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!