Let’s Be Friends

So, in the late Seventies/early Eighties, there was This Thing, called “Punk Rock”. At that time, the aficionados of this genre of music favored spiky hair, boots, torn jeans, and what might be charitably be characterized as “a bad attitude”. Surprisingly, venues favorable to hosting this sort of entertainment, did not tend to run to the country club zip codes, rather, the neighborhoods seemed to be more of the druggies-in-the-alley-and-hookers-on-the-corner sort. That meant (ta-Daah!), Downtown Da City!

So one night, there we were, TINS ©, TIWFDASL ©, and I was working my schedule at Medic 17. For some reason, Da City had just gotten new ambulances, replacing the second generation of 100,000 mile relics from the Dark Ages. Medic 17 had been blessed with a new ride. Athos had just waxed the floor of the patient compartment, and Porthos and I had checked equipment, washed the exterior, and generally spiffed up our home for the next 12 hours. A couple of hours into the shift, half a dozen runs, nightfall, life was good.

So, having casually followed the news, more to laugh at just how many ways they could mis-report the runs that I myself had personally been on the scene for, I was aware that there was some sort of punk concert that evening. The details were hazy, but the location part of the story became clear as we caught a run to The Michigan Theatre, for an assault.

DBCPD at that time had a special detail colloquially called The Big Four, with three (huge!) plain-clothed officers, and one uniformed officer. This unit was special called to scenes where general jakiness suggested the need for reinforcements.

The Big Four was there, on the scene, as we arrived. The uniformed officer pointed out one sullen lad, who appeared to have been on the receiving end of one enthusiastically applied, Mark 1, Mod 0, butt whooping. The officer explained that Our New Friend had exited the show, along with his three friends,and had evidently determined that it would Be A Good Thing should they expectorate upon passing residents.


It appeared that these fine young specimens of enthusiastic youth had finally encountered The Wrong Resident upon whom to expectorate, for he had pasted Spitee Number One most vigorously. We invited the young gentleman to enter our ambulance, to assess him and offer him care.

Our New Friend sat upon the cot, and Porthos returned to the driver’s seat, while Athos and I saw to our patient. Athos began the litany of questions our trip sheet demanded, and sought the “History of Present Illness”. (ie, “what happened to you tonight?”). For some reason, he was not providing an abundance of details, and finally spat a collection of bloody glutenous mess onto the floor of the rig.


Athos handed him a wad of gauze, and invited him to “Wipe that up, eh?”. Mr. Spit appeared not to take it in the spirit in which it was intended, and drew back his right arm, balling the fist.


I was NOT about to watch this asshole punch my partner, and so, with my right hand, I released and unlimbered my heavy flash light, tensing up to hit a line drive with his left eyeball.


Then, inspiration struck. I really did not want to smack this joker (notwithstanding the fact that half-a-dozen police officers would in all likelihood establish in their notes that Mr. Spit had possessed these very same injuries prior to our arrival). Dunno where it came from, but I launched into some street theater.


I ducked beneath his right arm, placed my left hand on his right shoulder, and began to babble. “Noooo! Don’t be like that! We’re friendly little guys! Let’s be friends!”, followed by an idiot grin.


He looked at me, as if he had only now realized that I was crazy as hell, and had not recently taken my meds. I glanced at Athos, and he looked at me, similarly surprised, but looking a bit disappointed that he was gonna be deprived of the opportunity to thump a fool. I looked back at Mr. Spit, idiot grin still pasted large across my face, and waited for him to make a move that appeared to be a punch.


One of the officers became curious, long around this point in the performance, about what our hold up was, and poked his head into the rig. Seeing Mr. Spit with a balled up and drawn back fist, and me and my bat-sized flashlight coiled up for the right field fence, he determined that Our New Friend was not all that needful of medical attention, so much as a little continuing education on Proper Deportment When In The Ambulance. He grasped Mr. Spit’s collar, and, WHOOSH!, he was gone.


The next I saw of him, Our Friend was sprawled across the hood of a patrol car, and a Very Large Officer was whispering into his ear. While laying atop him. Didn’t look too comfortable.


The uniformed officer poked his head into our module, and we exchanged car designators, and he waved goodbye. “We have everything under control here. Your friend just refused care.”


Another night of saving lives, in Da City!


Moving Targets

So, some background. I have spent some time in urban EMS, as perhaps you had determined from both the title of the blog, as well as my tales of rollicking good times. I have noticed a few things.

Thing The First: Typically, EMS service populations are not drawn preferentially from what might be termed “life’s winners”. Indeed, for some reason, the log books skew towards the underachievers, the disenfranchised, the unsuccessful, and those who, generally, actively choose the stonier path upon which to direct their lives. Thus, the Donna Reed Quotient is kinda low. Clean cut? Not so common. Well spoken? Again, um, no. Conversations revealing polish, education, and familiarity with The Classic Works of English Literature? Nope. Preventive, or any other sort of, maintenance in evidence? Uncommonly. Not of the dwelling, not of the vehicles in the yard on blocks, not of the furniture, not of the persons of the folks you meet.

There are, of course, exceptions to this observation. Among the impoverished portion of the community, there are folks who are clean, polite, energetic, hardworking, and who try to make that which they do have, last, and their households and persons reflect this effort. Their children can be seen, when you are on the scene, quietly, out of the way, watching you perform your EMS magic, when they are not completing their homework, or accomplishing chores about the home. But, these folks are outliers.

Thing The Second: There is a well nigh unitary correlation between what might be considered Dumb Life Choices (drug use, intoxication on a regular basis, failing to pursue an education, to name a few high profile such choices), and poor hygiene and poor housekeeping. Again, there are contrary examples, and I see within them a spark of potential for redirection of self into paths perhaps more life enhancing, but (1) they are exceptions, and (2) folks have to make these transitions themselves, because they value these changes, and will not do so because I am so freaking perfect, and think that they should. Because, for one, I’m not.

Thing The Third: There is a similarly high correlation between squalid domestic settings, and infestation with vermin. Deer hunters know (And, after all, I live in rural Michigan, and deer hunting is One Of The Eight Sacraments) that, if you want to attract deer (or any other game species), you provide those things that they seek, and they will come. Food source, shelter from wind, water, protected lanes of travel between these things? Set up your blind, the deer will come a’calling.

Similarly, if you want roaches, provide them with water (check your pipes), food (which we spell g-a-r-b-a-g-e), shelter (cracks in your cabinets, walls, or the openings for electric outlets).

As you can infer from the foregoing, dilapidated housing, with inattentive folks (because stoned/drunk/other), and a failure of the concept “take out the trash! Wash your dishes every several days! Remove/reduce the clutter everywhere that provides shelter for vermin!”, well, you get, at the least, bugs.

As attractive as that sounded to me, and as fun as it looked as well when in these houses, well, I was reluctant to form my own “Wild Kingdom” to enjoy in my very own home. I developed the habit of shifting my weight from one foot to the other, regularly, in hopes of at least providing a moving target for the insect life present in the biome. Kind of a common tic among my colleagues, at that time.

So, TINS ©, TIWFDASLIDC ©, and in the course of doing so, my partner, Doug, and I transported a soul to TSBTCIDC. Of course, this soul originated from, let us say, a domicile that would NOT win a Good Housekeeping Award, although Merck might be interested in seeking new antibiotics there. We arrived at TSBTCIDC, and I was giving report to Mallory. I was winding my tale up, about to deliver the epilogue, when she interrupted me.

Do you have to go to the bathroom?”

(Me, shifting weight from left foot to right foot, rhythmically and repetitively) “uh, no. Why?”

(Her, looking skeptical) “Because you’re doing the potty dance.”

I looked at my feet. Looked at her. Looked at my feet. Looked at her. “Nope, I just got into the habit of doing this, so as to make it harder for the roaches to hitch a ride home.”

Just so you know, that is not a particularly successful pick up line. For some reason, the women do NOT find that insight alluring.

Who knew?

Marielle and The Upstairs Overdose.

So, TINS ©, TIWFDASL ©. This one time, Marielle and I were working Medic 7. Now, at this point, I’d been working the road a spell, and had, approximately, 2/3 of a clue. So, we caught a run for an overdose, and off we went.

It was my day to drive, and Marielle’s day to medic, so we arrived at the scene, notified dispatch, and beat upon the door, announcing ourselves. “Fire Department!” One of the occupants thundered down the stairs, and announced back up the stairs: “The ‘Mergency Mutha Fuckas is here!” Our host bade us follow. We followed.

Near the top of the stairs lay a gentleman, who appeared nearly completely disinterested in the goings on around him. Everybody else there appeared, themselves, disinterested in the named patient, but there were no threatening nonverbals, so, whatever, another day in Da City.

Our new friend was breathing, sort of. For bonus points, he did, indeed, posses a pulse, and was perfusing nearly all of his organs, as reflected in the presence and regularity of his radial (wrist) pulse. I was entirely happy to place this gentleman upon a stretcher, trot downstairs, and meander off to the hospital of my partner’s choice, but, NNOOOOO!, she felt the burning need to awaken him right there. She applied the BVM, and commenced to resuscitatin’.

Now, among my (small) fund of clue, was the insight that these citizens, who had expressly called the 911 EMERGENCY phone number, and requested an EMERGENCY ambulance, might, somehow, have determined that they were confronted with an EMERGENCY, and likely would be skeptical that said EMERGENCY could be resolved, satisfactorily, in their living room. Indeed, clinically, it occurred to me that, should Mr. Sleepy awaken, that his wakefulness likely had a half life shorter, in clinically significant terms, than the half life of his narcotic of choice. In either event, if did not seem that “customer satisfaction”, clinically satisfactory outcomes, or abbreviating our dwell time here, well within the potential hornets’ nest, would be promoted by awakening this soul, in the living room, and discussing with him his unhappiness at his pharmacologically induced bliss, being interrupted. Then, of course, there was the back injury eliciting potential of maneuvering an irate, dystaxic, nearly overdosed adult male down the stairs, without dropping him. I suggested as much.

Uh, Marielle? Wouldn’t this be simpler, in the truck?”

She looked up at me. “Stretcher Ape, I’ve brought half a dozen of them back this way!”

Unspoken was the Paul Harvey Moment. As in, what was The Rest Of The Story? Like, once you had, indeed, awakened this soul, and then had to implement a follow on plan of care. Would this newly reanimated patient, breathing spontaneously, feel motivated to deliver a soliloquy on your mother’s poor life choices and unusual tastes in romantic partner(s)? Or, perhaps, seek to kinetically provide dissuasion of repeating this Dreamus Interruptus upon himself, or another similarly situated child of God? Or, once the recently dreaming person was woke, might the companions now take an interest in his life circumstances, and feel that, notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, you HAD to “snatch him on up, and carry him on down to the hossipal!”? Tangential to that, just how do you negotiate with 4-8 angry inebriates? (Please provide a syllabus of your tutorial in the comments!)

I realize that this was not a Teachable Moment for her, nor for me, and handed her the handie talkie, and loped down the stairs in hopes of moving him before he became too animated and restless.


Of course, he WAS animated, and WAS restless. On the way down the stairs, it was a near thing whether he would roll of the stretcher, one, the other, or both of us would tweak our back(s), or some combination of the above.

Well, that day The Patron Saint Of Emergency Motherfuckers smiled upon us, and Mr Formerly Somnolent was safely tucked away on our stretcher, in the ambulance, and he was delivered to TSBTCIDC. After a brief prayer at the Altar of The Ghawd Narcan, he dashed out of the department, before Marielle had completed her trip sheet.

And THAT, boys and girls, is why I am blessed to be doing Ghawd’s Work, fighting Disease and Saving Lives.

Athos, Porthos, and the Discarded Prescription

Once upon a time, in a reality far, far away, I was working a couple of schedules at Medic17. This was a house with a three medic crew, and we were just outside of the downtown area of Da City. Remember, this was on the order of 35-40 years ago, and the all night, wide selection of dining experiences thing was years, or decades, in the future.

So, after about midnight, your meal choices were the brown bag you brought in to work, White Castle, which was several medic districts away on the far west side, or Shanghai Palace. The late night Chinese restaurant was, itself, a considerable distance out of our first response district.

So, TINS ©, there I was, cruising Da City late one night with Athos driving, Porthos medic-ing, and me riding in the patient compartment. We went to the only drugstore open all night in Da City, Larned Drugs. Athos needed some cigarettes, and Porthos and I wanted a Coke.

We parked on the sidewalk, for, after all, were we not Da Fire Department (it said so on the door of the truck!), and entered to make our purchases. Concluding same, we exited, and stood outside, enjoying the summer night breeze. Along came some soul, who exited Larned Drugs muttering and swearing, announcing insights into the pharmacist, his lack of education, and the unusually close relationship he and his mother shared. He crumbled something up, tossed it upon the sidewalk, and stalked up the street.

Athos retrieved the something, and uncrumpled it to reveal a prescription sheet from DBTHIDC. Strolling over, beneath a streetlight, he read it to us, showing off somebody’s (the recently walked-away complainer?) penmanship, wherein the prescription directed the pharmacist to dispense “Mofeen, one pound.”

Nursing Student Ride Along

Doug and I, at “Lucky” Medic 13, had one schedule with Cletus as our third partner. Cletus appeared reasonably intelligent, but had the unhappy superpower, of rubbing folks the wrong way. On many occasions, he would be medic-ing, enter the scene, announce us with “Hello. How can we help you?”, and get a growled response of, “The Hell you mean by that? You can’t talk to (me)(him)(her) like that!” And, of course, in Medic 13’s area, negotiation was a lost art. A night that we didn’t get into some sort of fight with a chucklehead or two, was a night we were not at work. This, even in Cletus’ absence.


So, Back in The Day, some of the local RN programs would offer their students the opportunity to ride along with Da Big City EMS, as part of their emergency nursing rotation. Typically, these were women, and they were commonly young, bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed, cute, smart, and agog at the gritty realities of Da Street. We would occasionally get one of these women as our ride along. Considering the aforementioned “Fight Club” nature of our area, we took pains to give them The Talk (EMS Version).


This consisted in admonishing the student to NEVER get separated from Doug and me. We showed them the radio in the cab of the truck, and directed them, “If one of us says, ‘Let’s go get the stretcher’, that means ALL OF US go get the stretcher, and then unass the scene. If you get to the truck before us, in that situation, you pick this microphone up, right here. You push the red button, hold it down, and you say, ‘Medic 13! Medic in trouble!’, and keep repeating it, without releasing this red button, until the cops show up. Then show the nice police officers where you saw us last. Got it?”


That typically produced wide eyed head nodding. Some of the quicker students would ask, “Why would you both leave?” We would explain that we were reluctant to engage our students in fisticuffs, with folks who did not know who the Marquis of Queensbury was, let alone know his rules for boxing. We would do a pocket dump, showing pocket knives, Kel-Lites (heavy duty, police-style flashlights, useful for illumination, or as a bludgeon), belt knives, neck knives, and explaining the utility of each. More wide eyes.


So, this one student was in quarters, getting The Talk, when Cletus arrived. He was off duty that day, yet for reasons not clear to Doug or me, felt the need to hang out at the firehouse. Must not have had cable, I guess. Now, Cletus and I are honkeys, Doug very African Heritaged. Our student, who was a cute as a bug’s knee, was, herself, of the African Persuasion. Cletus sat there, until Doug and I had concluded The Talk, and then I went up front to call my girlfriend on the house pay phone (You may have heard of them. Way, way back, before the I-Phone 3, there were these telephones, connected with wires to the Phone Company. After you deposited money, you could dial a number, and get connected to whoever you wanted, sort of like a cell phone, except with other people’s germs all over them.)


So TINS © , there I was, chatting away with my girlfriend, and I saw Cletus and Our Student exit the firehouse, and turn left, towards J’s Lounge. Now, in Da City, the firehouses are not generally in the “high rent” district. Rather, they were scattered around the city, and that tended to place them in what might be charitably described as firefighting target rich environments. Similarly for EMS houses, except substitute “pathology target rich environment”. So, next door to our firehouse was J’s Lounge, whose historic claim to fame was the distinction of being the site of several shootings, conveniently located next door to the medic unit’s quarters. Since, at that time, Da City was running around 130,000 EMS calls a year, with something like 16 ambulances, well, we were seldom home, and so the citizens expected the firefighters to be the first responders. Ghawd, did they LURV that! About as much as they’d enjoy a fully involved structure fire with the nearest 6 hydrants being out of service.


So, since our house was located in a neighborhood in the center of Da City, and the majority of Da City’s residents were themselves of the African Heritage Group, well, that left Cletus (honky), strolling into J’s Lounge, with a clientele representative of that corner of Da City, in the company of an attractive young woman, herself a stranger in these here pars, and, for bonus points on Cletus’ part, Black.


Now, at this point in Da City’s history, relations between the races were, well, tense. A lot of the Black folks were conscious of White political leaders, and decisions that had been taken by these White politicians that were not advantageous to minority folks. A certain percentage of the White population leapt to the conclusion that, inasmuch as minority criminals were featured in news reports of, well, crime, that therefore, all minority folks were criminals. Neither set of citizens stopped to consider the possibility that some White folks were assholes, some Black folks were jackwagons, and a lot of the rest of either group simply wanted to be left the hell alone, to work, pay their bills, raise their children, and generally get about their days.


So it was into this oven that Cletus and Our Student strolled. Once I identified what the frack it appeared that Cletus was doing, I abruptly hung up on my girlfriend, and sprinted to our quarters. Doug looked up from his textbook, and, as I grabbed the handie-talkie from the charger and motioned him to follow me RFN*, asked what was up, I told him, “Cletus just took Our Student into J’s!”, and he bolted from his seat.


We had just about made it to the front of the firehouse, when Cletus and Our Student returned, Cletus with a big idiotic grin on his face. Doug and I called dispatch on the HT (“Medic 13, back in quarters, off the air.”), and dragged Cletus back to our quarters. Once there, Doug bade him sit, and began a profusely illustrated, highly evocative, richly turned narrative, filled with esoteric turns of phrase describing deviant familial relations, marital practices, and love of our fellow beast, with the recurrent theme of “What The Fuck Did You Think You Were Doing?”


Long around the second or third stanza, Cletus lost his grin, and turned to me for support. Doug tagged me, and climbed out of the ring. I wasn’t quite as polite as Doug had been.

“So, Cletus, you know you’re white, right?”

He got smart. Well, OK, smart assed. “Well, d’uh! Of course I know I’m white!”

“And, perhaps you had noticed, most of this city is Black, right?”

Again, the smart ass. “Well, D’uh!”

“Just like this nice, and naïve, young woman, right here?”

“Yep, I noticed.”

“Have you noticed that folks in this town, particularly the folks we deal with all the time, are kinda tense about that whole Black/White thing?”


“So, Young Einstein: what do you suppose is the conclusion that our neighbors over there, most recently in our mind for that shooting last month, will jump to when a young white boy, strolls into their bar, escorting a attractive young Black woman? You are aware, are you not, that a primary commercial enterprise hereabouts is, er, um, the ‘escort’ business, right? What, are they recruiting illegal immigrants from Hondouristan to work these streets? Or do these women kinda look like our other neighbors? Hmmm?”


He responded with a blank look. I did not let that stop me. Doug nodded, and waved me forward. “So, here’s what happened: my white, and civilian clothed partner, walked into a black bar, in a predominantly black city, in an area whose major commercial enterprise is the sex trade, with a very attractive black woman, who is a stranger hereabouts. He laughs about this, while his partners were anticipating yet another shooting in that bar, only this time featuring their partner. Do you see, yet, how and why we anticipated this going horribly wrong?”


Our Nursing Student contributed, right about this point in the lecture series on Appearances Mean Things, “I think I need to go home, now. Thanks, guys for the lessons!”. And, with that, she scurried out of the door, into her car, and puttered away.


Cletus started looking uneasy, and suddenly remembered something pressing that he had to do, right now, at home. And, away he went.


Doug looked at me, and shook his head. “You sure know how to pick ’em!”



*RFN=Right Fucking Now


Why am I a suspicious soul?


Why am I a suspicious soul?


Because of runs like the following.


TINS ©, TIWFDASL © , and Medic 13 (our unit) caught a shooting. (Yeah, I know. Shocking! Shocking! Folks getting shot in Da Big City!) So as per the usual plan, we Weedle-Deedled our way to the scene, and pulled up after the police had retired the combatants to neutral corners. (Remember that assumption. It figures prominently in the rest of this story.)

So, our friends at DBCPD (Da Big City police Department) pointed out the shoot-ee, who did not appear to have a care in the world. Well, not THIS world. In fact, he appeared disturbingly unaware of the excitement unfolding around him, and so we assessed him quickly. Awake? Nope. Breathing? Nope. Carotid pulse? Nope. Trifecta of cardiac arrest. The Bonus Points of chest wounds meant that our friend was a trauma code, and trauma codes are widely renowned for having malign outcomes. In short, pretty much Dude be Daid. (for our non-street speaking readers, “daid”=DEAD.)


Around this time in Da City, another crew had left a dead fellow on the scene. They had figured that the GSW that had pretty thoroughly emptied his cranium had removed him from the living column of life’s census. However, once they had gone in service, one remaining neuron in this person’s hind brain had met up with another lonely neuron therein, and, in saying “Hello!”, had elicited one, last, agonal breath. The cops on the scene had freaked out (“He’s alive!”), called for another unit, and this medic crew, reading the writing on the wall which said, “This way to departmental charges and unemployment”, took another path, which included transporting this patient so the hospital could pronounce him. The first crew was suspended without pay for something like 6 weeks.


For this, and other reasons, there was no way we were going to leave this soul on the scene. Onto the cot, into the truck, and prep for liftoff! As I was connecting the oxygen to the BVM, and generally settling in for a lengthy episode of solo CPR in a moving vehicle (nearly as much fun as it sounds like it is, you ought to know), the rear door opened, and a female face appeared therein. She asked, “Can I ride with you?”

“Who are you?” I inquired.

“Oh, that’s my fiance!”

Let’s pause a moment. After several years on Da Streets of Da City, I concluded that there was not a solitary female older than 17 in the corporate limits of the City of Da City, who was not betrothed. This particular run was NOT after those several years, and so the following may be unsurprising, in retrospect.

Well, I invited said Fiance to enter the vehicle, and secure her safety belt. Doug set off to the The Best Trauma Center In Da City (TBTCIDC). He gave radio report, and I CPR’d my little heart out. Ms. Fiance inquired after my patient’s condition and prospects: “Is he gonna be alright?”

I gave her the long answer. “Well, ya know, when we do CPR-this is CPR- on somebody, they are very, very sick. In fact they are critically ill. Critically ill means that there is a very real chance that they will not survive. Now, I’m doing everything I can to help him, but people who are this sick, well, a lot of ’em die. We’ll just have to see how he turns out.”

She digested this for a moment. “I’m sorry I shot him.”

Huh? I mean, What The Fuck? Huh? Gotta admit, I was so startled, I stopped CPR, looking at her for a minute. After several breaths (mine, not his), I collected myself again and resumed CPR. Ya know, CPR, by yourself, in the back of a moving ambulance, coding to TBTCIDC, is kind of challenging. It becomes particularly so if you are trying to keep your eyes on the just-self-admitted-shooter of your trauma code. Yeah, him. Right there, under your hands. And, well, she is all of 24 inches away. Yeah, that sort of distracting.

I had just about deluded myself into thinking that I was getting back into my resuscitative groove, and had turned my gaze from Ms. Shooter/Fiance, when she decided it was time to expand her fund of knowledge. “Is this gun big enough to kill him with?”

Holy Fenestrated Fertilizer! What the absolute fuck could possibly happen to make this run any worse?

I froze, keeping my eyes on my shootee. “Er, Ma’am? Would you please put that back wherever you got it from?”

A moment later, “Ok, I put it away.”

“Thank you! Please keep your hands on your lap!” NOW, I kept my gaze upon the shooter/Fiance. Of course, THAT meant I wasn’t doing compressions, or ventilating my patient, but, in truth, I was kinda paralyzed. So, when we pulled to a stop, and Doug launched from the driver’s seat, to extract the smoothly running resuscitation that was his smooth, professional, skilled partner, well, that is NOT what he beheld. Rather, it looked like a sort of diorama, perhaps entitled, “Medic Gets A revelation In The Back of the Ambulance”. In any event, it was a still life, not a moving picture. He tried to form his question, along the lines of “Why aren’t you doing CPR?”, but I propelled myself past him, and dragged him away, stuttering profusely. My part of the dialogue sounded like “G…G…G..G…GUH…GUH…GUH…GUN!”, and it took him a moment to process it. Meanwhile the ER crew had extracted our patient, and were running him into resuscitation.

Doug and I grabbed one of the BTCIDC cops, and Doug, by now obviously the brains of the operation, told said cop our tale. “She’s got a gun, she shot our patient, and here she is!”

We found somewhere else to be.






War Story The First

27 July 2017.

Taking an Overdose to The Second Best Trauma Hospital in Da City (SBTHIDC): “Breathe!”

Let’s see if I understand this “blog” thing. In addition, I suppose we’ll see if I can translate my Tales Of The Dark Side narrative style to a screen. Let me know, OK?

So, this is No Shit ©, There I was, Fighting Disease and Saving Lives In Da Big City ©. As was not uncommon at that point in Da City’s history, EMS received a call for an overdose. Shocker, right? Further compounding the shock, my partner, Doug (Not His Real Name), and I caught that run. So, fleet of accelerator and steely eyed for Clovers in their natural habitat {(a) on the road, and (b) in front, or on a collision course with the Battlestar Galactica that was a Big City Ambulance}, we arrived on the scene.

In some regards, heroin overdoses were rather adult-adult transactions, with a minimum (generally) of drama and hidden agendas. It typically ran along the lines of “He’s too high, he’s fucking up our party, y’all snatch him on up, and carry him on down to the hospital!” (translated from Street into more easily transcribed neo-English). Conveniently enough, said action plan would minimize our time on scene, with a couple of beneficial effects. First, (OF COURSE!) was expeditious transport of this ill soul to higher medical care, and a life changing resuscitation courtesy of The Ghawd Narcan, and, secondly, enabling my partner and I to elope from the free fire zone that such a scene had potential to develop into, and do so in a time frame calculated to have us safely away before said fireworks unfolded.

Well, on this particular day, Doug was driving and I was medic-ing. We announced ourselves (“Fire Department!”), were admitted, and found Mr. Hypoxic inert, supine, but, par miracle’!, breathing. Well, sorta. He was breathing every 15 seconds or so. Doug handed me the BVM*,and skedaddled to the truck to retrieve the cot.

While I waited, I noted that Mr. Hypoxic seemed to move air OK, when he remembered that this was sorta important. I wondered if reminding him of this little chore would be productive, and so bellowed “BREATHE!” into his ear.

He breathed.

I wondered if this was a “one of”, or a replicable experiment in assisted respirations, and so, again, bellowed “BREATHE!” into his ear.

Again, he breathed.

I love it when a random thought produces an actionable plan.

When Doug returned with the pole stretcher, we rolled Mr. Hypoxic onto it and trundled out into the street, onto the cot, and into the ambulance, me hollering, “Breathe!” every 5-10 seconds or so. He continued to breathe.

Doug radioed dispatch, advising them of our priority two transport to The Second Best Trauma Hospital in Da City (SBTHIDC), and then dialed up said SBTHIDBC on the hospital alert radio (in those days called “the HEARN”, for Hospital Emergency Alert Radio Network, and on VHF. Ah, yes! The days before 800 mhz!). He supplied the abbreviated version of Mr. Hypoxic’s story, and then focused on driving a near-code through city streets. (I did mention The Clovers, right? They’re everywhere!)

Once we arrived, Doug and I debussed Mr. Hypoxic, and we strolled into the triage area of TSBTHIDBC, where Mallory the triage nurse, and my then-current girlfriend, awaited us. She looked puzzled when I wasn’t ventilating my patient, and that puzzlement only grew when I commanded, “BREATHE!”, for, like, the 1200th time. He breathed, again, of course.

So, what happens when you don’t yell at him like that?”

Uh, he kinda doesn’t breathe……BREATHE!…..See?”

She looked unpuzzled. “Uh-huh…(pivot, poke head into resident’s room) I need a doctor in here, right stat like!” (pivot to me and Doug) “Put him in the trauma room!”

Some people don’t really seem to appreciate whimsy, very much.

*BVM: bag-valve-mask. A device for introducing room air into the lungs of a nonbreathing person, by compressing a bag, pushing the air from that bag through a one way valve into the mouth (and therefore airway) of said person via a mask. Releasing the bag allows it to self inflate, and the patient to exhale, so you can repeat the whole process again. And again. And again…