Fun And Games Off Duty

Backpacking Changes your Perspective

So, when I was younger, I enjoyed backpacking. In the Midwest, unless you are going to travel several, several hundred miles east (Appalachian Trail), or west (Rockies, or their foothills), or north (Northern reaches of any of the Canadian provinces), Isle Royale is pretty much a zenith destination.

Two other medics and I shared this enthusiasm, and we planned on a trip along the Greenstone Trail, after a detour south along the Feldtman Ridge Trail. Traveling from west to east, we planned to wind up at Rock Harbor, where we could shower, get a room at the lodge there, and catch the ferry back to Michigan.

Our first day called for 8 or nine miles of hiking. (remember, we were all south of 30, and pretty much in peak shape. I would bicycle 50 to 100 miles a day, a couple of weekends a month, for amusement, for example). We anticipated the daily mileage would be a challenge, but no tremendous thing.

We read, voraciously, trail guides, commentaries, and articles in the various outdoor magazines regarding Isle Royale. The consensus was that we ought to cut ounces, as over time ounces add up to ponds, and pounds add up to pain. So we turned to freeze dried foods.

After much prep work, and detailed planning, we arrived on Isle Royale, starting our trip at the western end of the island, at Windigo. After registering, we set out, arriving at out campsite after around 8 miles, at Feldtman Lake. We set up camp, washed up with filtered water, and prepared supper.

Our consensus was that the freeze dried meal was superior to not eating, but not by much. One of my partners summarized things: “This mess tastes like salty cardboard!”

In the morning, we set out again after eating and packing up. After another day of up hill and down slope, we arrived at Siskiwit Bay Campground having made around 10 miles on the trail. We set up camp, washed up, filtered water for dinner and the next day, and ate.

We reviewed dinner, afterwards. “This mess still tastes like salty cardboard!”

The next morning, awakened, packed up, headed out. If you are familiar with backpacking, the daily routine is, well, pretty routine. The payoff can be found in multiple areas. There is the being outdoors aspect, very attractive to those (such as me) who find being outdoors to be attractive. There is the scenery to be found as you stroll through nearly pristine wilderness. There is the enjoyment found in physical activity.

So, we walked our next day away, again arrived at our camp, set up camp, filtered more water, cooked supper, and appraised it. “This shit tastes like salty cardboard. You gonna finish all that?”

Again, slept the sleep of the righteous, awakened, breakfasted, and headed out, once we had packed up.

Another day, more beautiful vistas from the Greenstone Ridge Trail, Reaching our campsite, we again set up, filtered water, cooked dinner. For our last night on the trail, we provided another gastronomic review: “This shit tastes like salty cardboard! And, the portions! They’re so small!”

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Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene

Car Fire

So, before Mallory and I had begun to live together, I had one of my ex partners, let’s call him Adam, as my room mate. Mallory would come over from time to time, and the three of us would chat, or share dinner, or simply hangout.

One day, she came into the house, and asked us to hurry out and see what was wrong with her car. Now, this was her baby, one she had purchased because, as she termed it, “I look so good driving that car!” It had been her very first new vehicle, ever.

So, Adam and I threw on some shoes, and trotted out to see what was the matter. She had told us that it was smoking, and once we got outside, it became clear why. The smell of burning plastic emanating from beneath the hood told the tale.

Mallory was starting to get excited, hopping around and beseeching us, “Can’t you guys do something?”

Adam looked the vehicle over, and asked her, “Do you REALLY want us to do something? If we let it burn, or call the fire department, then it will be totaled, and you can get a brand new one. If we extinguish the fire, you are gonna have to get all that burned shit replaced, and it may never be altogether right, again.”

Mallory was nigh unto break dancing by now, and simply couldn’t bear to see “her baby” burn up. Adam asked her again, simply to be certain, “Are you REALLY REALLY sure you want us to do something?Again, she pleaded with us to act. Adam looked at me, I looked at him, and we charged the garden hose, donned work gloves, and sprayed it down through the grill as well as we could. Once it had dampened down, I opened the hood, and stood aside, while he blasted it (or, at least, “blasted it” as much as one is likely to be able to, with a garden hose!). It was evidently sufficient to the task, for soon the smoke stopped, the smell abated, and we were unable to identify any further burning stuff after diligent search.

Mallory called her insurance company, they sent a wrecker, and she got a loaner.

Several weeks later, her car was returned to her. She subsequently had repeated complaints about this, that, or the other thing not performing properly. Soon, she turned to Adam, and admitted, “If I had listened to you, and let it burn, I’d be driving a new car by now!”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Protect and Serve

Christmas Eve MVA

Christmas Eve MVA

This one time, at Band camp….no, wait: that doesn’t seem quite right….

Oh, yeah: TINS©, TIWFDASL©…(no, not altogether correct, either…). Well, I was NOT FDASL, rather I was visiting The Momette, in The Un-Named Maternal State, and, it being Christmas Season, I was shopping for Christmas presents for the family. Indeed, it was Christmas Eve (for am I not well prepared, and forward thinking? Well, no, not so much) when my brother, The Attorney, and I were attempting to find an open store for the Christmas Shopping, that I had not yet accomplished.

So, there I was, motoring down the highway, and my brother, a veritable fountain of trivia (as is his brother, come to think of it), observed, “They call this stretch of highway the Death Mile, because it narrows from 4 lanes to two, just ahead here, and there are a bunch of collisions right along here.”

How interesting. Just about that moment, I noted beacons in my rear view mirror, and moved to the right to allow a Maternal State Police Trooper to zoom past us at flank speed, siren wailing and beacons flashing. The Attorney commented, “He sure seems like he is in a hurry! Wonder why?”

A few seconds later, ANOTHER Maternal State Police Trooper zipped past us, at about Warp 8, similarly beaconing and sirening, and sped around the upcoming corner and off into the distance.

As we, ourselves, rounded the curve, I noted chaos, as one would normally find at the scene of a high speed collision. Indeed, it certainly appeared that there had been such a collision, with three cars scattered across several lanes, and the shoulders, of the roadway. I parked on the shoulder, clear of the debris, and alighted. Approaching one of the troopers, I introduced myself. “I’m an off duty medic from Da City, Can I help?”

The trooper looked over my shoulder, and pointed. “Yep. Talk to those guys, right there.”

I turned to see an ambulance stopping. I approached one of the medics, and repeated my spiel. He nodded toward one of the vehicles. “You take that car, my partner and I will take the other two.”

I whistled to get my brother’s attention, and directed him, “Get the medic bag in the back of my truck. It’s got that Medical Star on it. I’ll be over here.”

I approached the car, my brother running over and handing me my jump bag. I noted an adult male seated in the passenger seat, another adult male laid over, sideways from the driver’s seat, his head in the passenger seat occupant’s lap. He, the laid out guy, was not speaking. I saw the head sized divot in the windshield over the steering wheel, and supposed that might have something to do with that.

The guy seated in the passenger seat stated, “I don’t think he’s breathing!” I invited the passenger seat guy to move out of the vehicle, and assessed things myself. Yep, he was not breathing. Didn’t have a carotid pulse, either. I asked the recently moved passenger seat guy, “Do you know CPR?”

Yep”

Good. Get on his chest, I’ll ventilate him.”

My new friend set to chest compressing, and I dug my BVM (manual resuscitator) out of my bag, and began to ventilate our patient.

We resuscitated along for a good little while, until the arrival of a second ambulance heralded our relief. We continued CPR until the medics had cut off our patient’s coat (feathers everywhere!), initiated an IV, and began cardiac monitoring (VF, about as I had expected). Once all the technology was in place, we all four of us moved the patient onto their cot, and they took over from there.

I walked back to the truck, set my medic bag in the back, and approached one of the officers.

Officer, do you need my contact information?”

He squinted at me. “Who are you?”

I’m the medic from Da City, who worked that guy over there.”

He turned fully to me, and shook my hand. “Mister, gotta tell you, I’m really sorry I couldn’t talk to you before you left, because I really, really, want to tell you thank you for getting involved here, several states away from your home. Drive carefully, try to have a Merry Christmas!”

I was surprised, but said, “You’re welcome!”, and returned to my truck. I told my brother about my surprising conversation with the trooper. He looked at me, and finally asked, “You just don’t get it, do you?”

I had to admit that I didn’t.

He just did you a tremendous favor. You just gotta know that, with a likely dead person in this collision, there is gonna be a huge trial, right?”

Uh-huh.

And, you are a witness, right?”

Again, I “uh-huh’d” him.

So, being a witness, you would be subpoenaed to testify, and would be required to comply with such an order of the court. Which means you would have to travel your happy ass across the country, and find accommodations, and then miss work while you were here, to testify. At no small expense, both directly as well as in lost income. Said subpoena cannot be served on ‘Sumdood, Da City, usedtabeamedic’, right?”

Might be tough to serve.”

Yep. That cop just thanked you, in certain and unmistakable terms, for your service to his community.”

He paused, and then looked at me as if he had never seen me before. “I watched you out there. You really, really looked like you knew what you were doing. I would have been totally lost, but you just stepped right up, and started working away. Pretty impressive!”

I shrugged, just a little embarrassed. “Not like I haven’t done the same thing like, I dunno, a couple of thousand times before, right?”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important!

My Cardiac Cath Story

I once heard the aphorism that “a man who is his own attorney has a fool for a client”. It turns out that legal matters is not the only arena in which that insight is applicable. Let me tell you a story about that.

So, several years ago, The Darling Wife and I were vacationing in Georgia. There are multiple sites, preserving locations where significant battles of The War Between The States/The War of Northern Aggression (depending upon when and where you learned of such things) occurred. I wanted to walk one of the battlefields (Chickamauga), both to stretch my legs as well as to get a feel for the closeness of the opposing forces.

I was winded by the time I finished my rambling over one section of battlefield, considerably more so than I had expected. I chalked it up to “bronchitis”. (remember that thought!) This persisted as I wandered from site to site, and paused to read the explanatory tablets set here and there.

We finished our vacation, and returned home. There, my “bronchitis” persisted, until, eventually, my Long Suffering Wife asked me about my illness. I admitted that it had not improved, which was curious since I had been having this “bronchitis” for about a month by then.

“How’s your fever?”, she asked.

I did not have a fever.

“Is that common when you see a patient who has had bronchitis for several weeks?”

No, I admitted, it was not.

“So, get your shoes.”

“Why?”

“Because, if you do not, your feet will become muddy”

“Why would they get muddy?”

“When you walk to the car.”

“Why would I be walking to the car?”

“Because I’m not going to carry you there.”

“Why do I need to go to the car anyhow?”

“Because it is too far to walk.”

“Where is too far to walk?”

“Your doctor appointment.”

“I don’t have a doctor appointment!”

“Oh, yes you do! Your wife made one for you!”

“Why did you do that?”

“Because she (my PCP) is not going to come here to see you, that is why.”

“Why do I need to see her?”

“A couple of reasons. First, to get you to stop asking dumb questions. Secondly, because you are sick some kind of way, and your plan is not working. You are going to talk to your doctor, and listen to her plan. And, then, act on it.”

I went to my doctor (actually a Nurse Practitioner, with whom I had ER nursed), who did an EKG, “because you are old and all.” “Well”, she told me, “This looks pretty OK, but, your story is concerning. I’m gonna schedule you for a stress test.”

Cool story. So, I arrived the next day in my running shoes and running shorts, and proceeded to tank the stress test. I mean, I did not even finish the first stage before the physician administering the test stopped me, repeatedly took my vitals, and called cardiology.

Next week, I’m sitting in the cardiology office, and the cardiologist is admiring my EKG, and enjoying my Tale Of The Failed Stress Test. He told me, “My partner will be waiting for you, to do a cardiac cath, at 3:30 (it was now about noon).”

Okey-dokey! So, I went in to my cath, with The Darling Wife and her BFF waving me farewell.

When I awakened, it was like a family re-union. Darling Wife, her BFF, her niece, my second son, my third son, my daughter, and something like 4 or 5 other folks, family in one way or another, who I cannot recall off the top of my head. Once I had sobered up enough for The Darling Wife to brief me on the doctor’s report, her precis was sobering: “You had 95% of your main artery in your heart blocked, but they were able to open it with a balloon and a stent. The doctor said had you waited a few more days, you would have had a big, bad heart attack, and, where that blockage was located, you heart would have stopped. Missed it by That Much!”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene

The Great Chocolate Explosion Of 2018

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©…. Well, alright: I wasn’t FDASL© in this story, I was in my kitchen, fixing to cook some fudge.

The women in my office (where I was a mid-level in an urgent care) had been teasing me about my domestic abilities, and so I had threatened them with offered them home cooked fudge.

The recipe I selected required that I melt baker’s chocolate and butter in a double boiler. Of course, I did not have a double boiler. Instead, I selected two pans, poured some water onto the one, and settled the other into the first, and turned on the range. I noted, in passing, that the fit seemed a bit tight, but, whatthehell, I did not act on this insight.

Remember that thought.

So, I arrayed my ingredients on the counter, and then checked on the progress of my chocolate melting. Experimentally, I wiggled the top pot. At that point I noted a seemingly tight friction fit, and told my wife, washing dishes behind me, that I was starting to be a bit concerned about that. My words were, prophetically enough, “Boy! I sure hope that this top pot doesn’t suddenly loosen from where it is stuck, here! That could be messy!”

My wife came over, gave it an experimental wiggle herself, and concurred with my assessment. “Yep, might want to turn the heat off!”

Of course, I did not. Bright idea, right there!

I diddled around in the kitchen for a few minutes, and then went back to my double boiler/pressure cooker (without release valve). I was explaining to my wife how I planned to safely extricate the top pot from the lower, when my explanation was interrupted. By the top pot ABRUPTLY separating from the lower. At speed. With force. And, with a considerable “BANG!”

The next thing I knew, I was holding the handle of the top pot, with molten chocolate running down my face. I turned from the stove, depositing the pot into the sink, and noted that more liquid was running down my face. Wiping it, I discovered that it was blood. Nice. I returned to the stove, and my wife saw the blood herself.

Ohmigawd! You’re bleeding! You’re on blood thinners! We have to take you to ER!”

Let’s turn off the stove, first, ok?”

She was fixated on my bleeding. “You have to go to urgent care! You’re bleeding!”

I was still sorting out what had happened, and what ought to be done, first, and then next, etc. “Honey? I sort of do this for a living, right? Let’s sort out what’s happening, and then decide what we indeed have to do, first, okay?”

But, you’re bleeding!”

I’ve already figured that much out, thank you. Now, let me take a second to see how badly I’m bleeding, and what else, if anything, is going on, before we panic. Once we know what’s happening, THEN we can panic, Okay?”

She hustled me into the bathroom, and handed me a towel. I sponged off the majority of the blood and chocolate, and saw a superficial appearing wound in the center of my forehead, approx 2 cm long. The blood appeared to be sluggishly dripping from it, and I did not see any other injury. Palpating, I did not feel anything suggesting a depressed skull fracture. My vision was at baseline, I had no numbness or tingling. My ears were sort of ringing (some of that was not new, some of that was readily attributable to the explosion). Otherwise, aside from chocolate EVERYWHERE, I appeared to be unscathed.

I applied some direct pressure, and the bleeding stopped after a couple of minutes.

The Darling Wife and I re entered the kitchen, and set to cleaning up the largest chunks.

A day or two later, my wife and her daughter in law were detail cleaning the kitchen, and discovered a large chocolate chunk behind the stove, and another on the top of the refrigerator. How the heck did they wind up there?

Fun And Games Off Duty · Protect and Serve · School Fun And Games

Verbal Judo and Parenting

So, TINS©, There I was, standing in line and idly looking about at the cattle call that was parent-teacher conferences. As I moved from one slowly moving line to the next, I found myself in line in front of one of the officers from our small town police department. I recognized him from his visits to the ED wherein I toiled , FDASL© (Betcha you were wondering if I’d slip that one in there, amirite?), and he recognized me from nursing in our small town’s ED.

We were talking about parenting, and I observed that my children had, from time to time, suggested that due to the “fact” that “Billy”’s parents allowed him to (do whatever, something The Wife and I did not want our children doing), therefore we should facilitate our own child doing the same (stupid) thing.

I observed that we did not fall for that gambit, and our response was “Hmm, that is too bad. Your parents are ogres, and “Billy”’s parents are nice. You are stuck with ogre parents. Oh, look at the time! Off to bed you go! Night-night!”

The officer looked reflective. “Yeah, I can see how you effectively communicate that you aren’t gonna be buffaloed into things that you think are bad. My wife and I take a little different approach.”

What is that?”

He smiled. “I tell my kids that whatever their revelation is, it makes me sad. Then I shut up. Of course, they ask me why it makes me sad. I simply gaze upon them mournfully, and tell them, ‘I’m sad because it is obvious that Billy’s parents, do not love him as much as I love you!”

I chuckled. “That’s sneaky! I like it!”

Yep. What are they gonna do, argue that I do not love them? Leaves them with no place to start their argument!”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Fun With Suits! · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Talk So That They Can Understand You!

After I left Da City, I worked as a ED nurse. Eventually, I took a job up north, at Erewhon Memorial Hospital. (“Both Nowhere, and Backwards!”) In due course at work I met The Woman Who Would Become The Plaintiff, after she had been She Who Must Be Obeyed. (another story, for another time).

This woman, let us call her Annie (because “The Woman Who Would Become The Plaintiff” is simply too complex to type repeatedly!), and I began to see each other, dating and, eventually, moving in together. Annie had two children already, Brenda (age 3) and her older brother Adam (age 7). Unsurprisingly, they accompanied her.

Well. Love bloomed, and Annie and I got married. I worked, she went to school, the kids attended school, and all seemed well.

One night Annie and I were asleep. I awakened to hear wheezing from down the hall, in the direction of Brenda’s room. Being the inquisitive sort, I followed the sounds, arriving in Brenda’s room, where she was sitting upright in bed, wheezing and terrified. Annie had awakened when I left the bed, and soon joined us. I listened to Brenda’s lungs with my stethoscope, hearing wheezes. I noted her rate of respirations (42 breaths per minute. Yes, 30 some years later, I remember it), and her pulse rate (162. Yep, I remember.) I got dressed, and Annie stayed home to watch over Adam. Off we went to the ED where I was employed as an Emergency Department RN.

Once we entered the door, well, I was not alone in my assessment that This Was Not Good. Brenda was whisked into a bed, gowned, x rayed, breathing treatment-ed, had blood drawn, and an IV started, and generally auscultated/poked/prodded/imaged very thoroughly.

A couple of hours later, Brenda’s breathing MUCH improved, we were discharged with antibiotics and an inhaler, and instructions to return IMMEDIATELY if her breathing worsened. It did not.

So, several weeks later I received a letter from Erewhon Memorial Hospital, informing me that our insurance company had determined that this was not an emergency, and that therefore the insurance company would not be paying anything on the emergency department visit we recently had.

I called Erewhon’s billing department, and asked them what was up? They informed me that I had to speak to the insurance company, in order to determine what they were thinking.

I did so. It develops that our insurance company hires people who are, in short, stupid. I (finally) spoke to a representative who told me that the claim was not going to be paid, “because that visit was not an emergency.”

I asked her on what basis she had made that determination.

“It simply was not an emergency”.

I observed that, where I came from, answering a question seeking an explanation, was not adequately answered by repeating the previous, unsatisfactory, answer. Then, I asked her, “Ma’am? In which corner of the resuscitation room were you standing? I work there, I know everybody-EVERYBODY!- who works there, and I do not recall you standing there, taking notes on the non emergency nature of my child’s acute respiratory distress.”

“Oh, I wasn’t there!”

“Then, how did you determine that my child, in respiratory distress, was not emergent? The leading etiology of cardiac arrest in the pediatric population is respiratory distress, and my child was in respiratory distress, wheezing, tachypneic, tachycardic. Being just older than a toddler, she does not have much in the way of respiratory reserves, and that which she did have, was being expended rapidly. Please, explain that to me, and show your work!”

After a spell of stuttering, she told me that the charting did not support the insurance company’s criteria for an emergency, and I would have to have further conversations with the hospital.

I did so. I walked my happy ass into the billing department, and asked about my daughter’s bill.

The charming soul I spoke with told me that “It wasn’t an emergency, the insurance company would not pay for it, so the entire bill was my responsibility!”

I told her, “Uh, no. My child was an emergency. She was in respiratory distress, wheezing at a rate of 40 times a minute, and tachycardic at a rate of 160 a minute. The leading etiology of cardiac arrest in the pediatric population is respiratory distress, and my child was in respiratory distress, wheezing, tachypneic, tachycardic. Being just older than a toddler, she does not have much in the way of respiratory reserves, and that which she did have, was being expended rapidly. So, I will pay the co-pay, and the deductible, for which I am liable, but you can collect the rest of the bill from the insurance company, which owes you that money, not me.”

She puffed up. “Well, if you do not pay that bill, we will have to send you to collections!”

She saw all of my teeth, in the grin that was my response. “Ma’am, if you do that, you will libel me, and slander me, and impugn my character and reputation. You will get the opportunity to explain yourself, under oath, at trial, when I sue for damages occasioned by the torts I just enumerated that you will have performed.”

She puffed up, more. “You can’t sue me!”

I chuckled. “Ma’am, I can sue you for damages because you are ugly, and your ugliness causes me harm. Count on it. If you send me to collections, I will sue you, personally, and do everything I can to impoverish you. After I am done with you, I will sue your supervisor, personally, for failing to supervise you, and allowing you to perpetrate these offenses. Once I am done with her, I’ll sue HER supervisor, personally, and so on up the chain of command, until I’ve sued every son of a bitch here, and then I’ll go after the hospital as a corporation, and individual members of the board of directors, for breaching their duty to ensure that the hospital is not run in a fraudulent manner, which your plan is. Fraudulent, that is.”

She huffed, and puffed for a while, and then deliver what she evidently thought was her clincher. “You cannot sue me! You simply cannot!”

More wolf grin on my part. “Oh, really? Is that what your attorney told you?”

“I do not have an attorney!”

I smiled, a smile that in no way reached my eyes. “Really? You know, I will fix that. I’m pretty sure that, once you get served by my attorney, you will find an attorney of your own, right damned quick!”

She gaped at me for a moment. “You know, you are an asshole!”

“Yep! Sure am! For most folks I try very hard to conceal the fact that I am an asshole. For you, and everybody working at this shithole hospital, well, I will make an exception! I’ll be in touch! Have a nice day!”

So time passed, Annie and our children moved a couple of times (she is part Gypsy).

A couple of years later, around the middle of December, I received an Explanation of Benefits from the insurance company. I found this odd, since I hadn’t been insured by this company for a couple of years. It appeared that they had paid a claim for emergency services at Erewhon Memorial Hospital, the very claim that I had shown my ass to the billing department about.

It was as if it was our own little Christmas Miracle!