riiiiight, so much for playing it cool. John drops to his knees beside me before she has even finished, he tends to be rather protective of me, it's very sweet. He takes a look, and proclaims it not that bad, a bit of blood, soon to be a nasty bruise, but nothing serious. Amelia does tend to get excited about things, but John, being a paramedic, sees things with different eyes. He offers to clean it up for me when we get back to the trucks, and I calmly agree. Once the initial shock wore off, it really isn't that bad. I'll take a few lumps to have this much fun, any day!

Jack swaggers off the field, he and Roy won, so they're happy. He sees me on the ground, and quickly realizes it was his shot that put me there. His demeanor changes instantly, he is also very protective of me, and is quite upset that he hurt me. He broke the rules on that shot too, they were supposed to stay within the confines of the fortress, but he says he couldn't take it anymore, and charged us, totally forgetting the rules. He's kicking himself now, cursing his testosterone-fueled mad charge - his words, not mine! I hop to my feet and give him a quick hug. "Jack, it's not that bad! Besides, it's all part of the game." I give him a grin, "You just better watch out next round!" I follow the group to the next field, I'm not quitting anytime soon. I notice that although John proclaimed it to be a non-serious injury, he stays close to me for the rest of the night, watching, always watching. I pretend nothing happened and we head back to the hill and valley course to use up our ammo and end our evening, as darkness is falling quickly.

The ref calls for anyone who still has ammo, and I step forward with Jack and three other guys. They all look at me in disbelief, "You're playing? Seriously?" I just grin. "Of course! Somebody has to get Jack back for that shot!" It is much harder in the dark, the sound of shooting is the only way to pinpoint a location. It doesn't help that all of the ammo-less people are firing their empty guns at the ground, just to make noise and cause confusion. I keep firing widely, pegging one guy in the head a few times before he yells mercy. Hey, I wasn't sure if they broke, so I kept shooting!

Jack and I are stalking each other through the gloom, everybody on the sidelines is shouting tips at me. I move up, ducking and dodging, trying to be as silent as the grave. I really want to nail him, no hard feelings, I love the guy, but I still want to get him. I duck behind a large crate as the peanut gallery starts to shriek with more intensity. He's close, and in a better position then I. I check one side, then the other, and see no sign of him. I start to raise my gun as the hair on the back of my neck stands up straight, I have never been hunted like this before. I decide to charge the area where I last saw him and raise myself slowly, silently, up from the ground. A sudden movement overhead catches me off-guard, I swing my gun up and come face to face with Jack. He has thrown himself over the top of the crate and now holds me at point-blank range. His finger quivering over the trigger, he asks, "Mercy?" Knowing I have no chance, I raise my gun. "Mercy." He grins. "Gotcha again!" Grrrr......I need to get him so badly! And he's out of ammo to!

Ah well, I still have paint left, so I head back into the fray. Me against two others, I decide there is no way I am NOT going to win this. I start firing as I charge, then see two figures emerge from the grass, headed towards the group. I stand alone on the darkened field, bruised and bloody, sweaty and filthy. I just grin.

I am given a nickname later that evening, as the guys chow down, discussing each game, the injuries received and who played the best. It is decided that I got the best injury, the light of the restaurant reveals it to be a giant bloody welt. It is also decided that they never want to face me mad, I guess I was a tad intense. Haha, that's awesome. They now call me G.I Jane. How cool is THAT?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Band of Brothers (Sisters too!)

A few years ago I never would have dreamed that I would be doing what I am now. I have considered becoming a paramedic for years and years, it was one of my childhood dream occupations. I have always held paramedics and the police in a sort of awe, I wanted to be out there with them, doing what the paramedics did, but I was always afraid that I wouldn't be able to take it. Now, I feel like I'm a part of the brotherhood. Granted, my level of training and experience is nothing compared to most, but I still feel like I belong. Even as a rookie in a volunteer organization, I'm part of the group.

I love being in uniform, I see the world through a different lens when I am on duty, and I am treated differently. A lot of people I know, especially old high school friends (and enemies - for that matter!), would be amazed to see who I am in uniform, the confidence and knowledge I display. I am not saying this to be arrogant, I just really like the transformation. Instead of being intimidated by a police officer, I walk up and start joking around with them, and they do the same with me. There is a distinct difference, a weird connection with others in uniform that the public will never understand unless they take part. Just walking around, I would never approach a police officer, paramedic or firefighter just to chat unless I knew them. There is a very interesting 'we're all in this together' mentality that allows for fast friendships, joking and conversations that I just didn't understand before I became a part of it.

Hmmm, I'm making it sound like a weird sort of cult, I'm just not sure how to explain it. I guess it's kinda what cops feel for each other, they all have each other's backs, and there is a special bond between them because of that. When you know that the man or woman next to you would do anything to help you in a time of trial, you can't help but feel a special connection. I've looked around on a few calls now and just felt an awe at the number of people gathered to help us as we help the patient. Myriads of police and fire will jump at the slightest word, they will carry equipment, control crowds, support us as we climb over bleachers and be oh-so-quick to pounce on an unruly and dangerous patient. I am reminded of the drunk lady call I wrote about earlier, at one point she smacked me, albeit playfully, and I wasn't going to put up with that. I very sharply said, "DON'T hit me!", and with that, every cop in the vicinity and my three partners, NDP, Roy and John, swung around abruptly. Their reaction surprised me at the time, each and every one of them was more then ready and willing to take her down if it looked like I needed help.

It is neat to be a part of emergency services, the uniform connects us all in a way that I never imagined. True, we have our differences, and I am repeatedly told that I am NOT ALLOWED to like firemen (long story here, hehe), but when it all boils down to it, we all have each other's backs, and that is am incredible feeling. I have two shifts this weekend, both are football games, and I have great partners as usual, so they should be fun. Now I'm off to iron my shirt and polish my boots, I have to keep up the sparky little rookie reputation that the guys so dearly love to make fun of. Ah well, I love them in all of their scuffed-boot, wrinkled-shirt, cynical, jaded glory.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Sometimes a Little Goes a Long Way

We're lazing around at a huge festival, it's warm and sunny, perfect weather. Not too hot that every other person is fainting, and we have lots of shade, so the sun isn't bothering us. We've been playing poker all morning, the guys have taught me how to play and I've had some pretty good hands. I need to work on my poker face though, all they have to do is look me in the eye, and they know my hand. Ah well, we're just having fun. NDP wins the game, raking in my remaining pile of chips with a grin on his normally stern face. I came close, but his experience beat me in the end.

We drift away from the table, some get food, others go for a walk or head into the trailer. I flip through John's EMS pocket guide, wishing I knew everything in it. He starts to teach me about EKG rhythms; how to read them, what they mean, what the heart is doing in each case. Apparently some of the others aren't happy with the fact that he's teaching me so much, but he doesn't care, and neither do I. His reasoning is that since I want to become a paramedic (maybe - still considering options, although he insists he knows what I'll pick in the end...hehe), I have to learn it eventually, so he may as well teach me now. I like that reasoning, I love learning this stuff, and he teaches very well.

Soon it is just John and I sitting at the post, our chairs facing each other so we can talk and scan 360 at all times. It's weird how that mentality takes hold - it's the middle of the day at a family festival, yet we just naturally watch everything, everyone, everywhere. Over his shoulder I see a small horde approaching, weaving through the trees and cars behind the stage. As they make a beeline for us, I nudge John's boot with mine and nod over his shoulder. He turns as they descend upon us, all frantically talking at once. "She got stung!" "Ahhhhhh!" "A bee!" "She got hit in the eye" "Help her" "OOOOOOO, it hurts!" The last from the large women in the centre of the group, obviously the mother of the equally large children that cluster around. She is holding her hands over her face, her eye, moaning and groaning in pain. John gets up from his chair, giving me an amused look as he steps back and behind me. My call, got it. Thank you oh-so-much!

I sit her down and ask her what happened as I get her to remove her hands from her face, anticipating the worst. Swelling, blood, an avulsed eyeball bobbing about, I don't know, but something to fit the drama of the situation. As she lowers her hands and looks up at me, I see nothing. ......Nothing? Nothing. I compare eyes. Ok, a bit of imagination could place some redness at the corner of the right eye near her nose, but most likely from her frantic rubbing. So now what? She says she was stung, it hit her in the face and "hurt really bad!" She is grimacing in pain, her and her family obviously expecting something to be done to make her all better. There is no sting mark, it was most likely one of those massive June bugs that have been whipping around the park all weekend. I've been pelted a few times and they do pack a bit of a punch, so I guess I can see where she is coming from. But what am I to do for her? She is not allergic to bees even if it were a sting, there is no mark, no swelling, and besides, it's too close to her eye to use one of those 'sting stop' swabs that magically make pain disappear. Medically, I can think of nothing I can do for her.

I look up at John. He grabs a 4 x 4" gauze pad and a bottle of water. Wetting it, he hands it to the women and tells her to hold it over her eye. Seriously? I did that to my little sister all the time when she freaked out over something. Please don't tell me it's that simple! She gratefully accepts it, and it has barely touched her eye before she lets out a squeal of relief. Leaning over so the water would not drip on her dirty shorts, she profusely thanks us, repeating how it feels soooooo much better now. In slight disbelief, I finish filling out her info on the paperwork and watch as she walks away, surrounded by her now-happy brood.

Again I look up at John, this time with disbelief written all over my face. "John, there was nothing we could medically do for her! It wasn't a sting, it wasn't swollen, it was barely even red! I can't believe that actually worked on her, I did that to my little sister all the time...." He simply smiled. "Sometimes a little goes a long way."

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

The First Crazy Concert

Once the adrenaline hit, it never subsided. There were times when it peaked at levels I'd never before experienced, so much excitement and adrenaline packed into one event. I guess it's the mark of a rookie, I had not yet treated a patient on my own at that point. I've gotta say that I've been in much worse, much crazier situations since and I haven't been nearly as excited. I guess I'm learning after all! The neat thing about it all though, was that I stayed calm throughout. Inwardly excited, outwardly I was calm, treating patients, helping out, staying out of the way if need be.

It was my first big event, a heavy metal concert where there was potential for mass casualties. I read a post by Baby Medic a few months ago that was eerily familiar, although my concert didn't seem quite as violent, and our most serious call wasn't as bad as his. Seriously though, reading it gave me crazy deja vu. There were 8 of us there that night, and the guys were setting up for a busy night. Good thing they did to....

I'm partnered with one of my favourite guys in the division, we'll call him Jack, so this is looking to be a fun night. I really look up to him, he's a lot of fun and seems to have taken a liking to me. We've been setting up our post for the last hour at least, time seems to be crawling. There is a delicious tension in the air, we're waiting for the madness to start, and all we can do now is pretend to keep busy. Chairs are placed in strategic locations, then reorganized as we bring in the stretchers and equipment. We have two trucks here tonight, meaning lots of gear and lots of people.

The band finally gets onstage, and wow, they are noisy! I am glad for the earplugs supplied by John, this music is nothing close to what I usually listen too. Lights, smoke, screams and incredible bass add to the noise as we split into teams and head off to cover the stadium. There is a team posted upstairs at concourse level, one at the front of the stage near the mosh pit, one at the back of the lower level, and then the two of us at the trucks. We'll be rotating through each positions, depending on the patients each team has, but for now I'm happy to stay out of the fray, there is a sense of safety at home base. The fans are the craziest people I've ever seen, studs, piercings, spikes, chains and black everywhere, not quite what I am used to.

Very few minutes pass when a young man limps out of the crowd, making his way from pillar to pillar for support. He collapses against the wall directly opposite from us, and as I rise to my feet to let Jack know we have a patient, he passes me, already on his way out. I follow quickly. The young man is in obvious pain, holding his knee, pale and sweaty. He tells us that another guy walked up and hoofed him in the knee, hyperextending it. Jack goes to grab the stair chair, which doubles as a great wheelchair, leaving me with the patient. I kneel beside him and start talking, gathering information. No notes, no prompts, no evaluators, just me and my patient. I like this much better.

As we return to our area and get ice for his knee, the other partners start to return with patients. People are passing out left, right and centre, with anxiety attacks, minor wounds and drunkenness thrown in for good measure. We're suddenly packed, every partner set has at least one patient, and more are coming in with every passing moment. There is not too much Jack and I can do for our injured knee guy, we've wrapped it and are holding ice on it, there is no instability and only minor swelling, so it may not be too bad. Suddenly a crowd of security runs in, one carrying a man over his shoulders. Jack and I look up as they crash the entrance, then all heck breaks loose. The man is BLUE. Seriously blue, from the neck up. Jack jumps to his feet, knocking the bag of ice flying, which scatters all over the floor. Roy runs over as the man is dumped onto the stretcher, which happens to be right beside my knee patient in the stair chair. I have my own patient to look after, and they certainly don't need me in the way, so I clean up the ice and move my patient out of the commotion. I finish up the form and look up to see Mr. Blue saunter out the door. Whaaaaa...?? He was blue 2 minutes ago, and now he's leaving? I look up at Jack questioningly, he simply shrugs. Apparently the drop onto the stretcher woke him up, he started breathing again, and denied treatment. Weird.

Security is screaming for us on the radio and beckoning frantically from the concert entrance. I hand my knee patient over to NDP, another veteran, as Jack and I charge for the commotion. He runs an awful lot for a guy who's been doing this for over 10 years, I would prefer not to charge through the crowd in the dark with a massive bag. Ah well, he is my partner and I can't lose him, so I pick up my pace. I just think it's strange that I'm less obviously excited then he is.

Man down in the mosh pit, security is frantically waving us on. We enter the stadium bowl and my senses are immediately assaulted. Screaming music, cheering fans, flashing lights, lazers and smoke spur us onwards. As my feet hit the wooden aisle leading to the front of the stage, the music starts to crescendo, rising into a roaring, howling peak that only serves to push my adrenaline higher. I feel like it is a movie, we are racing through the dark, punctuated only by the strobe lights and lazers as the music keeps building. The music is setting up the scene, dramatically building, higher, louder, more intense. We arrive at the call as the music suddenly cuts out, gone. And so is our patient. What a letdown. Whoever it was had gotten up and blending into the teaming crowd, nothing for us to do. We stay at stage left, watching and waiting, but not for long, never for very long.

Security runs over again as the radio goes nuts. We can't hear the radio, but we blindly follow security down the aisle. Another young man, this one is leaning heavily against the metal fence around the mosh pit, looking generally ill. Jack and security help him climb over, really just pulling him over, and he stumbles towards the exit. I look back up at Jack, who gestures for me to follow him out, my patient. He hangs back as I escort the man out, my hand on his back to guide him as he stumbles. I escort him past a myriad of police officers who nod at me as we sweep through the black curtain. My patient is pale and sweaty, unsteady on his feet. I help him into a chair and start to talk, figuring out what happened. He was just overwhelmed by the heat and noise, a drink of water, cool air and a chair restores his colour quickly. We are approached by a security again, but this time he is the patient. He has smashed his pinky pulling somebody out of the mosh pit, it is easily the size of his thumb. Jack confirms my suspicions that is is broken, then vanishes as a young woman is carried in, shaking and faint. My fainting patient is fine, just resting, so I turn my attention to finger man. I gather him supplies for a splint, he wants to just get back to work and doesn't want the bother of paperwork. If I splint it, that means a form, so he says he'll just do it himself. I check on my knee patient as I pass the splint stuff to finger man and hand faint guy another glass of water. Three patients at once, minor ones yes, but still neat. He's sore but ok, and I discharge him, advising him to come back if he needs more help. (How cool is that - I actually have to give him my medical permission to leave...hehe) He thanks me, but says it looks like we have far more needy patients then he, and limps slowly back to the concert.

Jack runs out again, and I follow him after telling faint guy to rest a bit longer, I'll check on him in a few minutes. An usher has run out of the crowd, carrying a thin young woman who is limp, yet appears to be trying to curl into a ball. He sets her down beside a pillar as we approach, and Jack immediately radios for the stretcher. Her boyfriend holds her close, an attractive young man with reddish-brown curly hair and eyes full of loving concern. She is having an anxiety attack, which apparently happens to her in loud, crowded situations. Good call on coming to a heavy metal concert then! John and Roy arrive with the stretcher, and John beckons me over. As I lean in, he tells me I need to get back to my patient, fill in a PCR and discharge him properly. He wasn't really ill, just need fresh air and water while he calmed down, but I understand the need for paperwork, I should've done it already. I nod, properly chastised, and head back to faint guy, leaving anxiety girl in very capable hands.

We have several other patients, and the other partners were just as busy all night. Suddenly it is 11:00 and the band is wrapping up, we start to slowly clear out. Everyone is amazed that is is over, time has flown. It is estimated that the 8 of us treated around 30 patients in a span of 3 hours. Most were fainting/dehydration/drunk calls, but we had a few that were more serious. Mr. Blue man and a leg injury that Roy treated and sent out via EMS were deemed our most serious of the evening, though nobody really knew what was up with blue guy. We slowly pack up, and head out to grab food after a hectic evening. It is nice to hang out and chat, slowly relaxing. They give us a police discount at the restaurant as we're all in uniform, that was nice. It takes me a while to get to sleep, but I drift off happily. I feel like I survived my first real test, I didn't freeze tonight, and I actually got to treat people myself. It was a crazy, crazy night, but I look back on it with a smile, it was a lot of fun.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The First Patient

It was a while ago now, but I still remember my first patient clearly. I remember how scared I was, how overwhelming it all seemed. It was a rather intimidating first call, although now I'd probably just laugh....

Everything about this evening has been intimidating. I feel so out of my element. We are sitting below the stands at the truck, laughing and talking, waiting for a call. Every now and then somebody wanders in to watch the show, but I stay outside. I watched for a few minutes and that was more then enough. Wrestling is not my thing, to put it kindly. The fans walking around are huge, dressed in crazy, mostly black clothing, not very friendly looking. After realizing that the vast majority of them could pulverize me with a single finger, I resolve to stay close to my partner.

My partner, John, intimidates me as well though. He is a paramedic, a big guy in comparison to me at over 6 feet. He's been doing this for a while, he knows what he is doing, and the experience shows. I have never worked with him before, but he ends up teaching, training and mentoring me, a really good guy that I look up to a lot. There are several of us here tonight; John, Roy, Ted and another rookie, a good friend of mine we'll call Amelia.

The radio goes off and we head to a call, I am nervous and excited, not knowing what to expect. We get there and a guy is seizing on the dirty floor, my partners spring into action. I am amazed at the transformation that has taken place, the three men before me now starkly contrast with the three men I was with at the truck. Laughing, joking and playful only moments prior, they are now suddenly in charge; confident, competent and full of purpose. I stand back and watch, amazed. John has taken control of the scene simply by his presence, Roy has become incredibly patient, the skill level of both men is made obvious. They know what they are doing, and do so with an enviable calm. Ted has become more gentle then I ever imagined, in voice and manner, a caring touch. All three of them radiate confidence and skill, both of which I am lacking, both of which I strive to attain. Amelia is told to get closer, and John backs off slightly, letting the other partner set take this call. We stand back, watching. Suddenly the radio goes off again, another call, at the opposite end of the stadium. My heart rate triples and my mouth goes dry as John tells me to grab the AED and follow him.

I am walking quickly to keep up with John, I feel like I am rushing, almost running. He, on the other hand, is striding quickly yet calmly through the crowds, the crowds that eagerly part for him, respecting the uniform and the commanding presence. Oh, again that enviable calm! He turns to me now and grins slightly, "Do you have gloves?" I do indeed, pretty blue ones that Amelia and I picked out earlier, almost giddy at the thought of actually getting them dirty. "Yup" I pull them from my pocket now with hands that tremble slightly - excitement, fear, perhaps both. "Good", he responds as he takes the defib from me. "This is your call. Glove up." My jaw drops as a wave of terror and incredible excitement washes over me. My hands are definitely shaking with fear now. Panic as well, a reaction I was not expecting. "You've got to be kidding!" I manage, half hoping he is, half pleading he isn't. "Nope. I'll stand back, this is your patient."
Gulp. John the paramedic, the experienced, the calm, the knowledgeable, has just given me the patient. I pull on my gloves as my mind races. Oh wait, they don't fit. Backwards. Ok, ok, thumb in thumb hole, this is better, I can do this. I take back the defib and run through the patient care sheet in my mind.

Introduce. Obtain consent. ABCs.....uh...ok.....
Introduce, Obtain consent, AB.....uh oh.
Introduce. Obtain Consent......
Introduce....what do I say? How I am supposed to introduce myself? 'Hi, I'm Red, can I help you?' 'I know First Aid, uh, my name is Red....' Eeeep.

I send up a quick prayer for calm and guidance as the aisle numbers get rapidly larger. We're here, no patient in sight. The stadium medical guy is with us now, and together the three of us search for our call. An usher points towards the washroom.
The men's washroom.
The very busy, very occupied men's washroom.
Eeeep again.

We head for the door, I lag slightly behind. "John, I'm coming in......?" Half question, half statement, I am coming in, but I feel the need to ask permission. Girls just don't waltz into the men's washroom, after all. Turning slightly, he responds, "Yup, get in there." OK, here goes. I attempt to hide behind him as we enter, over his shoulder I see men at urinals - very obviously in the middle of business. I quickly avert my eyes. Mirrors...paper towels...hand dryer....bright, I love this uniform....stalls.....stalls.....Wham! We turn the corner and my field of vision is taken up by two very burly cops. Well, there go the rest of my wits. I am intimidated by police officers. I have never spoken more then a few words to one, and quite frankly, they scare me half to death. They are just so powerful, so in charge, so BIG! OK, so now I am supposed to treat a patient with them watching me? Oh right....the patient....
A midget.
A drunk midget.
A very, very drunk midget being held up by the two aforementioned giant police officers.
And he is covered in blood.

OK, my brain is fried. Too many new, strange things at once. I just can't think straight, I stand and simply stare at the spectacle.
Fortunately, the stadium medical guy takes over, it is his call if he wants it, we can do it all, but he is being paid for this. He says nothing, just presses a wad of gauze to the bloody forehead. Wait, he isn't wearing gloves! There is blood all over his hands now, the thin sheet of gauze is bright red as he drops it to the floor. He tapes more gauze over the injury, all with his bare hands. The importance of PPE has been hammered into my skull, and I know I would want gloves on to do that, but it's his call. But seriously, no gloves?

John steps up and begins to ask the patient the questions that have vanished from my head. "Medications?" None. "Medical conditions?" The little man pauses to think, then announces, "I'm a midget." The cops snort with laughter and the smaller yet stockier one comes back with, "I don't consider that a medical condition". Everyone laughs, as the midget revels in his obvious wit. John continues as I pick up the discarded wrappers on the floor. "Allergies?" Another thoughtful pause. "I'm allergic to men.", He announces as the cops snort again. "I like ladies though." I don't look up. I have no desire to see if he was looking at me, the only lady in a washroom full of men. The taller cop says "Well, at least you're on the right track there" as the stadium medical guy finishes the dressing. "Is he cleared medically?", the tall cop asks as John and stadium medical nod.

Just like that we're though. Stadium medical only now hesitates, his bare fingers hovering above the bloodied gauze at his feet. I lean over and pick it up with my gloved hand, "Let me get that". He says thanks as I feel the eyes of the cops on me. Perhaps it is my over-active, nervous imagination, but I do not look up to make eye contact. I toss the blood soaked gauze in the garbage, burying it slightly under the mounds of paper towel. I strip off my gloves as I follow John out the door and can't help but smile. Streaks of red mar the brilliant blue. I got my gloves dirty after all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


One of the most difficult and interesting things about being on duty is seeing a side of the world that I had never seen before. Being in university tends to put you in a little bubble, isolated from the real world. I feel like I break out of that bubble every time I put on the uniform, I become somebody more then 'just another student'. It was hard at first to deal with the drastically different world out there, but I feel I am getting used to it.

My first two patients were both very, very drunk, that made me think. Drunk students are one thing, I see them as silly kids who will eventually grow up. It's a whole other ballgame to see adults smashed out of their mind, especially knowing that they do it regularly and will never grow out of it. With the one patient in particular, I felt so sad for her. She was alone and drunk at a festival, bloody from falling down and smashing her head. She had no idea what happened and could barely state who and where she was. She didn't like my male partners or the male cops (one of whom was the most attractive man I think I have ever seen...but that's another story), but she really liked me. While we were waiting for EMS because she was given the choice of hospital or jail, it was quite the effort to keep her calm. She kept pleading with me to "get her away from 'them'", to which I simply replied that I was one of 'them' to. I felt so bad for her at the time, I wanted to know who she was and what had made her this way, I wanted to fix it all for her. I cried for her, she cast such a pathetic figure, so broken and lost.
Now I see things differently. I hope it is not my compassion fading or my empathy disappearing, but rather experience knocking back some of my naivete. I still feel for her, for all of my patients, but I am much more able to just put aside a call. I can come home from a crazy shift with all my calls swirling through my head, and pour them onto a sheet of paper. Then they are over, gone, through. I have not yet seen anything really terrible, so I still don't know how I would react to that, but I don't over-react to everything anymore. I don't lose sleep over a drunk woman with a bloody forehead, I realize that people make their own choices and there is nothing my tears can do about it. I still care, don't get me wrong, but I am now able to cope with how much I care.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

So who is this Redheaded Medic, anyways?

I am a university student at a medium-sized university in a medium-sized Canadian city, taking a biology-based degree. I am a Christian, Jesus has saved my life and guided me into who I am today, and I am constantly thankful for His love and grace in my life. I pray that I show his character through everything I do, and treat everyone around me as He would, with love, patience and mercy.

I volunteer for a community organization that provides medical coverage at fairs, festivals, concerts, sporting events and pretty much everything else. This is where my stories come from. I still have observer status, so it's a bit of a stretch to call myself a medic, hehe. I figure if a certain critical care paramedic can call himself an ambulance driver though, I can call myself a medic. I will have Medical First Responder certification soon, which is the level below primary care paramedic here in Canada.

I love being on duty, I've had the opportunity to learn a lot this summer thanks to a paramedic in the division who made it his mission to teach and mentor me. I've had the opportunity to treat many patients, it's been incredible. Although the calls would be minor by the standards of most, they are all exciting learning experiences for me. I've been told that will change, but right now I'm enjoying my excitement over the mundane, I like being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Now if only I could figure out how to be that excited about my courses, it'd all be good!

So there is a bit about me, enough to perhaps understand where I am coming from. I've been told I have many sides, and I wholeheartedly agree, so this is but the briefest of glances into my character. I am just as much one side as I am any of the others, which is hard for some people to realize when they only ever see me in certain circumstances. I'll elaborate more on this later, I find it fascinating. Not in a crazy multiple-personality kind of way, just a multi-faceted Redheaded Medic kind of way.

First Post

So, my foray into the blog world has begun. I seem to have tons of stories to share, and people keep telling me I should create a blog. I guess they get tired of hearing about my shifts and my calls, so I'm trying this as another outlet. Hopefully I can post my stories and thoughts without breaking any patient confidentiality laws or offending the people I work with. I haven't decided who I will tell about this, so for now, I'll just see who finds it. Welcome to Redheaded Medic!