Fun And Games · Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Pre Planning Your Scene · School Fun And Games · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

More Paramedic School Stories: The First:

Years and years ago, before I left Da City’s employ as a medic, I had completed nursing school, written my boards, received my license and was living large. For certain values of “large”, that is.

I had been offered, and accepted , a position teaching pharmacology, part time, for the program that I had graduated from. The textbook we used (Nancy Caroline MD: “Emergency Care In The Streets”) was outstanding, and provided a clear template around which to build my lesson plans.

One of the innovations that I introduced, from my own nursing school days, was a particular format for drug cards. The point thereof was to have, on a 3 x 5 or 4 x 6 card, the names of the drug in question (trade and generic), the common dosing and route of administration of the subject drug, indications for using the drug, contra indications for using the drug, the mechanism of action of the drug, and the class (often, these last two overlap: a drug classified as a “Beta Blocker” worked by blocking beta agonism on the sympathetic nervous system. If you had mastered that point, you knew that the drug would serve to slow heart rate, mildly constrict arterial muscles (net effect of lowering blood pressure due to slower heart rate and decreased strength of contraction leading to diminished cardiac output), CONSTRICT bronchial muscles, and reduce intra ocular pressure. Or, you could write all that stuff out. For every beta blocker you encountered. Fun times. I simply earned what beta agonism tickled, and knew that blockade thereof reversed those effects.)

In addition, the cards noted nursing considerations (things the nurse, or paramedic, ought to have in his/her mind when employing this medication. Like, Beta blockers: check and recheck heart rate, blood pressure, and monitor the EKG, looking for slowing conduction of the elelctricity that controlled things).

Now, some of my students were first timers. They were folks who, as you might imagine, were taking paramedic classes for the first time.


In The Un-Named Flyover State, the licensing drill went something like this. You successfully completed the course, and took the exam. Pass it in one, bingo, license in hand, go out and fight disease and save lives.

If you failed the exam, then you got one chance to re take the test portion that you had failed.

If you failed the retest, you had to successfully complete a refresher course, whereupon you could re-test, again.

If you failed THIS test, you had to take the entire generic paramedic program, from step one, all over again.

As it happened, a couple of students had, indeed, found themselves taking the paramedic class, in order to qualify for a FOURTH retest.

So, TINS©, I laid out my expectations, had conjured up a 1,000 point, tow semester grading scheme, wherein around ½ of the grade (250 points each semester) would come from the midterm and final, combined. Another 25 points came from each quiz, administered each week in class. 16 weeks in a semester, no quiz on mid term or final weeks, and two other weeks off for review for the mid term and finals, 20 quizzes.

I announced at the beginning of each semester that I would consider extra credit in the event that any student came to me in advance, suggested something that would reflect additional pharmacologic study, and be pertinent to paramedic practice.

So, STORY NUMBER ONE: Somewhere around mid terms, one of the students rose in class, and delivered a pronouncement: Reltney, paramedics don’t need to know all this stuff. Nurses, yeah, I get that nurses need to know this stuff, but paramedics don’t!”

I invited him to hold that thought, and we could speak, in detail, after class. After the end of class, this fellow, along with a couple fo his work mates, all met with me, eager to set me straight.

As it happened, all of these folks were of the looking-at-a-fourth-retest group.

I invited my correspondent to state his case. He did so, as outlined above, with no new explicative material, no new rationale for his position.

I deliberated a moment, and fact checked myself. “So, you have taken the paramedic exam, correct?”

“Yep!”

“And, you failed it, is that correct?”

“Uh, yeah…”

“Then, you took it again, did you not? And, failed it, again, am I correct?”

“yeah…”

“And, again, after a refresher course, you took the paramedic exam, and, again, you failed it, is that also correct?”

(much more quietly) “yes…”

“So, I’m confused: you are not an RN, are you?”

“Uh, no…”

“So, let me see if I am understanding you: you are telling me, who has taken, and passed, the paramedic exam, and who is, also, an RN, that you are in a position to have an opinion that I ought to find persuasive, regarding what it takes to successfully take and pass the paramedic exam, based upon your experience in taking the exam, and failing it, what, three separate times?, did I hear you correctly?”

He mumbled something indistinct, and found somewhere else that he felt the need to be.

And, I did not hear THAT particular argument again.

Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

“First World Problems, Dad!”

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!”

Proud Papa moment, right there!

Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Knives · Pre Planning Your Scene · Protect and Serve · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

My children, cornered by dogs

Years ago, and far away, we lived Up North. We had three children, one of whom was still an infant. TDW Mark I had decided that we needed pets, and so she brought home two Labrador puppies.

With the wisdom that comes with hindsight, with two working parents, two primary school aged children, and an infant, two Labrador puppies might not have seemed to be a particularly good idea. It seems that, with the distractions present daily in such a household, the dogs do not properly learn the chain of command. In particular, the part of the chain of command that goes, “The little people are NOT to be snarled at, nipped at, or cornered. Under ANY circumstances!”

One afternoon, I was working in the yard, the two oldest kids were playing outside, and somehow the dogs got out. I learned this, when I heard snarling from the dogs, and yelling from my kids.

As an aside, nowadays, I put on my pistol, knives, and spare magazines, before I put on my shoes. I live in a very quiet, nice little town, but, well, between Da City, and the tales I have related here (and am about to relate here), I have grown to loathe when I do not have the tools I need RIGHT FUCKING NOW!

I reached this epiphany, as I rounded the corner of the house and observed the two dogs backing my children into a corner, snarling. Each dog was, at this point, around 60 pounds, and outweighed my children.

I pushed my way between my kids and the dogs, and pushed the kids behind me, as I faced down the dogs. I waved my arms, snarled, my own self, and began to harangue the dogs, slowly advancing on them.

“Motherfuckers! You DARE to threaten my kids! I will cut your miserable throats, I’ll crush you like insects, I will break your necks, and toss your cadavers to the buzzards! Don’t you FUCKING DARE snarl at my children! I will field dress your sorry asses, and toss the gut pile into the fucking road! Try me, motherfuckers! TRY ME, you sackless pieces of shit! YOU-DO-NOT-DARE-TO-THREATEN-MY-CHILDREN! I will OWN your sorry asses, and put such a hurt on you that dogs, everywhere, will whimper and cross the road, lest they step upon my children’s shadows! I fucking DARE you, to cross me!”

Well, all the excitement likely had penetrated the house, and TDW Mark I came a’running, big kitchen knife in hand, to sweep up the children, and arm me. Once they noted two adults, and, likely, from the yelling and screaming I was emitting, figured that Bad Things were pending, they ran off at a lope.

You may wonder what my plan was? Well, besides the fact that I decided promptly that I was NOT about to watch dogs attack my children I really had no plan at all. It had occurred to me that I was right handed, and, in extremis, should I jam my left forearm to the back of the lead dog’s mouth, and wrap my right arm around his neck, if I could push away with my left arm as hard as I could, and pull back as hard as I could with my right, I just might snap the dog’s neck.

But, after reflecting, 15 rounds of XTP hollow point in 9 mm might be just a bit more effective.

Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Crash of a Small Plane

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©, working a mid city house, “Power Shift” (1400 to 0200) with Doug and Ed. It was one of those shifts wherein dispatch seemed to feel compelled to send us on a magical tour of Da City. We transported folks to hospitals that I had never expected to see in person. East side, west side, all around the town, as the song goes.

So, we were SNR’d on our latest run (SNR= Service Not Required. In this case, because the nominal sick person wanted no part of going to the hospital, and was only too happy to sign the waiver and bid us goodbye.) Since we had been out to the east side of nowhere that shift, well, I figured the Patron Saint(s) of EMS wanted us to head east.

There we were, motoring northwest along Alternate Main Drag Road, when Ed, looking out my window, saw a column of smoke. I wheeled north on Major Northbound Roadway, and, paralleling the airport, radioed in to dispatch, inquiring if there had been a report of a working fire in our vicinity.

Nope, they hadn’t heard a word.

Being inquisitive sorts, we continued northbound, until, coming to the roadway that formed the northern perimeter of the airport, we turned west, since the column of smoke was indeed to our west.

We found it, two blocks over, and turned onto the street in question. I pulled up in front of the house next door to the involved structure, thinking that our friends the firefighters might feel the need to place their engines adjacent to the burning structure. I noticed a light airplane sticking out of the roof of the burning structure, and supposed that the two were related.

I had no idea of what street we were on, so I called to the civilians milling about, asking for the name. They provided it to me. Then, I paused. I could see the house number of the house I had parked in front of, but had no idea of the house number of the involved structure.

Yeah, you’re right. After 2-3 seconds of reflection, it struck me that, if I could identify the burning house from my location, the highly trained, very experienced, thoroughly professional firefighters likely could replicate my feat of high level cerebral functioning.

I radioed in to dispatch, “Medic (number) on scene of a fully involved house, aircraft crash, casualties noted in the yard. Please send fire and additional ambulances.”

Then I unassed the rig. Ed had already pulled one fellow, laying in the driveway between the involved structure and the neighboring one, around the uninvolved structure and out of the radiant heat pouring from the fire. Doug was just getting to the other patient on the ground, and we pulled him, also, into the lee of the neighboring house and into their fenced in yard.

Once relatively safe, we conferred: Ed wanted a couple of backboards so we could rapidly splint these guys and get the hell out of dodge. I hopped the fence, grabbed the requisite materiel, and tossed it over the fence.

Doug and Ed rapidly backboarded the one guy, set the head of the board on the fence, and then one of them hopped the fence, he and I finished the lift, and trotted him to the rig.

We returned, helped Doug complete boarding the second guy, and back to the truck we went.

Once both were strapped into the ambulance, we were off. Coincidentally, the first engines were about set up and beginning to flow water as we departed.

I do not remember the run to TBTCIDC. I DO remembergiving report, and the smoke smell we tried to clean out of the ambulance.

Funny thing. A couple of months later, I was visiting my brother in Alexandria, VA. Since he was working, I played tourist during the day. Now, this was 1983, around a year after the plane crashed into the 14th street bridge. The very bridge I had to cross into DC. As The Fates would have it, an aircraft– a big passenger jet– was landing as I was crossing the bridge. I don’t want to say it was close, but….I could count the rivets on the bottom, as it passed over my head.

Yeah, I didn’t break out in a cold sweat, or anything. Except, I did.

Fun And Games · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Pre Planning Your Scene · Protect and Serve · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

Transfer To Florida

A long, long time ago, in a county very far away, I was a nursing supervisor. I had migrated into supervision after several years as an ER nurse.

One afternoon I arrived at work, and the offgoing supervisor reported that a gentleman had been brought in and admitted for his heart attack. Now, in these far away days, there were no angioplasties, no stents. There was no TPA, no other thrombolytics (“clot busters”). Indeed, the state of the art, outside of referral hospitals, was oxygen, hydration, rest, aspirin, and pain control. We had THAT, in abundance!

So, a couple of days later, one of the CCU nurses took me aside, and informed me that this guy was, to employ her own professional and finely tuned appraisal, “acting kinda squirrely”.

It developed that the attending physician determined that this soul was both having/recovering from a MI (heart attack), but, in addition, was a florid alcoholic, and was entering into DTs. Like, classic, textbook, tachycardic, hallucinating, writhing, pre-seizure tremulous, DTs.

Simply to make everything just nice, the internal med doc that the cardiologist consulted did not believe in using benzodiazepines for alcohol withdrawal. (that would be medications like Valium or Librium, useful both for the sedating effects, as well as their efficacy in protecting the patient from convulsions that might be lethal.) No, he insisted in using antipsychotics, which weren’t altogether effective in addressing his twitching nor his restlessness. Shit.

Well, he survived all this excitement, and, eventually (like, 4-6 weeks worth of eventually) was ready to go home.

Our discharge planner discovered that our new friend was a resident of Florida which we, in The Unamed Flyover State, were not anywhere near. He had wrecked his vehicle in the initial confusion, and therefore had no vehicle to get him home. In any event, what with his MI, and his lengthy stay in Thorazine Land, was in no sort of shape to (a) drive home to Florida, nor (b) master the intellectual challenges inherent in navigating the interstate home, even if he was strong enough to physically do so, Which he was not.

Her investigations revealed that none of his family was in any sort of position to happily drive up here and retrieve him (which of course begs the question of what was he doing here, with his pleasantly confused self, something like 1200 miles from home? And alone?)

So, once the dust settled, he was still our problem, and The Suits determined that springing for a flight home would end the financial drain that he represented, since no insurance company in the Western World would pay for him to reside at the Grand Hotel De Our Little Hospital, once his medical need had resolved. I did mention that he was squirrely, right? Well, our discharge planner hypothesized that his heart attack, and DTs, had trampled his previously marginally sufficient coping mechanisms, and he was, now, fully senile. Therefore, putting him up, unsupervised, in a hotel, would not work out at all well.

So the plan was laid. Our discharge planner purchased a plane ticket. He had specifically purchased a ticket on a nonstop flight, determining that there would be fewer opportunities for him to wander off, and get lost Ghawd Alone knew where. Then, she dumped it in my lap. I called A Competing Ambulance Service, and spoke to a supervisor.

“I have this guy, and we are going to fly him home. He is not altogether there, and so he needs both supervision, and a chain of custody. The flight is at 5 pm, so I want him at the gate at 4 pm sharp. I want your crew to physically deliver him to the boarding gate, physically observe him belted into his seat, and obtain a signature as a receipt from the flight attendant who seats him. Can you do all that?”

“Sure. You just have to set it up with the airline. OK?”

“Outstanding! I’ll set it up, and call you back.”

So, I called the airline. I spoke with a supervisor, and laid out my problem, and my view of the solution. “Sure, no problem. We can do that. Anything else?”

“Yep. Can you get a receipt for my guy, from the folks who pick him up, and then call me with the fact of safe arrival, please? Then, mailing us the receipt would be wonderful!”

“Sure, can do. Gimme your name and mailing address!”

I called the Competing Ambulance Service back, and brought the supervisor up to speed. “Oh”, I added, “One more thing. We’ll hand the plane ticket to your medic, and also hand him or her the chart. That HAS to go with him, and is part of the chain of custody business. OK?”

“OK!”, was the response.

So, on the appointed day, I was at the nurses station awaiting The Competing Ambulance Service crew. Once they arrived, I reviewed all the foregoing. Both medics nodded, and one opined, “Yeah, that’s all according the the briefing we got from the supervisor. Where’s the chart, and the ticket?”

The charge nurse handed both items over. The medic made a show of placing the ticked into the inside pocket of his jacket, turning so both his partner as well as the nurse and I could see it settled deeply into it. His partner tucked the chart beneath the pillow, and they were off!

Around 1630, I got paged to pick up a phone call. “Mcfee!” was my greeting.

“Mr. Mcfee, this is Bob from The Competing Ambulance Service. My crew just radioed me to let me know that your patient is on the flight, seatbelt secured, and they have a signature form one of the flight attendants. So far, so good. That attendant has you phone number, and will phone you once he has been handed over to family at the other end.”

And, as promised, around 1930, the crew from The Competing Ambulance Service arrived, hunted me down, and handed me a copy of their trip sheet, prominently featuring the name, signature, and employee ID number of the flight attendant accepting Mr. Man for his flight.

To frost my cake of WIN!, the next day the night shift supervisor relayed via days, that our patient had successfully, and uneventfully, been handed off to his family at his destination.

Hallelujah!

Pains in my Fifth Point of Contact · Sometimes You Get to Think That You Have Accomplished Something!

DUTY IN EVERYDAY LIFE

I have spent a lot of time talking, directly or indirectly, about duty. I am by no means any sort of authority on the subject. I have, however, spent some time contemplating what it means to recognize DUTY, to attempt to measure up to one’s duty, to accomplish Duty, and consider what my Duty might be in this or that circumstance.

Let me tell you about a man, who went above and beyond. This is not tale of derring do, of valiant action in combat, or hazardous duty, rather it is the story of a MAN who stood up in circumstances where I could not, and went way, way out of his way to do a good deed for a stranger.

A couple of years ago, in The Maternal State, they had a sizable blizzard. Now, being in or near the northern tier of states, this should be no big deal: winter, Up North, snow, so whucking fhat, amirite?

Yeah, that is generally my go-to response. Well, lemme tell you, this was somewhat more snow, and more wind, and more nastiness than is the baseline for this part of The Maternal State. Power lines iced up, and, swaying in the wind, well, they snapped, in multiple locations. Oops, power outage.

So, my mother is in her 90’s. At this time, pretty independent, but, still, 90 plus, and on the order of 800 miles from her nearest family.

My brother had anticipated the weather, and done some internet reconnaissance. He had identified a hotel in the next town, and, calling the reservation number (remember THAT thought!), had been told that the hotel in question did have an auxiliary generator, and would be in service. He therefore had made a reservation for our mother, securing, he thought, a heated safe place for her.

He filled me in on his plan, but had no idea of how to get her from her, now unheated, house to the hotel. As you might have considered, there was NO FREAKING WAY we wanted Mom driving in this mess. I called the taxicab companies local to my mother, only to find that none of them were answering their dispatch telephones. Shit.

I phoned the local police department, and spoke with the sergeant on duty. He pointed out that while he, and the officers on duty, were certainly willing to make sure my mother made it to the hotel, well, they were kind of busy (read, “extremely”) doing, ya know, POLICE stuff occasioned by the storm, the basic level of idiocy amongst the population in general and The Maternal State in particular, and the way poor weather exacerbates the foregoing. He did not see this happening in any clinically significant time frame. Shit. Again.

I let my fingers do the walking among the internet search results for “transportation services” in The Maternal State, and the Maternal County. I recalled my brother, The World Traveler (not the hotel finder) had spoken of hiring a car service to travel from The Maternal Manse to the airport, or vice versa. I called several car services, and, finally, reached one who answered his phone.

We had a lovely conversation about the weather, and how and why it seemed unlikely that I would find a taxi company who would answer their phone. He, himself, answered his own phone, only because he took this opportunity to come into the office to complete some sort of paperwork.

I told him my tale of woe, featuring my elderly mother, distant children, and so forth. He asked me for her address, and where the arrangements had been made for her accommodation. He told me that he’d swing by, check up on my mother, and give me a call with his appraisal of things. I thanked him, effusively, and awaited his call.

Something around an hour later, I received a phone call. Mom was fine. My new friend, calling me on his personal cell phone, provided me the opportunity to speak with my mother. She asked me who this guy was, and I recounted the story of my brother’s hotel efforts, and how this fellow answered his phone, which, by itself, set him apart from everybody else in her corner of the state. I told her that he could/would transport her to the hotel for heated accommodations. She thought that was a great idea, and handed to phone back to the Car Guy. Shortly, I received a call from him reporting that he had Mom, and her little dog, were on the way to The Hotel. Again, with effusive thanks, I awaited the next situation report.

I received it, and it was infuriating. It appears that the national reservation folks for The Cretin Hotel Chain (by the way, I apologize to cretins, everywhere, for maligning their good name!), (a) did not know a goddamned thing about the power status, or lack thereof, in the subject property, (b) could not possibly care less about said power status, unless somehow The Creator elected to Personally and directly intervene, in a biblical display of His power, to motivate these gormless fuckwads to pretend that they might appear to give a shit (not that they might actually do anything effective to support that pretense. Even The Creator Of All has some limitations upon His power!), (c) would happily spin any line of bullshit that might result in their establishing a reservation, and (d) if kharma actually was a thing, would spend eternity sleeping outdoors, on some forsaken ice floe, adrift on a freezing gale swept ocean of sewage, with a solitary hospital “blanket” to protect themselves from a shivering, frozen, blue demise. If Crom was merciful. Which I hoped He would not be.

You might not be surprised, at this point, to learn that the hotel had no power and no heat.

I just might, one day, tell y’all how I REALLY feel. Assholes. (and I mean no slight to assholes).

My new friend, and Mom’s chauffeur, reported his plan to personally reconnoiter other hotels in the vicinity and report back to me. He did so, and he called me: no joy. None had power, so none had heat. Shit. Again. Again.

So, my new friend drove Mom home, and, arriving and ushering her inside, put her on his phone. Mom felt OK, the house was only around 50 something which, while chilly, was only unpleasant, not life threatening. She had canned food, a Sterno stove, the food in the fridge seemed in no danger of thawing (unsurprisingly, right?), and she had several blankets for cozy sleeping.

I thanked my new friend, again, and again, and bade everybody goodbye.

I spoke to Mom later that night, when one of her neighbors, charged cell phone in hand, stopped by with a hot meal (they had a camp-stove, it seems). Mom was doing OK, the neighbor (PBUH!) came on to reassure me that his appraisal was that Mom was managing OK, and he, the neighbor, would check in on her in the morning.

The next morning, the Car Service Guy called me. He had stopped by Mom’s house, and reported that he found her reading, swathed in a blanket, drinking a cup of (Sterno stove) coffee, eating a cold bagel. He put her on the phone, and she concurred in his report. He came back on, reported that the news was predicting power would be restored in a day or two. We chatted a bit, I thanked him, again. Again. Again. And he slogged back home, driving through the ass deep snow.

I received a call the next morning. Mom was chirpily informing me that the power was on, she had had a lovely, lengthy, hot shower, was cooking a casserole to have, hot, for dinner, and presently was enjoying a hot cup of coffee, and hot muffin. Her second of the day.

So, all is well that ends well, right?

Let me tell you MY take away. God has blessed us with angels. Some we cannot see as they are spirits. Other walk among us.

One exemplar is this guy, warm and dry in his office, piddling around, grateful that he did not have to be out in the butt ugly weather afflicting his hometown. He received a phone call from Sumdood, who he had never met, from Ghawd Only knows where, spinning this tale of his mama who allegedly lived nearby, had no power, and needed somebody, NOT the caller, to chauffeur her tail to refuge. Oh, and her little dog, too!

So, did he tell me to FOAD? Did he tell me it would be a profound pain in his ass? Did he tell me it was not his job? No, no, and no. He gathered the information that would be required to conduct an in person reconnaissance of her circumstances, and promised to report back to me. He did so.

He helped Mom gather her crap for her voyage, and drove her, her luggage, and her dog, to the local property of The Cretin Hotel Chain. Finding that my brother had been bullshitted by the dickless, hapless, shitheads at the Cretin Hotel Chain’s national reservation operation, he called me with this insight, and attempted to find alternate accommodations for my mother. Failing in this quest, he drove her home (through the awful roads associated with an awful storm in winter in the northern tier of states, mind you!), schlepped her stuff inside, attempted to assure her safety, and comfort, and called me. Again. On his personal cell phone.

Then, the next day, with the same (or worse) shitty roads, he got out of his nice warm bed, and drove to my mother’s house, again, to check on her safety. And called me with a progress report. She was chilly, but fine.

Thus far, only mentioned in passing, are the Blessed Souls that are her neighbors. She’s not their mother. They did not grow up in her neighborhood. Simply, they are NEIGHBORS, in the finest traditions of small town America. God Bless Them. They visited, in turns, several times each day the power was out, bringing hot food, visiting, offering to charge her phone (and, just so you know, it works way, way better with a charge on the battery!), and generally being guardian angels for her.

She could not have lived there alone, for as long as she in fact did, without their oversight and backup.

TL/DR summary? Somebody is setting me a good example. I resolve to try to imitate it.

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

Hospice Nurse Midnight Shift Call Off

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy not so far from here….

No, wait, that is not quite right. Well, anyway, after I had departed Da City’s EMS, and started working as an RN, my father took ill. Years previously, he and my mother had moved back to The Megalopolis, and resided in The Maternal State, nearly half way across the country from me. My brother the contractor did not seem well suited to the demands of helping care for a sick elderly man, so I volunteered.

As it happened, while I was helping Mom take care of my Dad, I was working 12 hour night shifts in various EDs around The Maternal State, receiving my assignments from this or that temporary staffing agency. The money was OK, and I was able to keep up with my house payment, my car payments, and all that stuff.

Things progressed. My father was dying, and there was no stopping it. I was glad that I could take some of the burden off of my mother, who was nearly overwhelmed in any event by the looming demise of her husband of decades. You do that which you can do, correct? Around this point in the process, my father had been admitted to hospice, and his care needs had escalated to the point where Hospice supplied a nurse to care for my dad around the clock.

So one morning around 0900, I arrived home from work, and went to bed. I was awakened for a phone call around 11 am, to find that the agency was informing me that my shift that night had been canceled. I mumbled affirmation, and stumbled back to bed.

Around 1400, I was again awakened to learn from the Hospice case manager that they were unable to find a nurse to care for my dad overnight that night. “I don’t know what we are going to do!” she apologized.

I wasn’t all that wound up over it. “So, it looks as if you have a nurse, then.”

No, I don’t. I have called, and called, and I cannot find a nurse to care for your father tonight!”

Yeah, you did. Me.”

You cannot care for your father overnight!”

How come? You need a nurse. I’m a nurse. You need somebody who will be reliable. I flatter myself, that I am reliable. You need somebody here. I’m gonna be here, nurse or no nurse. Looks like I know what I’m gonna be doing, instead of watching late night TV!”

Are you going to be able to do this? Can you handle that responsibility?”

Do you have a better idea?”

She admitted that no, she did not.

Well, then, it certainly looks as if I have to do it, and have no alternative to handling it, doesn’t it?”

We agreed, and I returned to bed.

This time, around 1500, I was awakened for another phone call (this appeared to be developing into A Thing!, and I was not liking it!). My agency was calling, and the staffing coordinator perkily informed me that she had found me an assignment for that very night! “Gosh, thanks, but, after you called me to cancel me, I made other plans.”

She was aghast. “What? Are you refusing an assignment?”

Nope. I had an assignment as of 0730 this morning, when I left duty. I was sleeping, in preparation for reporting for that assignment, when you called me, to cancel it. Once you had canceled me, I had no obligations to anyone, and I have made other arrangements since then. Now, you are calling me and asking, at the eleventh hour, may I remind you, if I can take a last minute assignment. No, I cannot. I am busy tonight, with obligations that I cannot ignore. I’m not refusing an assignment, I am simply not able to accommodate your last minute brainstorms.”

We ended the call at that point, and I resigned myself to my (sleep deprived) fate.

Mom and I had supper, I made some calls, and wrote checks for some of my bills. Once 2300 arrived, the afternoon nurse gave me report, and oriented me to the overnight routine.

We changed my father’s bedding, and bathed him. As we turned him to his left, I held him for her part of the cleaning and linen change, and he sighed once, long and loud. I looked into his eyes, and watched them dilate. I felt for a carotid pulse, and found none. “I think he’s gone”, I told the nurse. She and I tidied up the bed, tucked him in, and she went for my mother.

The next couple of hours were not etched in my memory. Eventually, Mom and I were alone in the house. We cried, we hugged, and we went to our beds.

Monday I had an assignment. I showed up, happy, in a sort of left handed way, to be doing SOMETHING that did not involve constant reminders of my dad’s death. The charge nurse for St. Elsewhere greeted me with, “We heard about your dad. We’re sorry to hear it. How are you doing?”

I was surprised. She was a lovely soul, cute, smart, professional, and capable (all things that I admire in a woman). She was friendly, and I was very open to that. However, I hadn’t told anyone about my dad’s demise. I was touched that she would make the effort to offer consolation to me, a relative stranger. I had been hoping that I could immerse myself in ED nursing, and not think about my dad for a while.

I offered my response, thanked her for her concern, and asked what pod was mine for the night.

Fast forward a couple of weeks. I received another call from the agency, and another assignment offer. I had made plans to take my mother out for dinner, and therefore I declined the assignment. (Yeah, THIS one I straight up declined.). The coordinator took me to task. “I’m getting really tired of covering for you all the time!”

What the fuck? My query was edited before being spoken. “Huh?”

I said I’m getting tired of covering for you!”

Uh, what are you talking about? Covering for me? When?”

Remember two weeks ago? That Friday night, when you had made other plans? That’s what I’m talking about!”

I was almost speechless. Fortunately, this was a telephone conversation, not one taken across a desk. That fact alone kept me from big trouble. I put as much ice into my voice as I could, and clarified: “Oh, wait! Do you mean the night my father died? Do you mean to tell me that you are irritated that I could not work on the night my father died, in my arms, and you are really, no shit, taking me to task for not working that night? Did you really, actually, just say that to me, not two weeks after he died? It sure sounds as if you did, and I cannot think, off hand, of any other way to take that. What did your supervisor say when you told her you were inconvenienced by my not working that night? Say, how about I call her, right fucking now, and ask her? Gimme her goddamned phone number, please. I feel the need for a heartfelt chat!”

For some reason, she was, well, “reluctant” probably does not fully capture her lack of enthusiasm for me chatting with the manager of the office on a Saturday night.

I continue to be surprised. By humanity in general. And, in particular, that she was such a jackwagon, and that she did not provide me that number.

Although, not giving me the number might have been a good thing.