Uncategorized

Duty in Everyday Life: A Thanksgiving Contemplation

Happy Thanksgiving. We live in a time of unparalleled prosperity, of unequaled safety, of plenty and a degree of freedom from honest WANT, such that the kings of centuries past could not enjoy the leisure, the security, that we, every one of us, today enjoy.

This is a gift from many sources, not the least, The Almighty. Secondarily, from our ancestors. I hope and pray that each of us continues to receive these blessings, and that we are grateful, and give thanks, for these boons that are our everyday lot.

This is a repost. From time to time I am allowed to reflect upon all the ways in which I have been blessed. This tale is among my deliberations.

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 finger 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. “ Add conversation regarding mom going with this stranger”

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’s 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 belongings 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.

Protect and Serve · Uncategorized

Patient Care Is Everywhere!

I had the opportunity, a couple of years ago, to speak with an police officer who 
personified the “Protect and Serve” mindset. An elderly, very confused 
gentleman, with a baseline mentation deficit, was brought in to the hospital 
at the instigation of the officer. 

Having been dispatched for a "welfare check", he found this soul confused, 
and in the officer's estimation, "looked sick." We evaluated the patient, and 
tried to (start to) fix his medical issues.  While waiting for the lab results, the 
officer and I chatted. The officer related to me that he was an officer, 
“not for the attorney with a 150,000 dollar car and a nice house: he doesn’t 
need me. That guy, over there: he depends on me to do the right thing. 
He is why I took that oath.” 

Once we had finished caring for the gentleman, and were ready to discharge 
him, another officer from this same (yeah, rural) department came and took 
him home, seeing him safely into his apartment.

Another occasion, same rural police department, same officer. This time he  
accompanied an EMS transport. This soul was in custody, so the officer parked 
himself outside the room, to keep an eye on his charge. During their stay, in 
the room across the hallway, was a child, who was very dubious about the 
entire "going to the hospital" thing. This officer was approached by the fearful 
child, who momentarily had his fears overcome with curiosity about a 
live-and-in-person police officer. This officer was very engaged with the child, 
producing wide eyed interest as the boy lectured the officer on the ins and outs 
of frogs, and minutiae of their lives in the wild. He (the officer) offered a few frog 
insights of his own, and the two of them had an animated conversation there in 
my ED hallway. 

The rest of my encounter with the boy was made considerably smoother, when 
the officer asked the boy, "Are you behaving for my friend Reltney?  Yeah, he 
may be a doctor (well, a PA at this point, but, ya know...), but he's pretty nice.  
Give him a chance, wontcha?"

My point? There has been come conversation of “Officer as social worker” 
becoming part of the police toolbox. This theme is not new, although it used 
to be called "walking the beat, and knowing your beat". Some officers, who 
are each a credit to their profession, have been employing that tool for a 
long time. And, in some regards, to steal a phrase from the American 
Nurses' Association, "Patient Care is Everywhere!"  Some of the practitioners 
are not formally licensed in health professions. And, some of us simply see 
it as being a good neighbor. 


Uncategorized

Practicing Listening Skills

My father took ill, on the order of 30 years ago. He had a heart attack, and, while recovering from that excitement, was found to have cancer. Given that he was at that point in his seventies, well, it was a rough time for him, and my mother.

Now, shortly prior to these discoveries, they had moved from The Unnamed Midwest State, to The East Coast. They had been born, and met, married, and started our family in The Megalopolis. With my one brother and I living in and about Da City, and our other brother living overseas, well, my brother the contractor was not a strong candidate to help mom take care of dad, and I, the nurse, seemed better suited, occupationally, to show up out there.

So, I did so. The mortgage company did not seem likely to grant me a payment holiday. It appeared that the credit union was on this same page. Therefore, I needed to work as a travel nurse should I spend any time on The East Coast. I did so, pulling 12 hour weekend night shifts.

After I was credentialed, I was assigned to work various East Coast emergency departments, my job back at home. So, this one time, I was sent to St. Elsewhere, in some fishing town on the southern coast of The State.

I arrived early, and announced myself, asking for the charge nurse. She greeted me, and asked me if I had any ER experience.

Now, by this point, I had spent around 8 years on Da City’s EMS, and close to 7 years in ER in Da City. My answer was “Yeah, some.”

She looked me up and down, and gave me her New Kid Spiel. “This is a fishing town. We have a bunch of young guys, working hard fishing, and, when they come into port, they play hard. Now, if you get a 20 something guy, tap dancing away, can’t sit still, anxious, sweating, and complaining that he feels like his heart is about to jump out of his chest, he’s not having a heart attack. Likely, it’s cocaine.”

I nodded. “Sounds right.”

She paused. “You know anything about cocaine? Ever seen any cocaine overdoses?”

“I know some, I’ve seen a couple.”

“Where have you worked?”

“Da City, in ER. 8 years on Da City EMS before that.”

“Why am I telling you about cocaine? You were just gonna let me carry on, weren’t you?”

“Yeah. If I listened, likely I’d learn something.”

She rolled her eyes. “Here are your keys, your module is over there, get Lucy to count narcotics with you.”

Fun And Games Off Duty · Uncategorized

Motorcycle PI on the way to the State Park

One sunny summer day,  The Darling Wife and I were on the way to a state park one of our friends had spoken fondly of. We were motoring along on one of the divided highways, and noticed that traffic had stopped.

Indeed, it had JUST stopped. We halted next to a fellow pulling a large house trailer with his station wagon (yep, true story!). He had managed to stop, likely a near-panic-stop, without leaving his lane, and well short of the supine figure on the pavement maybe 20 meters in front of him. The spilled motorcycle nearby suggested how he came to be there. Suddenly, I was VERRRY impressed with Mr. Station Wagon’s motoring skills.

Once we had stopped, and I had parked the vehicle, I noticed other motorists creeping past us, on the shoulder or between the lanes of parked cars. TDW and I were puzzled by this, thinking that, occasionally, events happened that were more important than somebody getting to their destination without delay, and some poor schmuck supine in the roadway might qualify.

I exited the vehicle, and retrieved my medic bag. I suggested to TDW that she pay attention to traffic, and phone it in to the local sheriff/fire department/EMS/Etcetera, while I sorted out the scene. She interrupted her tirade about “stupid mother flatterers”, or something that sounded kinda like that, to acknowledge my comment, and took up the CB microphone when a trucker asked what was happening.

Once I had walked up on the scene, one individual was kneeling at the supine person’s head, immobilizing him, and announced, “I’m an off duty firefighter!”

I replied, “I’m a physician assistant, an ED nurse, and former paramedic.”, and began to size up the situation.

Another person presented herself, and announced she was an ER nurse. I suggested that vitals would be really nice, and handed her my stethoscope and BP cuff.

Yet another person arrived, asking, “Can I help?” I suggested a pen and paper would be good, to write down the vitals for the responding medics, and this soul took off, returning with a notebook and pen.

Yet ANOTHER person arrived, announced that he was a National Guard medic, and everybody introduced themselves. Again. He was detailed to arrange for scene security, so that no impatient retard could creep/blow through the scene and sweep us all up like last week’s dust. He grabbed a couple of other bystanders, and made it so.

I started a secondary survey, looking for unseen bleeding or fractures. I found none, and about that time the first firefighter/Medical First Responder arrived. The nurse and note taker provided him with vitals, and I provided my summary of the survey.

I gathered my stet and cuff, and retreated to the car, where TDW awaited. She had news for me, relating to the 18 wheeler behind us, that I now noted to be jack-knifed across all lanes of traffic. It seems that he was the trucker asking about what was happening. She told him about the “special” souls intruding into the accident scene with their cars. She quoted him as observing, “So, ya know, I can fix that!”. The next thing she beheld was this truck turning from the extreme right lane of traffic, until his cab was nosed against the median rail, and his trailer was into the right hand shoulder.

Sure slowed down the jackwagons. Nicely done!

Once the medics had packed up Mr. Dumpedhisbike, and moved along, and the fire department had moved the motorcycle, we were free to resume our journey. TDW observed, once we were mobile, “Ya know, I see again why you pack all that stuff into your trunk! Sure comes in handy, from time to time!”

Uncategorized

FNG here. How-De-Do!

I’m an old stretcher ape. Started in EMS a long, long time ago, working in, and for Da Big City. Worked my way through nursing school, and eventually went to grad school, in my capacity of Official Old Fart. I’m chock full of stories, all of which begin with the obligatory disclaimer, followed by the Mark One, Mod 0 preamble: “This is no shit! There I was, fighting disease and saving lives….”