Duty · Pre Planning Your Scene · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Health Care Stagecraft

So, I see children from time to time. Commonly, they are dubious about the entire “Going to the doctor” thing (yeah, I DO realize that I am not a physician, I am a midlevel. May I observe you explain that distinction, to an anxious child?) With that as a starting point, you can imagine that my approaching said anxious child with a stethoscope, and then with an otoscope (“the ear looking thingy”) might not end well. Yeah, me too.

One of the lessons I learned on Da Street (besides knock from the side of the door, and always have a second way out of any room I enter, and always have a knife, and…well, the important lesson is…..) is misdirection. On the street this manifested itself as changing the topic of conversation, as, on a hostile scene, announcing, “WE have to go and get the stretcher!”, and then both of us doing so, and motoring merrily away from the threatened free fire zone. Returning, if at all, with police.

In a more sedate clinical setting, this manifests itself with my (now) stock spiel for kids.

“This here (hold stethoscope up) is my body tickling thingy. Now, this is really, really tickley, but I only have one, right? That’s not enough to share. So, if you laugh, everybody will know how much fun it is, and they will be sad. ‘Boo-Hoo! (insert child’s name here) got tickled, and I didn’t! That is so unfair! I am so sad!’ Now, we don’t want them to be sad, do we?” (generally, toddler-sober negative head wag) “So, try very hard not to laugh, so that they are not sad! Okay?”

(generally, “ok”)

Once heart and lungs are auscultated, I continue with my misdirection. “You did so very, very well in not laughing, now we move up to the ear tickley thingey! Same rules, try not to laugh so that they do not know how much fun it is, and they are not sad that I cannot share, okay?”

Generally, again, “Okay.” While the child is trying to identify what the heck is so darned tickley about otoscopy, I finish.

One bonus point, is, even if the child screams and kicks and writhes, I can congratulate them. “Wow! You did so very well! I don’t think that they even suspect how much fun that was! You can stop pretending, now! You have successfully finished! Well done!”

Sometimes it is healthcare stagecraft, that lets you complete your job.

Duty · Gratitude · Protect and Serve

Duty.

Occasionally, I am humbled. Sometimes, I am moved to tears.

So, TINS©, I was lolling around the house on Christmas Day. TDW-Mark II and I were casually surfing the web. I had my handheld amateur radio on, monitoring our county’s fire dispatch. Because, well, I can.

In our county, emergency personnel are generally volunteers. The EMS is paid/full time, Sheriff and local PD are paid/full time, but the firefighters and rescue are volunteers, dispatched by pager. The tones dropped for a cardiac arrest, CPR in progress, in the outskirts of the county. Now my county is rural, primarily (by surface area) farmland. The ambulance was called out, as well as the County Seat Fire Department (Hereinafter, CSFD).

I heard EMS acknowledge, and the duty fire chief as well. He (the chief) directed that the firefighters respond without him, as he was a couple of miles from the scene and would respond directly.

Dispatch then filled in the dispatch information, beyond the address. A 70-something male had collapsed. CPR was in progress. He was vomiting, and the family was clearing his mouth as best they could. A couple of minutes later (likely that seemed like days, to the folks on the scene, performing CPR on one of their family!), the fire chief called out on the scene “Chief on scene with one firefighter. Sheriff on scene. Dispatch, roll one engine for manpower.”

So, let’s “dolly back”, and consider this. With the possible exception of the deputy (who might have responded, off duty, from home in his patrol car), all these folks were snug in their own homes, fat, dumb and happy, savoring the anniversary of The Birth of Our Saviour, as well as immersing themselves in the excitement of the children at All! The! Presents! they had received.

They carry pagers because, well, that’s what they do. More likely than not, they do not see themselves as heroic, or making sacrifices, because, after all, in most of America (hell, I suspect in most of the world), the men and women performing these jobs simply see themselves as doing what needs to be done, because they are able to do so.

And therefore, when the pager alerted them, they grabbed their coats, put on their boots, and left their warm and happy homes, heading to somebody else’s home, someplace where, as Chief Dennis Compton of Mesa, AZ Fire once described it, “We are responding to somebody’s worst day of their life”.

So, as I imagine it, the duty chief was enjoying a Christmas with his family, the tones dropped, and off he went. Before he could get out of the door, one of his sons, or maybe a son in law, (or daughter or daughter in law, here in the 21st century) said something like, “Hey, Dad! Hold up a second! I’m taking that call with you!”

These folks voluntarily immersed themselves in another family’s tragedy. Strove to hold the line, to reverse the evident course. Went to work on Christmas.

When the firefighter came on the radio requesting the sheriff department’s (volunteer!) Victim Support Team, I could call that play. I do not know if I teared up at the family’s terror, at their loss, at the fact that forever more Christmas would not hold happy childhood memories, but, rather, would be “the day grandpa died”, or if I teared up thinking of the folks who, simply “doing their jobs”, had left their warm homes in response to some stranger’s plea for help.

But, I wept.

Please, give a thought to those who respond to those calls, today and every day of the year, all over the world.

And offer a prayer on behalf of those they go to rescue.

Fun And Games Off Duty · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Comments

I enjoy comments. Comments mean both that somebody read my post, and, also, considered it and having considered it, was moved to respond. Good Times!

Some of my comments appear to be written by individuals who do not speak engrish particularly well, or, and more likely in my opinion, are authored by software.

Which is one reason I am not worried about “AI” taking over health care.

For your entertainment, here is one example.

“Hi there, simply changed into alert to your weblog through Google, and found that it’s really informative. I am going to be careful for brussels. I抣l appreciate if you happen to continue this in future. Lots of other people will be benefited from your writing. Cheers!”

For Ghawd’s Sake, Please, please, please, be careful for Brussels!

Duty · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

The Reveal!

You may not be surprised to learn that I spend considerable time meeting folks, and some of those folks do not bowl me over with the force of their intellect.

Occasionally, somebody who does not otherwise impress me as being particularly dull witted, appears to decide that The Reveal is needful, NOW!, and therefore proceeds to impress me that they are, in fact, an idiot.

So, TINS, TIWFDASL, and I was interviewing some soul about his particular malady. As is my usual practice, I inquired about what symptoms had precipitated today’s office visit, duration of symptoms, what had been done prior to visiting me to address the symptoms, simply as a beginning.

So, this soul related that his symptoms had been treated on a couple of previous occasions, in the past month, and had transiently improved, and then returned. He had, so he told me, been treated with “an antibiotic”.

“What antibiotic?”

He did not know. “The antibiotic that they prescribed for me.” (as helpful as THAT is….)

“How long did the doctor have you taking that antibiotic?”

“Until it ran out.” (Certainly. Of course.)

I attempted to discern how long it had taken before the antibiotic had run out, since treating Malady “A” might call for a 5 day run of The Z Pak (boo! Hiss!), whereas Malady “B” might be addressed by 28 days of Doxycycline, for example. Ya know, just as if I cared what had elicited this gentleman’s symptoms, with an eye toward, oh, gosh, I don’t know, maybe TREATING HIM EFFECTIVELY, or something.

At this point, he felt it relevant to review some of the high points of his resume. For some reason.

“I’m college educated! I’m not an idiot!” (uh, sir? First, college educated maps poorly onto “not an idiot”. Not a very high correlation. Secondly, in circumstances where you wonder if it might be appropriate to reassure somebody that you are NOT an idiot, it is very likely that you are about to reinforce the impression, that you ARE an idiot. That certainly has been my experience in my own life, you may want to consider if there might be some parallels in your own.)

I somehow got back on track, and began my review of systems. At this point, he revealed that, in his estimation, “You are being dismissive of my concerns!”

HUH? Inquiries about your allergies, medications, and medical history are not “my attitude”. That’s how I attempt to avoid prescribing something to you that you either are allergic to (and you did not mention to my nurse….), or that might interact malignantly with your regular medications. For example, I dislike eliciting a GI bleed (stomach bleed: think bleeding ulcer) simply because you did not think that it was relevant that you take coumadin (a blood thinner), now that you are here for your orthopedic injury. Should I prescribe ibuprofen (popularly known as Motrin), that in combination with your coumadin might lead to a life threatening GI bleed, and I feel that to be a bad thing. Occasionally, that review of systems elicits something kind of important, like chest pain or difficulty breathing, that you forgot to mention, because your ankle pain is the only thing that (for some reason) you are concerned about.

But you are paying me to be concerned about that other, life threatening, stuff, and have the wit to not miss it.

Duty · Life in Da City!

“This is no shit….”

Occasionally, I receive a comment to the effect that my acronyms are confusing, and my correspondent has been unable to divine their meaning. (which would be why I have a tab captioned “Abbreviations, Acronyms, Jargon and Terms of Art”). Perhaps it might be entertaining (well, I might be entertained!) should I review how that particular preamble arose.

Something on the order of 40 years ago, the magazine Soldier of Fortune had an article about “War Stories”. Near as I can recall, from the mists of time, there were three essential elements of any good war story.

First, the Obligatory Disclaimer: “This is no shit!”

Second Required Element, The Required Preamble: “There I was, fighting disease and saving lives….” (In the SOF formulation, it was more along the lines of “fighting communists and defending Freedom…”)

Third Required Element, The Compulsory Thematic Element, wherein The Narrator is a HERO, of Olympian proportions, overcoming impossible adversity.

So, there I was, seated on the bench (yes, reminiscent of “The Group ‘W’ Bench” of Arlo Guthrie/Alice’s Restaurant fame) outside the Department Doctor’s office. The preceding evening, while carrying some soul out of their house on West Boulevard, the gusts had lofted some speck of debris into my eye, and I had reported same to my supervisor, who had sent me to ED and those worthies had sent me home for the evening. In order to return to duty, I had to be cleared by the Department Doctor.

I was seated among a batch of firefighters, and we all were swapping stories of how we had come to receive orders to report here. This fellow slipped on wet pavement and had wrenched his back, another had injured his knee, and was only awaiting clearance from the department to return to duty, since his orthopedic surgeon had released him post operatively.

The next guy to tell his tale clearly had been schooled in The Grand Tradition of Firehouse Stories, and rolled right into his story. “Yeah, we caught an alarm, and the first floor was pretty well involved. We knocked it down with the deck gun, and started an interior attack. So, there I was, fighting fires and saving lives, and the floor fell in! Dumped my ass into the basement! Everybody was pretty excited, until they dragged me out, and found I was only banged and bruised up. The chief sent me to the hospital, they sent me home, and now, here I am!”

My turn. “I was on a run on The Boulevard, and some dust got blown into my eye…” (“….and they all moved away from me on The Group ‘W’ bench…”) “…and the lieutenant ordered me to go to ER, and they put me off for the night. I thought that it was overkill, but, what are you gonna do?”

They all moved back, and one offered, helpfully, “Kill a morning outside the department doctor?”

Yep, pretty much.

Duty · guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Pre Planning Your Scene

Self Defense Cost Benefit Analysis

TINS, TIWFDASL, I had caught the detail, and the happy go lucky soul with whom I was working that particular night on Da City’s EMS, decided it was time to ask me about my ballistic vest. Now, it was not any sort of secret among members of the department that I wore a kevlar vest. After all, in Those Days, Da City was known as “The Murder City”, and not without some justification. We chatted about the threat profile we confronted (although, the chat went along the lines of “What? Do you expect to be shot?” My response was “Nope. I wear this for those scenes on which I do NOT anticipate being shot. On those on which I anticipate being shot, I will simply refuse the run until the police have secured the scene!”)

This guy, no doubt thinking himself clever, pronounced, “Well, if the scene goes to shit, I’ll run out, and you follow me! That way, your vest will protect both of us!”

My rejoinder was, “In that case, you had best be certain that you do not slow down, lest you have my bootprints all up your back, as I run you over!”

Later, my partner and I discussed the vest and EMS. He asked, non-snarkily, how I had come to the conclusion that the vest was the way to go.

I noted that the vest cost me about as much as a Colt Government Model in .45 acp.

It was not a felony to wear the vest concealed, in contrast to the Colt.

It was not a black letter violation of department regulations, in contrast to the Colt (or any other firearm).

The vest would not inadvertently discharge, in contrast to the Colt, where that was a potential problem.

The vest was not going to drop out of my pocket, on the floor of the ED, in front of Ghawd and Everybody, in contrast to a handgun which another of our peers had won the opportunity to explain.

I would not in any circumstance hesitate to use the vest, in contrast to the Colt.

Finally, I was interested in meeting the soul who could relieve me of the vest, and hurt me with it, again, in contrast to the Colt.

So, I wore a vest. Others, or so I was told, elected to wear a firearm.

Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Parenting Skills

I was interviewing a soul, who had brought their spawn along with them (because, why WOULDN’T you bring your 5 year old to your urgent care visit?). Said spawn (of course) had no self entertainment skills, likely due to the screen the named patient/parent placed into his hands immediately upon his whining that he wanted the phone, right now! While I was endeavoring to elicit nature of present illness (eg: what are your symptoms, and why did you determine that coming to urgent care was the thing to do?), duration of present illness (and, please Ghawd, please, say something more specific than “a good little while!” Pleasepleaseplease!), and provocative or palliative factors affecting this illness, said sprat was entertaining himself with the phone, and, it developed, felt the burning need to experience the sound track in his very marrow. In order to accomplish this task, he set the volume at eleven. Of course, in the confined space of the examination room, it was deafening.

I stifled my initial impulse to wrest the device from his hands, dash it to the floor, and grind it beneath my heel, all the while shrieking “Kill! Kill! Kill! Kill!…”, and then, settle upon my seat, and, calmly, ask, “Now, where were we?”

Instead, I continued to ply my patient with the appropriate questions, in a normal, soft, tone of voice. Of course, the named patient could not hear a damned thing I was saying. I smiled, and repeated my queries in the same, soft, calm tone of voice.

Still, the cacophony drowned out my every word. I smiled, and paused. The light began to dawn in my patient’s eyes. She turned to Little Jimmy (or whatever this child’s given name was), and directed him to silence the device.

He whined that he could not hear, should that happen. She repeated herself, and he again whined.

Then, in a feat of effective parenting nearly unsurpassed in my clinical experience, she retrieved the phone, silenced it, and pocketed it. Little Jimmy whined and groused, but his mother turned to him, directed him to quiet down, lest they “have a chat” in the vehicle, and turned her gaze, again, in my direction.

Miraculously, Little Jimmy settled down. I completed my examination and interview, and everybody went their separate ways.

Duty · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Dr. Google. Again.

Shocking as it may seem, when I interview a patient (and examine same), I actually have a plan in mind. In the course of that interview, and that exam, I have both findings that I anticipate finding, as well as findings that, should they be present, redirect me from my initial assumptions.

That might be considered “testing my hypothesis”. Sort of like, oh, I dunno, as if it were derived from the scientific method, or something.

So, therefore, when my next patient’s opening conversational gambit, in response to my introduction and query, “what can I do for you?”, is something like, “Give me something for my bronchitis”, well, it is sort of at a tangent to the information that I am seeking.

For some reason, I assumed (yeah, I know….) that the diagnosis part of the interaction was, also, **MY JOB**, along with the plan of care part.

I tried again, in a different manner. “So, what sort of thing led you do conclude that you have bronchitis?”

“I googled it.”

Not helping. For some reason (perhaps I am a glutton for punishment), I tried again. “What sort of thing did you google, in order to establish that you had bronchitis?”

“My symptoms!”

I had a couple of competing thoughts right about then. One was, ONE MORE STUPID ANSWER! JUST ONE! would lead me to remedy their zithropenia and depart. Another was, I was soon going to have problems buying hats, due to the hornlike callus that I was certain was growing from my forehead, secondary to beating my head against just this sort of wall, repeatedly. The third thought, and the one upon which I acted, was that I both had a professional obligation, as well as a morbid fascination, to pursue this conversation, and determine if I was, ever, going to elicit a recitation of symptoms, history of those symptoms, efforts already undertaken to mitigate those symptoms, and how those symptoms have progressed, if indeed they have progressed at all. Oh, yes: and if there were any illness among this soul’s acquaintances.

The conversation continued, with, painfully extracted, the retinue of symptoms seeing light. I conducted my exam, and, unsurprisingly, found this individual had mucoid post nasal drip (just like every other soul in The Un-Named Flyover State!).

Mr. Google asked about an antibiotic. I reviewed my examination findings: breath sounds did not indicate any pneumonia or bronchitis, and therefore, an antibiotic directed at same would be targeting problems that he did not have. Eardrums were not red or bulging, indicating the absence of a bacterial middle ear infection, and therefore an antibiotic for a bacterial middle ear infection would be treating a problem that he did not have. The back of his throat was not red, nor swollen, and did not have the patchy exudate universally described as “white spots”, and therefore strep pharyngitis was not among his maladies, and treating a strep infection that he did not have, would provide him no advantage.

I concluded with the observation that he **DID** have post nasal drip, one’s throat was, apparently, not well engineered for post nasal drip, and commonly became irritated, with this irritation manifesting itself as pain and a sore throat, or a “tickle” and a cough, or both. I continued to note that reduction or resolution of his post nasal drip, accomplished by my stated plan of care, would remove the stimulus for his cough and therefore, address his symptoms as well as his problem.

I refrained from asking if Google had explained THAT shit to him? Hmmmm?

Duty · Fun And Games · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact

Vehicular Extrication

Long ago and far away, I spent my salad days as a street medic in Da City’s EMS. I know, right? Startlement abounds, amirite? Anyhow, this one time, we caught a run. We arrived to find an intoxicated gentleman seated in the rear seat of a four door sedan. Interestingly enough, he was seated upon the floor thereof, with his legs extended beneath the front seat.

We figured that extricating him from the vehicle would facilitate assessment (eg, WTF was his primary malfunction, and what, if any, would be our role in addressing it?). Therefore we started to attempt to move his legs so that he could return to being seated upon the rear seat, and exit the vehicle from there. No joy.

It tuns out that highly intoxicated folks, like our friend here, were not so very good at listening to and following directions. Our entreaties that he fold one leg, and remove it from beneath the seat, seemed overly complex, as he did not successfully implement step one of our process.

So, we tried to move the seat forward, thinking that this would afford our patient enough maneuvering room so as to fold leg “A”, move it laterally, extend it, and repeat the process with leg “B”, and thereby achieve freedom.

Nope. As the seat moved, he shrieked as if we were removing the leg, likely anticipating reattachment on the sidewalk. So, that avenue of approach was foreclosed.

Doug and I consulted with the vehicle’s owner, who had been pacing about, intent that we not damage his baby. Or the patient, I suppose. Doug and I were fresh out of ideas, and figured that our friends in the firefighting division, with halligan bars, K-12 gasoline powered saws with metal cutting blades, hydraulic extrication tools, and similar toys for fun and games, likely could devise several new plans to remove this gentleman from the floor of the back seat.

I shared this thought with dispatch, noting that our patient appeared in no immediate life threat, and perhaps a “Code Three” (aka “Priority Three”, or no red lights no siren) response might be appropriate.

Dispatch acknowledged our request, told us that a squad would be on the way, and “Firefighters never respond ‘Code Three’, always ‘Code One’”.

Alrighty, then.

The vehicle owner overheard all this, and appeared to become considerably more excited. “You called the mother-f*@$ing firemen! They will f*@$ up my car!”

Doug and I agreed with him, that likely there would be some damage once the firefighters had extricated Mr. Drunk And Boneless from his car.

Mr. Drunk And Boneless thereupon became the recipient of a loud, profane, creative, and enthusiastic exhortation that he remove himself from the vehicle so as to greet the firefighters while sanding upon his own two feet, on the sidewalk, rather than seated upon the floor of the exhortor’s car. (Paraphrased). This was accompanied by pulling, pushing, tugging and bending, as the narrator demonstrated the contortions that he believed would facilitate the exit of the drunk and boneless fellow from the narrator’s vehicle.

And it came to pass that, once the squad had arrived on our scene, Mr. Drunk And Boneless was seated, relatively happily and nearly uninjured, upon somebody’s lawn, rather than enmeshed in the seat of the vehicle that had held him securely within it’s embrace.

The squad looked the scene over, returned to service, and our patient told us to bugger off, as he simply wanted to sleep.

Well, bye!

Gratitude

Thanksgiving

This is, fundamentally, a repost of a blog entry from 13 Dec 2019.

Several years ago, TDW-Mark 2, Second Son Charlie, and his wife and I were out to dinner one night. Charlie had asked me how work was going, and I fell into my reflexive recitation of complaints about my employer. Yada, yada, yada, bitch, moan, and complain.

After a couple of minutes, I stopped to take a breath. Charlie looked at me, contemplatively, and asked me, “Dad? Can I ask you a question?”

“Sure. Lay it on me!”

“Do you suppose that, say, Cuban refugees, having entrusted their families, and their own, lives to rafts made, oh, out of a pickup truck and old water bottles, stagger onto the Florida shore, join hands, and ask each other, ‘Doesn’t McFee’s life really suck?’”

I considered my son’s question. “Really, I doubt that they spend an entire second on that concern.”

He smiled upon me, as if a Jedi Master upon a Paduan. “Yep, Dad. First World problems!”

Today’s deliberation is that, while there are, indeed, problems galore in America, please let us all consider the fact that, in most of the rest of the world, those things that we consider “problems”, are counted as blessings. It is like a real world experience of Bill Cosby’s bit about growing up poor in Philadelphia,

“Man, I got to share a bed with my brother! It is awful!”

“Man, YOU have a bed?”

“And, I get hand-me-down shoes, also! The worst!”

“Say what? YOU have SHOES?!?”

Etcetera. Sort of a reverse “The Dozens”.

May all of you have a pleasant, peaceful, tranquil, thankful, Thanksgiving Day.