Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Next Step

"Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life." ~Confucius

I love volunteering; treating patients and being in uniform are two of the most enjoyed parts of my life. I love being on duty, seeing new things, meeting new people, facing challenges and always adapting to new situations. I would do this every day if I could, I can think of no other career I would prefer. This brings me to my next step, since I graduate university this spring.

I have been accepted to the Paramedic Program at one of the best colleges in the area, I will begin the 2-year process this September. I am ridiculously excited, I've been wanting to do this for a while. I know the job is not all fun and excitement, I've already been bled on, puked on, frozen in the winter, boiled in the summer, bored out of my mind and so exhausted I couldn't sleep when my shift was finally done. I just love it, I can't explain why or how, I just do.

My goal is to kick butt in the program, since everything that I don't learn will come back to bite me on the street. I know my degree will generally count for squat, I need to work my tail off to be good, nay, to excel as a paramedic on the street. Although I'm not giving up my volunteer position, this blog will inevitably begin to chronicle my progress through school and calls I get while on the road with my preceptors. I'm excited for the change!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

The call comes over the radio and Ryan and I respond to a fall in the front lobby of the hockey arena. An elderly woman has taken her walker down the escalator and ended up falling down the last few steps. I take the call and carefully start assessing her, the poor woman has a slight mental impairment, a host of medical problems and is frightened and shaking like a leaf.

I check her shoulders and neck, running my fingers along her collarbone to assess stability. I check both her arms, running my hands down the bones to feel for deformities or swelling, watching her face for grimaces or any other indication of pain. All I find is a tender bruise starting to swell up just above her elbow; pulses, mobility, sensation, grip strength and everything else is normal. I check everything, running through the full assessment just to be sure. As I release her from my care, I tell her all I found was the bruise on her arm, but to go to the doctor and get checked out later if anything continues to hurt. Completely confident in my assessment and treatment, I fill out my paperwork and contently return to our seats in the stands to watch the end of the game.

Two weeks later, she approaches me at another game, her arm encased in a very supportive sling. "You know my arm that you said was just bruised?" She says with a slightly accusatory tone, "It turns out I broke my collarbone. I went to the doctor and it hurt more than all of my surgeries put together." Slightly dumbfounded, I stammer out an apologetic response while trying not to second-guess my basic assessment skills. As we part, I turn to Ryan in shame, "I thought I nailed that call, I checked everything! She had no pain, no swelling, no deformity, no instability, no nothing!" I barely hear his consolatory response as I'm lost in my own embarrassed thoughts.

I know I wouldn't have run that call differently if I came across it again, but I still feel bad that I missed it. I thought my skills were oh-so-good, I was getting cocky, especially in front of the newer members. I guess we all need to be knocked back to earth occasionally, even if its by something as simple as a broken collarbone.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


The performer revels in the adoration, the screams and cheers of thousands of fans. He hears them scream his name, sing every lyric of every song and raucously applaud everything he says or does. I hear the scream for help, the cry of a frightened fan with blood running down her face. I hear security shout for me as yet another person staggers out and collapses against a pole, or is carried out by anxious friends. I hear the same stories time and time again, from nearly every patient who walks through our doors.

He sees them jump up and down with excitement, he sees the wide smiles on their faces, the signs splashed with his name and his T-shirts on every body. He sees attractive young women winking at him and smiling suggestively as they bare much in their concert attire. I see the police hauling yet another obnoxious drunk out of the crowd, tossing him out before he creates yet another patient for me. I see the blood hit the floor, drying into deep red-purple stains, a surprisingly beautiful colour against the dingy tile. I see knees buckle as people collapse, their pale and sweaty faces showing fear through their weakness. I watch the crowd closely, picking out those who will soon join me, seeing potential patients in every corner. I see a scantily clad woman fighting to stay upright on huge heels as she stumbles around in a drunken haze, eventually failing miserably and hitting the floor in a pile of skin, makeup and beer.

He smells the smoke from the pyrotechnics mingling with the odour of alcohol and sweat from the massive crowd. I smell the fruity tropical drinks in the vomit my young patient is spewing everywhere, I smell the alcohol on the breath of every patient who stumbles in. I smell smoke and blood, beer and vomit. The inescapable odour permeates my uniform and my hair, searing itself into my very pores.

He feels the thunderous bass shaking the stage beneath his feet, he feels the touch of frantic hands against his feet, his legs, his hands. I feel the grip of a drunk young woman on my hand, her fingers locking through mine in a desperate attempt to regain stability. I feel the swelling grow in a broken nose, I feel my sweat on my forehead as I try to stem the ever-rising tide into the first aid post.

He sings of the glories of alcohol, I see none of it. The young women who came in attractively dressed now slump to the floor, skirts riding up and shirts hanging low, with no control over themselves. Men who come in quietly leave with an escort of blue, or stumble out in a cloud of profanity. I spend the entire evening treating what alcohol has done to these people, and can't help but realize the discord between my experience and the ones glorified in his songs.

Monday, March 2, 2009


March seems to be concert month around here, which is a welcome break after the long, slow winter. There are several large ones approaching, and I find myself looking forward to the preparation, setup and organization of these events. I love being the control person, running the show from the pre-duty briefing until the debriefing at the end. I carefully set up my teams based on qualification and experience, sending them out to pre-arranged locations at the pre-arranged times. I rotate them often enough to keep them from getting bored, and shuffle them around to maintain coverage when calls start pouring in.

We prepare for the worst when setting up before every concert, our entire triage area is designed to manage mass numbers of casualties. We prepare a drunk section where they can vomit peacefully with limited mess, water is set up for the fainters and splints and backboards are laid out for the unfortunate souls who venture into the mosh pit. Our tent stands guard at the entrance, a post through which all must pass in order to maintain order and control. I brief the teams, giving them the layout of the show, times, attendance numbers, radio instructions and assignments. As much information as I have, I reveal. I want my responders to be fully informed, holding back information to preserve a sense of power and control drives me nuts, I always strive to be fully open.

Hopefully, this month will go smoothly and the concerts will prove yet again to be a learning experience for everyone involved. I do my part by making sure all the extra stuff is taken care of, freeing up the responders to respond to calls and treat patients to the best of their ability. Hopefully, having me at the helm and on the radio allows them to focus on their job and not worry about anything else. I love treating patients, but I'm loving the organization and dispatching side more than ever.