Friday, December 5, 2008

The Concert Hall

The singer is incredible, he has an absolutely amazing voice. I had been a distant fan for a while, I like his music, but not in a rabid, buy all his CDs the moment they come out way. After the first song though, the goosebumps covering my entire body just don't go away, and I'm on the edge of my seat, awash in the rapture of his gorgeous voice. All the stresses and cares of the world melt from my mind as he sings, Christmas carols, Worship songs, his own songs, he just keeps singing and singing.

A hand on my shoulder breaks me out of my spellbound reverie and I jump, startled back to this world. Jakob leans over me, "We've got a call down front," he stage-whispers, "do you want me to take care of it so you can watch the show?" I quickly shake my head no and follow him across the back of the theatre. As much as I was enjoying this man's voice, my purpose for being here is to treat patients, not to kick back and relax.

The usher leads us along the side of the theatre, passing rows and rows of people who drag their attention away from the stage to gaze curiously at us and whisper to each other. We stop stage left, 3 rows from the front, in perfect view of the stage and the entire theatre. I make my way down the aisle, which thankfully, happens to be one of the widest rows in the place, and stop where the head usher is crouched in front of an elderly woman, slumped over in her seat. She gives me a quick report as I sidle up beside her in the dim light.

"She was feeling faint, dizzy and nauseous, with severe pain in her right foot since this morning." I nod and crouch by the woman, running through the assessment questions to try and rule out major issues, like an MI or stroke. A few minutes later, I am relatively convinced that although it is nothing too serious at the moment, we need to get her out of the theatre seating where I can do a proper assessment. Since she says she is unable to walk, we bring a wheelchair as close as possible and lift her into it.

By now the entire auditorium is watching us, and the performer knows it. I am completely focused on my patient, aware of but not focused on anything around me when the music stops. "I don't mean to draw attention to it, but I see we're having some difficulty in the front here." I hear a melodic voice say, and I look up, straight into the singer's eyes - he's almost close enough to touch, staring down at us with loving concern. "Why don't we pray for this woman's healing, and thank God for her life...." He begins to pray for her, for her healing, and for us. In slight disbelief, I carry the wheelchair-bound woman up the stairs as the entire crowd joins him in prayer, then applauds.

We head for the stage door exit, as the woman has requested an ambulance, and she's just not 'right' enough to let her go home. I don't know what was happening with her, but judging from her 6 million index cards full of allergies, medications and conditions, I'd say it was beyond my ability to treat. Just before the paramedics arrive, the performer comes backstage to see the women, wishing her well, and nodding his thanks at us. Since I am a complete professional, I certainly did not grin like a fool for the rest of the evening....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Just because we can?

I had an 'asthma' patient not too long ago, who came over to me freaking out, gasping for breath, moaning, crying and clutching her chest, throat, face etc. I sat her down, stared her straight in the eye and told her directly to calm down. I coached her breathing for very few cycles before realizing that she was, for lack of a better expression, full of it. She would gasp and spit, choke and sputter, then look up at the scoreboard and cheer raucously for her trailing team. She would be close to death, then pick up her cell phone and start texting her friends. A colleague of mine walked over and asked, like I was completely inept, why this asthma patient was not on O2. Ummm....because she doesn't need it?

A few weeks later, I was running an event as control when one of my teams got a call for an injured cheerleader. She had been kicked in the head, rather hard, as she fell from the top of a formation. The trainer had walked her over to our post and sat her on the back step of our ambulance. She had a nasty headache, as well as nausea and dizziness. She did not have neck pain or tenderness, and from all accounts, had not actually fallen onto her head. I know I wasn't at the call and didn't assess her myself, so perhaps it is unfair to criticize the team's treatment. They put her in a KED (since she was sitting down), and were preparing to backboard her as EMS showed up. The paramedics checked her over, WALKED her to their stretcher, placing her on it sitting up comfortably, and left for the hospital.

A little girl turns her foot at a kid's event, my partner and I head over to check her out. She is sitting on the turf, no tears, no obvious look of pain on her face. She winces slightly when I touch the lateral edge of her foot, but there is no instability and only minimal swelling. Placing an ice pack on the injury does wonders to relieve the pain. My partner pulls me aside and asks if I'm planning on splinting it. I say no, and explain when he gives me an incredulous look. I am not putting a small child in a massive, uncomfortable knee-toe-splint for an injury that just doesn't seem to logically require immobilization. Sure enough, she is up and running around by the end of the event.

Over-treating patients seems to be a rampant disease among many of the people I work with. The "Just because we can" attitude drives me insane, and I strive to counter-act that whenever possible. On our training nights, this attitude is clearly visible among many of the responders. When we focus on patient assessment techniques, vital signs and theory, people are bored and disinterested, brushing it off as been there, done that. This is even the case among responders who are and always have been terrible at patient assessment, obtaining accurate vitals consistently, scene management and the like. As soon as we pull out the equipment, however, people get more interested. Backboards, the KED, crazy splinting stuff, people would rather do that than practice the oh-so boring, routine steps of assessment and treatment. There is also a great tendency to jump on the chance to 'practice' their skills on a real patient. I don't like that mindset, but sometimes I worry that I am under-treating in response to their over-treatment. I guess it has to be a fine balance, and always, always with the patient's welfare at the forefront.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Little Things

The beautiful little blond kid bounces over to me, then shyly asks for a bandaid as his father stands back and smiles. I kneel down to his level and ask him if a Spider-man one will do. His face lights up with a massive grin that is instantly mirrored on my own face.

She cries without ceasing, her massive shoulders shaking with sobs. She is filled with guilt over the pills she took, not enough to kill her, but enough to alter her mental status and have her seeing snakes. She is terrified, her mental status not much more than a child. I take off a glove and reach for her hand, letting her feel how much I care as I link my fingers through hers.

I stop short as I notice a bowl of small, wooden animals from Africa in the booth beside me. My grandparents bought a collection of them for us when we were kids, but I haven't seen them in years. I pick up a few of my old favourites and caress them softly, lost in memories of childhood. I turn to my ever-present partner Ryan and tell him we have to come back here later in the Fair. I forget all about them as we get swamped with calls, but he slinks back that evening and buys a bag of them. (I know I'm not supposed to know about them yet....but another partner let it slip.)

It's the little things in life that can make your day...I feel blessed to be able to give and receive so much love. Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful world.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Midway.....

It's been a long weekend, and this has been such a loooooong day. Ryan and I are finishing up 17 hours on duty, two back-to-back shifts, and we're beginning to get a little loopy. I love working with him though; this cute new transfer and I get along very well.

We finish packing up our station for the night and head to his car, joined by Sarah, a bouncy brunette who is always a lot of fun to be around. The sugar rush brought on by massive amounts of fudge is fighting back the exhaustion we feel, leaving us giddy. We drive slowly out of the festival grounds, past the midway - which is still running! Ryan looks at Sarah. Sarah looks at Ryan. They both turn and look at me. "LET'S DO IT!!" we say in unison, grinning like maniacs. Pulling into a clump of trees and parking, we all jump out and lose our uniform shirts. We run across the road in black tank tops and our tac pants, attempting to hide from all the other members who are pulling out behind us. Stupid reflective striping!

The Tilt-a-Whirl is first up, spinning and laughing as the stress of the day flies off our shoulders and away into the starry night. The queasy feeling hits me as I step off the ride, odd, since I can usually handle these things just fine. I shake it off so I don't miss any of the fun, and we head for the spinning strawberries.

As soon as the carney releases the break, Ryan grabs the wheel in the centre and begins to spin. He spins and spins, faster and faster. Sarah and I are plastered to the walls; laughter and the force of the spin leave us unable to move. We hit Mach 10 and suddenly I feel like I'm about to die. I turn "glow in the dark white" as the spinning world begins to blur and fade away in front of my eyes. Ryan turns to look at me and immediately grabs the wheel with both hands, straining to stop the spinning motion. Just as the strawberry begins to slow, the actual ride begins and a whole different spin is presented. I hold onto the cool walls with both hands, trying to focus on something, anything solid and taking breaths as deep as I can muster. It's the ride that never ends, we just keep going around....and around....and around...and around...

After what seems to be an eternity, the ride stops and I am freed from my strawberry prison. Sarah helps me down the narrow metal steps; my legs just aren't working very well. Ryan grabs my other arm and they lead me back to his car in the bushes. "I just have to sit for a minute," I manage, trying not to sound as bad as I feel. It doesn't seem to work, as I collapse in the grass and they go into patient care mode. I'm feeling too nauseous to care at first, I'm just trying not to blow chunks over the most gorgeous guy I've ever met. Ryan rubs my back, telling me to "throw up, it'll make you feel better." as Sarah looks at me with a twinge of jealousy in her eyes. When Ryan gets up to grab a blanket from her car, she leans in closer, laughing, "You're faking it to get the attention, aren't you?!!" I attempt a smile, which turns into another groan, "I only wish I was, I've never felt so sick in my entire life!" She laughs again as he rejoins us on the damp grass, wrapping a soft pink blanket around my shoulders and continuing to rub my back. As sick as I feel, I simply can't appreciate his comforting touch.

After 45 minutes, I feel well enough for the car ride home, but just barely. They help me inside and I collapse on the couch with relief. I am on duty for the next several days as the festival continues, and am nauseous for all of them. Maxing out the daily recommended Gravol limit does little to help, and I live on white rice, crackers and ginger ale. The new running joke of the division is that Ryan makes me sick....which is ironic, since we start dating less than a week later.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Angry Patients Suck

A young girl runs up to our tent, panting and flushed. "I need help, my friend is hurt, come quick!" I stand and try to calm her down, "What happened, where is he?" "He dislocated his shoulder again, he's screaming, over on the grass at the other side, hurry!"

We hop on our stretcher-carrying super cool fashion statement of a golf cart and make our way through the festival crowds. I sit on the back with Ryan as NDP drives, the girl beside him giving him directions. We pull up to the group playing football on the field, our patient is obvious.

A young man is bent double on his knees, one arm hanging uselessly. He is alternately screaming in pain and dry heaving into the grass. His friends, a rough looking bunch, gather around yelling at us to hurry up. As I start talking to him, trying to assess him, he pleads with me to "just pop it back in, pop it back in!!" I explain I cannot do that, I am not trained to and I could just make it worse. At this, he begins to swear and curse at me, his friends joining in. "Pop it in, b****, just pop it in!" He begs for help, then screams at me to get away. I am on my knees in front of him, trying to reason with him, explaining what I can do, offering to call the ambulance for him. He doesn't listen, getting more and more angry. His friends join in, swearing at us, "F-ing ambulance drivers, what do you know?", "Just go, get away, you're useless!" I want to help this guy, but he and his friends are making it impossible.

Ryan touches my elbow, subtly drawing me away from the crowd. With his light touch, he makes me aware of the position I was in, and I smack myself for forgetting about scene safety.....again. NDP tries to get the patient to sign a refusal of treatment as he half crawls, half stumbles away, "I'm not signing nuthin', F-er!" His friends refuse to sign as witnesses until NDP mentions the calling the police to control the situation. They yank the PCR out of his hands and sign angrily, still swearing at us.

We get back on the golf cart and sigh. So much for trying to help people. I can handle frequent fliers, barf, blood, whiners and people of all ages without a problem, but angry swearing bothers me. I try not to let it and enjoy the beautiful day. As much as I wish I could have helped him, there was nothing else I could have done for the guy. I let it go and relax, enjoying the ride back to base.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Farewell to John

To my favourite partner, teacher, mentor, friend and brother, I will truly miss you. I know you have to move, being hired on by a service several hours away is better than no job here. I just wish this city would wise up and hire you already.

You took me under your wing over a year ago, making it your job to teach me, mentor me and help me out with the rough stuff. You answered every question patiently, reiterated the stuff I always seemed to forget, and always pushed me to do better, pushing me beyond my comfort zone. You were my safety net for everything we did together. You made me run the call, but always with the knowledge that you were there to step in or help out if I needed it. I know I still have a lot to learn and a lot of experience to gain, but you gave me a solid skill foundation and the confidence I need to be on my own.

You were always the protector; a bodyguard and big brother. I felt so safe with you. Drunks were never a problem; you protected me from both amorous and aggressive ones. You called me out of the way of projectile vomit; you pulled me back from clingy and unpredictable patients when I got too close. You taught me to become more aware of my surroundings and the environment. Scene safety was made paramount, as you knew you would not be my bodyguard forever. When another member showed interest in me, you became the big brother, pointing out the fatal flaws I was trying to ignore and comforting me when I was upset.

I was completely intimidated by you at first; you towered above me in both size and knowledge. I have come to realize that you are a big teddy bear, unless someone you care for is in need of help. I will miss you oh-so-very much, my respected mentor, trusted friend and honourary big brother. I love you and wish you all the best in your new city. You’ll knock ‘em dead.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Night Shift

Combine three relatively new and extremely fun partners with a 12-hour outdoor, overnight event. Add in very accommodating event organizers, a beautiful (yet cool) first night of summer and the reappearance of a VERY entertaining firefighter. With a touch of coffee and a lot of hot chocolate, you get the perfect recipe for a fun night.

Night shifts can be quite fun, if all the pieces fall into place. I know I should try to sleep for a bit before my next shift (6-midnight), but I just can't seem to get into sleep mode with the beautiful sunshine outside my window.

Monday, June 2, 2008


The sweet little girl with the tummy ache looks at me with frightened eyes. I talk to her quietly, softly, drawing her out of her shell in the tiny little first aid room. She tells me of her puppies, then mentions how her Dad abused them. She tells me of her siblings, then tells me they are in foster homes. She tells me of school, and how she hasn’t been in weeks. I want to hug her, to make her life easier somehow, but I just sit and talk. Shane slowly pushes the door open and steps into the room. I smile and look up at my trusted friend, but the little sweetie in front of me freezes in her chair. She pushes back, trying to shrink away from my lovable partner. A veil drops in her eyes, she refuses to speak or even look up, still cowering. Without speaking a word, I quickly advise Shane to leave, and he slips from the room without a sound. I watch my frightened little charge sadly. What is she so afraid of?

An excited din in the hallway brings me to my feet quickly. An ever-smiling Spanish child is holding her screaming brother tightly by the arm. He shrieks and cries out, “No, no!” as one of the leaders runs over to me and tells me he has a popsicle stick stuck in his throat. The leaders are trying to convince the girl to let me look at him as she shakes her head and adamantly repeats, “No, no.” I can assess him to some extent without touching him, and by the way he is screaming his head off in sheer panic, I think it’s safe to assume that he is breathing. He just keeps shrieking and pulling away in abject terror, his ever-smiling sister showing the same fear through her eyes. What are they so afraid of?

The kids file out of the building as Shane and I watch, smiling and saying goodbye. We try so hard to be a comforting, safe presence for them. So many of them shy away, look at us with fear. A tiny black boy looks at me with distrust as he passes, holding his even littler brother tightly by the arm. He also looks at us with fear in his eyes. What is he so afraid of?

What is the sweet little girl afraid of? What are the brother and sister afraid of? What are the two little boys afraid of?

I’m afraid to know.

Thursday, May 8, 2008


Scott asked a very good question in the comment section of my last post, and since I'm getting a few more readers who aren't Canadian, family or close friends, I think I should explain my qualification a bit.

I am an Advanced Medical First Responder in the Canadian system, which is comparable to EMT-B in the American System. The next level of training for me would be Primary Care Paramedic, a 2-year college degree, which I believe is similar to EMT-I. Then comes Advanced Care Paramedic, or EMT-P. That is my understanding of the system, but then we have Critical Care Paramedics too...not sure what they would be considered in the States.

I think the main difference between AMFR (usually just called MFR) and EMT-B is that we cannot transport patients on a normal basis. We are only allowed to transport if the roads are closed, (like during a marathon) or there is a state of emergency. Our trucks are fully stocked to BLS standards in case we get called out though, we are to be ready at all times. Barring disaster, we are usually just first response units at major events. Having us there cuts down on a lot of needless 911 calls, as we usually treat and release without any need for activating the next level of care. This means we get a high volume of not-so-bad calls, and very few crazy ones. I rather like this at the moment, I'm creating a solid knowledge base, getting more and more comfortable with the simple calls and basic skills. After I finish my degree I may move onwards and upwards to Paramedic, but we shall see. For now, I'm happy where I am.

Monday, May 5, 2008

The Star of Life

Wrestlemania simply does not appeal to me, so I opt to sit out at the truck with the radios. I can hear the calls better out there, and I don't have to watch the nastiness that is taking place in the ring. Shane and our observer Mary decide to snag seats and watch, I wander in every now and then to say hi. About halfway through, the crowd begins to roar more loudly than usual, so I pop in to see what is happening. Yet two more massive dudes are harassing each other in the ring, I have no clue what the fuss is about. As I walk over to Shane, he beckons me close, "Red, take a look at the lady to the left in the T-shirt. What do you think?" I glance over and take in the scene. She is slightly bent over, holding her chest and searching for something under the seats. Even from the next section I can see she is having trouble breathing. I glance back at Shane, "Looks like a testing scenario gone wrong." He nods in agreement and heads in her direction, Mary hot on his heels. I hang back, it tends to get rather crowded in the stands, and watch. He starts to talk to her, then glances over his shoulder as he helps her out of her seat, giving me THE LOOK.

I grab the trauma bag and head back to the truck, radioing for stadium medical on the way. I grab a chair for her, make sure the AED is within arm's reach (without being obvious), radio my other team to let them know we have a call and grab a PCR as Shane and Mary help her back. As we hook up the O2, Shane tells me she is having chest pain and difficulty breathing, and dropped the only nitro pill she had with her. Lovely. 911 is called and we busy ourselves with treating her, taking vitals and doing paperwork.

Less than 10 minutes after we pulled her out of the stands, the paramedics show up with the fire department. They look at us with slight apprehension, we are volunteers and sadly, many of our members don't always leave the best impression. Shane rifles off a crisp report as I hand them our completed PCR. Her breathing has improved, we have multiple sets of vitals and all the other information they need to continue patient care and fill out their own paperwork. Happily surprised, they re-assess the patient, slap on the monitor pads, lift her onto their stretcher and head off. "Good job, guys." They say as they leave, "Thanks for the help."

It is so nice to be appreciated by the professionals who do this, Shane and I are very pleased. The call was perfectly by the book, although if it were a testing scenario, she would've ended up VSA. It was the first chest pain call we had ran together, and we worked as a perfect team. It's such a nice feeling when our knowledge and treatment is recognized by the responding paramedics, we may be volunteers, but many of us take our job seriously and are darn good at it. We really are an important part of the chain, I think about what the arms of the Star of Life represents and realize we played a large role in it. It have just been an angina attack or something small, but then again, maybe not. Either way, we were there to help her, and that is a good feeling.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Simple Joys

"Is there any felicity in the world superior to this?"
(Marianne, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen)

We roar down the highway in the ambulance, on our way to our evening duty. I'm with Shane, my new favourite partner. We become better friends every time we work together, he's a country boy with a heart of gold, and completely in love with his girlfriend (which is great because no rumours fly about us!). We work so well together, thinking alike and able to read each other with barely a glance. We laugh and joke, swapping stories and sharing dreams. The rain pours down relentlessly, pelting off the roof and windshield as sheets of water fly up from the passing cars. One of my favourite country songs comes on the radio and Shane obligingly cranks it. I enjoy the moment, staring out the window as I absent-mindedly sip the sweet deliciousness of my mint chocolate iced cappuccino. What better way can there be to spend a rainy afternoon?

Friday, April 25, 2008

I trust my partners.....right?

Somehow in the course of playing patient for the new people last night, I agreed to let John and Roy practice their IV skills on me.

One in each arm.


In front of the entire division.

Hrmm, this could be interesting. :P

Saturday, April 19, 2008


I have never seen the truly poor until today. Growing up rather sheltered in a country environment protected me from the harsh realities that many face every day. Shane and I covered a program for inner-city kids today, a truly amazing program that allows the children a chance to escape into a world of song, dance, and laughter with a solid Christian foundation.

The children were ecstatic, jumping and dancing, laughing and singing. They didn't see the dirty, torn pants, the worn out shoes or the threadbare t-shirts in the crowd. The hunger in their tiny tummies was a part of life; the pizza they were served at the end was an enormous treat. The drug bust up the street was just part of the scenery, the cops blended right into the dilapidated houses.

One child was brought to me, a tiny little boy with big, soulful eyes. He avoided eye contact, just mumbled the he didn't feel well and asked for a drink of water. I crouched to his level and started to talk to him, finding out that he hadn't eaten anything all day. Probably nothing since yesterday morning, one of the program volunteers told me later. She said they always feed the children because they simply can't send them home hungry. I almost cried at this. No child should go hungry, no beautiful little child should be that sad or see that much. I have such a good life, I am truly blessed. I don't have any right in the world to bemoan my strict student budget, I have a warm, clean, comfortable house, every meal I need and endless peace, love and security. I watched the kids happily file out at the end of the day, seriously fighting back tears. Who knows what kind of homes these children are returning to, where their next meal will come from or how long they can sustain those innocent smiles.

Right in my backyard, there are children in need of such help. I have never truly seen poverty until I looked at those faces today. I have learned the statistics in my sanitary, impersonal classrooms; about how this neighbourhood is one of the 10 poorest in Canada and 1 in 3 children in this city live below the poverty line. These were only statistics until I saw them in the faces of the children today. Now they are big brown eyes, impish grins, scraped knees and shy glances. I can't get them out of my head. I don't want to get them out of my head.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

My Thoughts Exactly

Standing outside the ambulance at a concert the other night, I watch the excited crowd mill around. The side door opens and Shane pops out, his country-boy grin stretched from ear to ear. I look up at him quizzically, "What's up?" "Did you ever think, a few years ago, that you would be doing this?" He responds. "I mean seriously, I'm hanging out in an ambulance, and not only that, I also know how to use all the stuff inside!" He looks down at his uniform, "Back in high school, I never would've expected myself to be standing here in this uniform, doing this." His grin widens as he begins to lope off. "Anyways, I was just thinking about how cool it is."

I grin as well, I have the exact same thoughts. I am standing there beside the truck, in my awesome uniform, a radio on each hip, stethoscope in my pocket, in charge of this duty. I never would have expected this a few years ago, or back in high school. I love it as much as he does, what an experience it is. I know many people who volunteer out of a sense of duty or to build their resume, I am privileged to do this, first and foremost, because I love it so much. The opportunity to learn these skills, treat patients, and smoothly run a duty is incredible. The thought hits me every now and then as well. This IS cool.

Friday, March 21, 2008

An Odd Shift

Tonight I discovered that two of the EMS legends or whatever you want to call them are indeed true. People are a lot crazier when its a full moon, and going on duty exhausted means you'll have a busy shift.

I went on a very tough bike ride this afternoon, 40 km on some very nasty roads. I only had enough time to grab a milkshake and a few crackers for dinner, then shower and jump into my uniform before I headed to the hockey game. Completely exhausted and with a headache steadily building, I was seriously hoping for a quiet, quiet shift. Turns out that the crowd had other ideas, they were insane tonight!!

Puck to the head first - split the poor guy's ear wide open. It was quite nasty, it looked like a mouth that you could make 'talk', and it was bleeding like mad. We got the bleeding stopped, wrapped it up and sent him to the hospital. On the way back to the first aid room, we (I had a female partner and observer with me) had to fend off at least 3 "Oh, I need CPR" "I'm having a heart attack, I need mouth-to-mouth" comments from creepy men. Seriously, do they think THAT is going to work? It's quite the dilemma I I remain professional and ignore them, or turn around and tell them off? Ok, ok, I always opt for the ignore, but I am tempted to say something instead!

People in general were just weird tonight, the cops kept throwing drunks out and the creepy guy population seemed to have doubled. We couldn't find our second patient, 'something in the eye', though that is not an uncommon occurance. The game went into overtime, just because I was wanting to go home so badly, and the other team scored anyways. Halfway out the doors, we get another call.....groan. An old man had run out of his portable O2 and needed more, so we switched tanks with him and sent him on his merry way. Finally, an hour later than normal, we were able to leave.

After a weirdly busy shift, I am finally able to crash. A very welcome moment, especially since I'm busy all day tomorrow and have a concert - that Shane and I are running - tomorrow night. Time to sleep....

Friday, February 29, 2008

Leap Day

I am awakened from a sound sleep by the musical tones of my alarm. It's 4:30, the house is cold and dark. Really cold, our furnace has been broken for a few days now. I shiver in the 13C temperature, but hop from my warm bed eagerly. I have an early morning shift today, my partner is picking me up in half an hour. I guess some crazy people think it would be a good idea to 'leap' in the lake on this frosty 'leap' day, and we have to be there to make sure they don't kill themselves doing it. School has been so busy that I haven't done many shifts lately, so I welcome one now.

The trucks are cold and frosty, but we eventually get one cleaned off and head down to the waterfront. A local radio station is broadcasting their morning show live from the diner at the shore that serves as the jumping point for this insanity. The DJs are happy to see us - as they readily announce over the radio. One of them is 'leaping', he jokes that we are there just to save him. We hang around drinking our Timmies coffee and waiting for the action to start. Yes, I'm actually drinking the coffee. My first cup ever - it really is nasty stuff! After adding about 4 cream and 6 sugar, it becomes sightly more palatable. The DJs mention us several times over the next few hours as the party gets going, always thanking us for being there. It's great publicity for our organization, maybe we'll got some new volunteers out of it.

Our supervisor Roy shows up around dawn, right off his night shift with the city EMS. He hands me hot chocolate, saying he started to worry when he heard I was drinking coffee. Since he's been trying to get me to drink it for a year now, he figures something must be wrong if I've finally succumbed. Laughing, I assure him all is well, but gladly switch beverages. I'll take sugar over caffeine any day!

Roy is considering jumping, which I try to attribute to the fact that he hasn't slept in 24 hours. He's done a few polar plunges in the past though, so I must concede that he's normally nuts - sleep deprivation has nothing to do with it. He finally says "yah, I'll go for it", and I inform the DJs. They LOVE it, they simply can't get over the fact that 'the medic supervisor' is going in. They interview him live, "Ok, you're the one who is supposed to take care of people, and you're going in, so who is going to take care of you?" "What are the medical risks of doing this?" Roy is a perfect representation of the division - maintaining a professional attitude while doing something insane.

They milk it for a few more commercial breaks, then finally line up at the shore. As one DJ counts down, the other makes witty comments from the shore, always keeping up the banter. Finally they go - running and splashing through the frigid waters of the Great Lake. They dive under, since it doesn't count unless you get totally wet. Hooting and hollering as the cameras flash, they quickly turn and head for shore, readily seeking warm towels and blankets.

Nobody is the worse for wear after their dip, we weren't needed in spite of all the hype. The crowd rapidly thins as everyone heads off seeking warmer places. The diner feeds us and the radio people breakfast/lunch, then we head off as well. My partner drops me off as the furnace guy is just leaving. I walk into my rapidly warming house, appreciating every increasing degree. I crawl back into bed, snuggling deep under the layers of blankets. Relaxed and now toasty-warm, I gently slip back into a sea of dreams.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Demolition Derbys and Firemen

Last fall was a lot of fun, we covered a lot of country fairs, generally one every weekend. Many of these had a demolition derby, which were always the most popular event. I really enjoy them, there's just something so cool about seeing people smash up cars - I guess that's the country in me. The biggest one was in a rather wealthy little town-turned big-city suburb, which was also the most fun. I was recently reminded about it, and since school has settled down a bit, I can now tell the story.

John and I are covering the demo derby as Roy and Janice cover the rest of the fair. The organizers always have a medic team at the derby along with the firefighters, just in case something happens to the drivers. John and some of the others who have been around for a while are not all that fond of these events, they complain about the noise, the dirt, and the firefighters. Medics and firefighters don't always have the greatest relationship; it's some sort of twisted rivalry I guess. Personally, I love them, they are usually great guys and I have never had a problem with one. They have always been nice to me and treated me well, so I feel no need to make sweeping generalizations about hose monkeys....I mean firemen.

I love how close we get to stand, the gates of the fence are open and the only barriers between the cars and us are the concrete blocks edging the ring. I remember when I first came to university; I came to this with my cousins, sitting up in the stands. I looked over across the field to where the medics and fire were standing and sighed....I wanted to be doing that soooo badly. I can't help but grin now, standing there in the dark night, standing there as a medic. I look up to where I was sitting 2 years and thank God for the opportunities He has given me. I just love doing this.

John hangs out back at the ambulance, but I want to be right in the action. My little medic uniform offers very little protection for the muddy spray that covers us every time the cars spin by, but it's only mud, right? Hmm, wrong. A sharp stinging pain on my leg provides a quick wakeup call - rocks and other debris flies just as easily. This requires a rethink. I grab a pair of safety goggles off John and pull my baseball cap down tight. My face more or less protected, I turn to look at the three firemen. They are in full turnout gear, giant pants, coats and full helmets ensure that they wouldn't feel half a car if it were to fly our way. The next time a car sprays by, I lean slightly behind Rick, the nearest one. That works well - I don't have to move out of the action, and I have my own personal shield. After a few passes, he notices what I'm doing and just laughs. He offers me his helmet, and as tempting as that is, I decline. Instead, he starts to cover me every time the spray flies, taking all the mud for me. The rest of the night is hilarious, we talk and joke non-stop, and since his protective instinct had kicked in like crazy, he makes sure I don't get another speck of mud on me.

So you see, I have no reason to dislike firemen. That is only one of many incidents in which they have proven, on the whole, to be very nice guys. It's a lot of fun to see another perspective on duty, and talking to cops or firemen give that. I won't hesitate to tease them as mercilessly as they do me, but I'll not perpetuate the negative relationship that many of my partners have with them. They can quite easily liven up a dull shift.

They're useful for carrying stuff too :D

Friday, February 1, 2008

Sun City?

I've had a reader from Sun City, Arizona.......

My university was shut down today because it snowed so much last night.

Winter in this city means grey skies almost constantly from November to April.

Sunburn is but a distant memory to me now.

Can I move to Sun City? That place sounds incredible. I've seriously been thinking about that name all afternoon, especially as I shovelled snow under cloudy skies. I kept wondering, is it sunny in Sun City?

Yes.....I have been studying too hard. ;)

Running Control

I have so much more respect for dispatchers now! It really is a hard job, which I found out firsthand at the major concert this week. It was decided that since I'm now an NCO, I need to learn how to run 'Control' at major events. I was not entirely pleased to hear that this was the event they chose for my first go at it, as it was a performer that I really wanted to see. Ah well, duty calls.

My briefing at the start of the show didn't go too badly, I split the responders into teams and sent them to their locations around the stadium. We only got one call, which was probably a good thing, because I kinda fumbled it. I was trying to listen to security on the one radio while dispatching our team on the other, it's so hard! I haven't mastered the art of listening to and understanding two radio communications at once. My team was left hanging, not knowing where I was sending them, while I responded to security and told them we were en route. Eventually though, I got everything sorted out and the lady who almost cut her finger off was treated.

I then forgot about one of my teams that were in the front lobby. Whoops! I left them there long after everyone was in the building, and I think they got a tad bored. Shane was very forgiving though, he knew how nervous I was.

I want to improve my ability to do dispatch, or control, but I'm not sure how. I'm sure it will come with practice, as I am usually an excellent mulit-tasker. The show was great though, the guy was such an amazing singer, *sigh*.....

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Another Call

This weekend I finally had another call, only the second in as many months. I hate the feeling of getting rusty, so it was nice to have a chance to use my assessment skills again. That is, after all, why I go to all these events, why I sign up for so many duties. The music may be good, the shows funny and the sports entertaining, but that is not why I am there. I am there to help people, to treat patients. That is what I truly love to do.

The call came just before intermission, one of the bartenders had been injured. I grab my bag and the observer and head off, my partner trailing us slowly. The poor woman had been perched on a high stool, and as she turned to talk to another staff member, it tipped over. She struck her head, neck and back off the marble counter top, then hit the floor. She was quite a tough older lady though, and insisted she was ok. I checked her out and all was well, a bit bruised, and she'll be sore for a few days. It was really just a good chance to run through the whole assessment, and I think I did rather well. I love being on my own, and every little call is a chance to practice my skills for the bigger calls.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Winter Lull

There have been very few duties lately, and that trend looks to continue for the next few weeks. There are a few hockey games, some shows and a concert or two, but people rarely get injured or sick at those. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the shows - so I actually hope there are no patients!

In the summer we have the massive festivals, the fairs, GoKarts, the football games, all things where people tend to drop like flies. I've come to the conclusion that people just don't get hurt in the wintertime! Well ok, at least not in the 3-hour time span it takes to watch our local hockey team KICK BUTT. Winter is therefore a time of training, organizing and preparing for the insanely busy spring, summer and fall seasons. I can't really complain about the lull, as it forces me to concentrate on my schoolwork. Memorizing invertebrate phyla is not quite as entertaining as learning how not to kill people, but who said university was all fun and games?

I did get promoted however, which was a bit of a shocker, since I've only been here for a year and a half. I'm now in charge of supplies, which appeared innocuous enough at first glance. I have to wonder what this new portfolio really entails however, as they have not yet told me the whole scope of my duties. I am assuming any or all of the following: uniform sizing, keeping the trucks stocked, organizing and stocking all the trauma bags, complete inventory of supplies, managing the back supply room, random administrative stuff....I'm sure there is more I've missed that they are sure to think of. Ah well, I love my pretty new stripes. A little extra grunt work is easily done.

I want a decent duty's been too long since I've treated a patient, I'm getting restless. It's not that I'm wishing for somebody to get hurt, but people do, and I just want to be the one responding.