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 highlights.....you 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.