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.