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.

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