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?