Wednesday, September 30, 2009

When Life Imitates Art

No one I work with has mentioned the NBC show Trauma so I'm guessing it's pretty much a non-event. I had the mis-fortune of watching the show and, I know real life doesn't sell, but the show was goofy. Let me tell you right now- if Harold and Kumar had crashed a chopper into the side of a building around here, they ain't gettin' a new one any time soon. So from a consumer point of view, I thought Trauma was goofy, stereotypical, cliched, poorly executed, written and acted.

Again, I repeat my assertion that the ONLY way to save the show is to add Lassie to the cast. Please contact NBC and demand it.

To me the real danger of shows like Trauma, and I'm speaking from my EMS vantage point, is that there are knuckleheads out there that believe that stuff. People we work with or could, in the future, work with. People who identify with these fictional characters and try to incorporate that "stuff" into real life.

So, let me put a dime in the old anecdote jar and run this one past you:

I was working a 12 with Jim, who was both a new Medic and a new hire, and with Jen, who was precepting with me for Paramedic class. Jim and I had never partnered before but everybody said he was hyper and prone to "itchiness". Real Medics, real big city Medics if you will, don't appreciate either trait.

Our first call of the shift was to a nursing home for an "eighty-two year old female. Doctor is requesting transport because of abnormal labs". Ever get a call like that? Oh, I bet you have... usually they are the very definition of a routine EMS call, and I happen to think they are great for students because they can do all their fun Paramedic interventions without the pressure of a patient who is headed down the crapper at warp speed.

Of we go. Jim reaches over and flips on the lights. "Don't need 'em Jim, nice easy ride will do. We're just a few blocks away". Jims respirations went way up- especially at the red light we caught half way there.

Upstairs in the facility we found our patient in bed, alert and oriented, appearing to be in no real distress. Her two grown daughters were there with her.

I took a step back and let Jen take over, Jim was to be her partner and helper.

Jen was doing a pretty good job- she had instantly established a rapport with the patient and her family, and was collecting a detailed history. During the interview I overhead one daughter say " Moms English isn't always so good- we're from Lithuania"

Jim meantime was going nuts- things just weren't moving fast enough for him. Jen was sitting on the edge of the bed talking and I had taken a seat in an armchair in the corner. Things were getting done- but in a calm, relaxed way. And that apparently was not Jims style.

Jim grabbed our brand new Lifepak 12, held it up and yelled " Jen, fer Chrisakes! This is an emergency! Let's get moving dammit! Get her on the monitor STAT!!!"

To make a long story short- we got our patient to the hospital, gave the report and stepped outside to do a little post call review.

"Jen, you did a great job on this call. I know you didn't get a lot of help but you got everything done, you did it well and our scene time was under twenty minutes. Very cool Jenny-Jen"

... and then I turned my attention to Jim...

-speaking loudly-
"Jim, what the hell were you thinking back there? I can't believe what you just did to us. You're an insensitive asshole. Jim, did you know STAT is Lithuanian slang for Your Mothers a whore?.. and you yelled it at two Lithuanian women with a sick Mom. They're gonna write a letter because of you- make sure you write an incident report. Idiot!"

Back at the station Jim stomped inside the crew area and I could over hear bits and pieces of his conversation with the two other crews in the base- "Incident report...he said... I said... STAT... Lithuanian..." Suddenly, laughter- loud, out-of control-hey yer an idiot- laughter.

Jim ran out front, stood in front of me and screamed "You are a prick!"

He never said STAT again...

... but for the three and half years he was in our station, his nickname was, oh yeah baby- STAT.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Fun and Games in the Front Seat of the Ambulance

... this will seem pretty tame to some of you, but when I work with my favorite partner Amy it's a little game we play to pass the time:

"All Along The Watchtower- Hendrix or Dylan?"


"What? Jimi baby- three perfect solos. Three"

"Ok jerky boy. My Girl- Otis or the Temps?"

(Together) "Otis!!!"

"Um, alright there smart-ass... Panama Red- Rowan or the New Riders?"

"Oh man, no fair!"

See? It's fun as hell- and if you know enough music it can go on all day long. Yeah!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Irony or Tragedy?

Could this just be one one life's little ironies? One of those quirky EMS shift enders?

You're throwing a gas mask back and forth like a football on Friday, flirting with the pretty newscasters, trying to convince your partner NOT to eat the chocolate covered bacon from the little candy shop down the block...

Saturday, before the suns even cracked the horizon, before the traffic, the kids, the dogs, the paperboy- before most people in town are starting real life you're working a traumatic arrest on a five year old who's been gunned down and isn't getting back up- no matter what you do...

Five years old, five years old...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Real Ain't What It's Cracked Up To Be...

... for real. You know it's funny- we can turn a whole town upside down preparing to host that .05% that run things, but we can't do a thing to keep a little five year old from being shot in the chest and killed in a ghetto, gangland shooting.

Five years old- hell, some of you people might have kids that age sitting on your lap right now, or sleeping in the next room or walking home from school, playing in the yard, laughing, crying, just being alive...

Five years old...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Special Details Are Not All That Special...

... just ask my dogs- they haven't seen me for 48 hours and we have 24 to go. Thankfully my family is able to walk them and take care of the evening feeding- and I've been "sneaking home" mid day to let them out to run in the yard for a few.

That said- I can't really post anything much here- although most of what I know about the detail I'm assigned to is very common knowledge, I'm not willing to let something slip out that will get someone hurt- just for the sake of a good anecdote...

But I can tell you this real quick...

The crews on the street have an unspoken understanding with the local news media- they know we will let them get into a safe distance from fires, rescues and crashes to get their stories- in exchange, they wait for the fat guys in white shirts to show up to get quotes, official type interviews and blow-by-blow accounts of hillside rescues, extrication's, shootings, stabbings and other big and bad stuff. They also realize this is different- I can't let them inch in ANYWHERE.

So, we have a cordial relationship with most of the street level media- they know the deal, keep stuff off the record, ( though they will try to sneak that in the window or through the back door shot), relax- "Hey, how you guys doin? You workin' that game Sunday?" That kind of stuff...

This morning a two person crew was filming near our "corner". When they finished they walked over to say hello, and probably to fish for some little nugget. Let me just say that I am absolutely in love with the reporter from this particular TV station- let's call her Amanda. We said our hello's and then I asked if I could mark this special, historic occasion by making a statement on the record, live if possible...

Sadly, live was not an option, but the recorded "interview" went something like this:

"We are on **** Avenue with the City Medic crew working this area, I'm going to get these Paramedics views on being part of this historic day"

"Amanda, I would just like to say how proud I am to represent the City down here, and I also want to tell your viewers that you are, just, absolutely, incredibly beautiful in person. Just exquisite- ahh, would you like to go for a bike ride?"

We all forced a laugh and went our separate ways. I didn't make the news and I didn't get a date. Oh well...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Healthcare By The Pound, The Hiemlich and Just a Touch of Irony

I've mentioned here before the practice of funding medical procedures by having bake sales, pasta dinners and, as was the case recently, a pulled pork BBQ. Now, I was not present for the events that transpired at the BBQ- but I was indeed an eye and ear witness to the events days later at our station.

One of our medics- let's call him Big Tom- decided to have his evening meal at the charity BBQ. Big Tom and his partner parked in the rear of the church hall where the benefit was being held, got out and stood in line. There were several people in front of them and several more folks seated at tables eating. Among the diners was a local VIP we'll call Fat Joe, no- we'll call him Big Fat Joe. Joe was, as I've been told, absolutely jammin' the pulled pork in his mouth. He was tearing at the giant sandwich while grunting and shaking his head back and forth, side to side, when- Big Fat Joe got this crazy wild eyed look on his face, jumped up and, yes, grabbed his throat with both hands. That most classic of signs- Big Fat Joe was choking, not the coughing, gagging thing the public sometimes calls choking, but the occluded airway thing that is indeed choking.

But help is seconds away- the Citys tallest and overall largest Medic is right there, quickly determines that we've got ourselves a choking condition and applies the remedy- the Heimlich... the Heimlich as only a 6'6" 375 pound inner city Paramedic can deliver it.

Well folks, I'm told that Big Fat Joe spit out a blob of pork and goo about the size of a baseball- and he was overcome with a desire to "do something for you guys. Ya' know what? I'm going bring you boys lunch next week"

And so he did. Big Fat Joe and two helpers showed up the following Wednesday with pizzas and boxes of doughnuts. But Joe came on a day when Big Tom, who will eat anything, was off.

Big Fat Joe came on the day the "health food Nazis" were on duty- and none of us would eat the stuff despite Big Fat Joes assurance that "there's nothin' wrong with that stuff, it won't kill ya"

Fortunately, our DC walked in- ah, let's call him, oh I don't know, Big Dick. Big Dick is about my height- 5'10"ish- but out- weighs me by a good 200 pounds. Big Dick saw the boxes and his face just lit up. He grabbed piece after piece, jamming them into his mouth, grunting and shaking his head back and forth, side to side.

So that was just a touch of irony, a little dab- now if his eyes had bugged out and, had he grabbed his throat with both hands... now that would have been some crazy cool irony there my friends.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The EMS Legacy of the Dinosaur

The Dinosaurs have turned EMS from a system that served the community into a system that only serves itself- and the Dinosaur.
Don't let your babies grow up to be Dinosaurs.

Photo from: slworking on Flicker

Creative Commons License

Monday, September 7, 2009

Our Labor Day Salute To EMS Chiefs

So, how many EMS chiefs does it take to screw up an EMS service? Yes, of course, just one! Now, enough of that- let's get right into the good stuff.

No matter what they're called in your locale- chief, manager, director, supervisor- you just have to wonder what the hell these men and women do all day.

Without further ado, let's explore the inner workings of EMS' big, gooey dysfunctional head... here is my salute to "my" guys". Make your own- it's fun.

The Chief- The very top guy. Has no real function other than to stand beside the Mayor at certain events and deliver sound bites to the media. His favorite sound bite seems to be "Uh, I was not aware of that"

The Assistant Chief- Seems to have a mix of operational and administrative responsibilities. Rumor has it he has worked his way into the 2003 pile of paperwork in his Inbox. Also said to have the power to become invisible- this would explain why none of us have seen him this year.

The Deputy Chiefs- One guy is in charge of trip sheets- not QA or QI- just making sure there is one report for each trip. He has boxes and boxes of paper reports in his office and in his car.

The other Deputies share the responsibilities of:
  • Sending Facebook lollipops
  • Accusing the field staff of misconduct ("We're sure going through a lot of light bulbs out there people")
  • Making sure our gear and training are never appropriate for our mission
  • Playing jumble with the schedule ( Interestingly- the schedule used to make itself- you rotated through the three shifts at your station. Or made switches. After everyone starting quitting, or kept quitting without being replaced, the schedule got really, really complex)
  • Misplacing paperwork of all types- your schedule request, incident reports, whatever.
These guys are also believed to have a limited ability to become invisible.

The District Chiefs- Each has a district they oversee. They are assigned a City EMS SUV and spend their days cruising around with that vacant look one gets when they have nothing to do and eight hours to do it in.
They are also in charge of assigning asshole status to the field staff- for instance: "That Pedro, he's an asshole" "Who's that girl he works with all the time?" "Amy?" "Yeah, Amy- she's an asshole too" "Yeah"

All the the chiefs jointly share the duty of blaming the field staff when things go wrong and grabbing the credit when they go right.

With all that responsibility on the table you would have to believe there would be some pretty stiff qualifications to get a job like that. Nope- just your EMT-P patch and your proof of City residency.

Have a nice day- and put yourself down for two more credits towards your EMS Management Degree.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

That Swine Flu Thing Isn't So Bad After All...

Just got an official e-mail update concerning the Swine Flu "outbreak":

As a reminder and in preparation of the upcoming flu season, The Bureau of Emergency Medical Services has posted the Statewide BLS Protocol SUSPECTED H1N1 INFLUENZA A # 931 on our website at www.************.us/ems under the PROTOCOL section.

Please follow proper PPE precautions and follow good handwashing techniques.

First- just let me say how relieved I am to learn the H1N1 is now officially a BLS epidemic... and second, after 12 months of build up it's time to either flu up or shut up and move on to another crisis.