guns · Having A Good Partner Is Very Important! · Life in Da City!

“Just wait a while. He’ll stop doing that!”

So, TINS ©, while I was FDASL© as a medic for Da City, this one crew had gotten a run on a jackwagon who had engaged in a shoot out with the DCPD, and had lost. The story ran that he had shot at officers, secured cover behind a utility pole, and then had exited cover to fire, again, at the officers. It seemed one of the officers had, indeed, paid attention at firearms qualification, because Mr. Gonnashootacop received a bullet in his face, that exited the back of his head and took a substantial portion of his brain along with it. Not an outcome likely to promote his long term high level wellness, in my opinion.

It seemed to appear so as well, to the EMS crew that caught the run, as they determined that he was DRD (“Daid Raht Dere!”, as we say it in Da City), and they went in service and left the cadaver to the care of the investigating officers.

Unfortunately for that crew, Mr. Gonnashootacop had not attended to that memo, for it was told that after EMS had departed, he took another (final) (agonal) breath. The officers, unsurprisingly, freaked the phenomenon out, called for another ambulance, which crew read the writing on the wall (which explained, “This Way To Department Charges And Unemployment!”) and transported Mr. Gonnashootacop to the friendly local ED, where he was pronounced (again), this time by a physician. Finally.

The story continued relating that the first crew was granted 6 weeks of unpaid time off, in order to allow them to fully deliberate upon, and repent from, the error of their ways. The rest of us recalled the aphorism that “there is no teacher like experience, and a fool will learn no other way”, and figured that OTHER PEOPLES’ EXPERIENCE would work just fine for our own educations, thankyouverymuch!

That touching little parable, leads into a tale of (nearly) my own. I was, at the time of this tale, working a three medic house, with Marielle, and Tim. Tim was a new hire, and had come to the department as a transfer from being a bus driver for Da City. It came to pass that I had/took a day off, for one reason or another, and, when I returned, I entered the firehouse to find an very, very agitated Tim.

“You sunovabitch! Where the hell were you yesterday?”

“Uh, I had the day off?”

“Yeah! And you left me with Marielle! Did you know that she is crazy?”

“Uh, she hasn’t struck me as significantly more crazy than any of the rest of us.”

“Well, let me tell you what happened, yesterday! We caught a shooting, and once we were on the scene, found that this dude had been shot in the head. Pretty bad, most of his cranium had been emptied. It was my day to drive, and so she was on the bag (doing the patient care). So, she sauntered up to this dude, looked him over, and turned to go. I was a bit behind her, and so didn’t really contact the guy, myself, at all. I heard her say that he was dead, and so we wouldn’t be transporting him. While she was standing up to go, he took an agonal breath. Well, the cops freaked out, and started yelling, ‘He’s alive! He’s alive!'”

“She turned back to him, shined her light into the gaping hole in his noggin, showing that there was not hardly any brain left, and said, ‘Oh, just wait a while. He’ll stop that!'”

“Dude! I cannot afford to be suspended for a month and a half! You gotta talk some sense into her!”

Nice. Don’t give me a Herculean task, or something!

Life in Da City!

Medic Six: Medic in Trouble.

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL© in Da City. So, in the course of EMS in, really, any city, you occasionally encounter folks who fail to realize just how wonderful you and your partner truly are. Some of these folks, at a loss for words to articulate their world view, act out. Indeed, from time to time they seek to act out upon members of the uniformed city services, which is why cops have sidearms, firefighters travel in groups of 5 or more, and medics….well, we generally rely on good fortune. And the antipathy police officers most everywhere demonstrate, kinetically, upon those folks who lay hands on medics.

So, having taken note of the above cited occasional dilemma of the tactical variety, The Powers That Be in Da City administration, had established a radio code, to indicate that the crew employing it, was either in trouble, RIGHT NOW!, or anticipated things to get sporty, REALLY FREAKING SOON!. Since we were, by department rule, forbidden arms, we relied upon our friends at TBCPD to extract our bacon from the fire, when the occasion demanded it. In return, we paid very, very close attention to the calls of “officer (insert injury here)”. While nominally all our responses were “Code 1” (red lights and siren), there were varieties of “Code 1”. For instance, there was a “Code 1” response to the call, “man has cough, for two weeks”, and there was the “code 1” response to “Officer shot”. For only one of these, would the ambulance require brake replacement after the call, and other motorists wonder what was that orange streak that had passed them by at “Warp 8”.

Generally, EMS Dispatch was on the ball. They kept track of where you were, how long you had been there, and, if you had not cleared the scene after a suitable interval, they would radio you and check that you were alright. On (thankfully!) rare occasions, they were not. Whether this was to be laid at the feet of dispatch, or the elderly radio system we employed, is not clear.

So, this one time, several crews were hanging out at TBTCIDC, telling tall tales, conversing, and generally waiting for dispatch to decide that it was Our Time To Save Lives. Our handie talkies were on, because dispatch might NOT assume we were still hanging out at TBTCIDC. Our radios, at that time, were open, meaning that any traffic on the frequency was heard on our HT. Therefore, when Medic 6 called “Medic in Trouble”, well, the room went silent. We waited for Dispatch to respond, and heard nothing. One guy phoned dispatch, asking “Did you hear Medic Six call that they were in trouble?”

When answered negatively, he said, “Well, they just did so. What is the address of their scene?” Writing it down, he hung up. “Hey, partner! Wanna take a little drive?”

Sure. Where to?”

Medic Six’s scene.”

Abruptly, four ambulances called on the air from TBTCIDC. We sped over to Six’s scene, and (thankfully) beheld the crew strolling out of the house there. And, no police.

You guys alright?”, one of us asked. 

Yeah, but it go a little tense there, for a minute!”

Everybody drove away, and the rest of that shift passed, without making any more memories.

Thank Ghawd!

Life in Da City!

Dead man on the roof

We typically ran a three medic house, at Medic Seven, just so one of us could take a road trip in the event that somebody or other called in sick, was injured, or other wise was absent for one reason or another. I got the detail, and wound up working Medic One with (let’s call him) Roger Whitaker.

It was his house, and I therefore was the medic that day. It was mid summer in Da City, one of those days with blue skies, sunshine, and temps running high 70’s to low 80’s. Simply a great day to be alive, in your twenties, and working outdoors. We cruised along, between runs, windows open, talking about inconsequential things, and listening for our next run. And, it happened.

We were sent out on a “unconscious man”, at an address down the street from the engine company where we commonly gassed up. At one point, like 30 or more years ago, this had been a prosperous, upper middle class neighborhood. Just off Main Street, the buses (I suppose, at that time, it was trolleys, but the same effect obtains) ran to downtown and back, and north to, let us call it, Middleville, where another of the industrial empires had several of their factories. The managers and suchlike, living in this neighborhood at that time, could take public transport to and from their jobs, and the families, with domestic help, could keep the home fires burning.

Once Da City changed, and the prosperous moved to Da Burbs, well, all those 4, 5 and 6 bedroom homes became multiple apartment buildings. One of them was our destination.

We pulled up in front, called on the scene, and walked to the door. One of the residents met us there, and led us up the staircase, into one of the apartments, around a corner into the kitchen, out of the kitchen window, and onto the tarred roof of the grand porch the building boasted.

This had evolved into some sort of patio for the residents, and there were three men there, two of whom were drinking something from a brown paper bag in the sunny July afternoon, and the other lay, as if asleep, semi prone. Alumni of the old-school Red cross Advanced First Aid And Emergency Care course (yes, I AM THAT old!) might recognize this posture as “the coma position”, as it facilitated drainage of oral secretions from someone who could not manage them on their own. Like, someone in a coma, fer instance.

Roger approached the upright, actively drinking folks, in order to elicit some information regarding our presumably somnolent subject. I approached him, and, kneeling, channeled my inner “CPR Manikin”. I did not quite bellow, “Annie! Annie! Are you all right?”, but I did attempt to shake our friend, to rouse him for conversation.

It quickly became evident that no amount of shaking, nor shouting, nor any other sort of human intervention would cause this gentleman to join in our conversation, without a Ouija board. When I lifted his off arm, as a lever to roll him preparatory to sitting him up, well, he rolled as a unit, as if he was a man shaped board. Students of emergency care might recognize this as “rigor mortis”, and it occurs variably, on the order of 6-14 hours after death.

Our patient had been laying on that hot roof for a long time.

Roger asked one of the bystanders, “When was the last time any of you all talked to him?”

One looked at the other, squinted up into the sky, and answered, “I guess it was before noon when he sort of moaned, laid down, and sort of rolled over. He hasn’t moved since.” Since this was late afternoon, well, this was not going to be a successful resuscitation.

I looked at Roger, he looked at me, and we shook our heads. He retrieved the handie talkie, and called dispatch for TBCPD, and a medical examiner’s crew, and holstered the radio. The second fellow, agitated now, asked, “Is he….? Is he….? Is he….?”

Roger interrupted, “Man, he daid!”

This gentleman walked to the parapet of the porch, threw one leg over same, and made as if to leap. Roger peered over said parapet, admiring all the broken concrete piled against the foundation, and said, “Friend, if you don’t mind, kinda jump a ways out there, into the yard, why doncha? My knees are aching, and I just know I’ll wrench something if I have to pull your broken body off all those rocks!”

The guy stopped, frozen, and stared at Roger for a moment. He lifted his leg back over the parapet, re entered the building through the kitchen window, and was last seen walking down the middle of the street, gesticulating and cursing, heading westbound.

Life in Da City! · Pre Planning Your Scene

Stairway To The Bathroom

 

So, once upon an EMS, I was working a medic unit in the center of the city. We caught a run to the near west side, and so, off we went. It was late on a lovely July afternoon. I remember the leaves shading the yard of the house we were called to. We walked up the steps, up the porch that ran along the side of the house, and knocked upon the door.

An excited gentleman answered our knock, and directed us into the home. There, a turn into the bathroom revealed our patient. He had, or so we were told, stumbled while descending the stairs, had fallen down those selfsame stairs, and, since the stairs terminated in the bathroom in which we were standing, when he came to a stop, he did so abruptly, having struck his head upon the bathtub. He seized, and our correspondents thought that this was a bad thing. Their opinions were not changed by the fact that our new friend had not awakened at all since the fall and seizure.

My partner at this point, who we can think of as Heinrich Hobson, was a veteran of the streets, and schooled in the ways of Da City. So, of course, once he left for the ambulance to retrieve the cot, backboard, and suchlike so we could transport our patient, well, THAT is when the excitement began.

So there were two ambulatory men, and one huge woman, on our scene, in addition to our unconscious patient. This woman was carrying an enormous purse, and began to exchange (heated) words with one of the gentlemen. The shouting escalated, and Mrs Large Purse decided that it was time for Show and Tell, and therefore Showed us all her nickel plated semi automatic pistol, all while Telling us how, in her words, “Alright, m0th3rf4ck3r, now you gonna DIE!”

It was not immediately clear which “m0th3rf4ck3r” was “gonna die”, or whether this was a particular prediction, or applied to all of us in the room. Since I kinda stood out, being (a) in uniform, and (b) the only paleface present, I felt as if I were a lightning rod awaiting that thunderstorm, and wondered, to myself, if there was not someplace I ought to be. Like, anyplace but that house.

I began to sidle my happy little way out of the room, and onto the porch. Once on the porch, the voices in my head held a debate regarding the proper way to unass the fatal funnel that the porch presented. One chorus encouraged, nay, DEMANDED, that I “RUN!”. The other viewpoint was that, in running, I would both attract (more) attention, and likely would elicit the predator-prey response in the nice lady with the pistol. I was not altogether certain that I really would enjoy the starring role of “Prey” in this production, and so, while the voices in my head held their debate, and then broke out for focus group discussions, I longstepped my way down the porch, and into the street.

Heinrich was collecting the straps, board, sheets, blanket and whatnot useful in comfortably transporting our patient, and I walked right up to him, and in the scholarly, educated, calm, thoughtful manner of speech for which I have become justly famous, brought him up to date on events within the domicile. What I said was, and I quote directly, “G! G! Guh! Guh! Biigggg! Biggg, guh!” Several choruses of that gibberish followed, until The Nice Lady With The Gun appeared on the porch, and I finally orchestrated a semi coherent thought. “We go now!?”

Of course, calm as could be, Heinrich grasped the handie-talkie, and began to bring Dispatch up to speed.

Dispatch, Medic 8. We need police here, my partner reports that there is a woman with a gun inside on our scene.”

Dispatch did not require a lot of time to process this. “Medic 8, have you cleared the scene?”

Negative, our patient is still inside.”

Dispatch’s opinion of that plan? “Medic 8, clear the scene! Immediately!  Police are on the way!  Repeat, CLEAR THE SCENE!” 

At this point I was in the passenger seat, listening to all the wisdom Our Friends At Dispatch were sharing with Heinrich, and wordlessly testifying to their TRUTH! Heinrich debated the ethics of unassing the scene wherein our patient lay, vs returning to save lives another day (the latter course of action I enthusiastically supported), with dispatch, articulating the position that we could not leave our patient.

I had my own thoughts on that matter, mostly along the lines of WHY THE F4CK WERE WE NOT IN THE NEXT PRECINCT BY NOW?! While this conversation continued, and I slunk down in my seat, thinking invisible thoughts, one of the gentlemen from the scene, he of the “Alright, m0th3rf4ck3r, now you gonna DIE!” insight, came to MY side of the truck, grasped the sill of the door, and asked, “You all ain’t gonna leave me here, are you?”

I started to roll up the window as fast as I could (no, I do not know why), and told him, “Mister, if you do not pull your fingers back right quick, I ain’t gonna leave ALL of you here!”

So, as it happens, if you really feel a burning need to know just how many officers DBCPD has on duty, and with access to a car, at any given time, I recommend that you find a seat across the street from a scene wherein an EMS crew has just called “Medic in Trouble!” Let me tell you, it made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside, as car after car squealed to a stop, and officer after officer piled out ready to kick ass and take names. Fortunately, by this time, Ms. Gottagun had strolled down the street and into another house altogether, and the officers declared the scene secure. Our friend of the tub-strike (remember him?) got bundled onto a spine board, and trucked off the TLHTTIC.

No medics were harmed in the telling of this tale. For some of them, however, their foundation garments will never be quite the same shade of not-brown.

Life in Da City!

Doberman Overdose

 

So, I was working Medic Seven with Doug. We caught a run for an overdose, and proceeded to the call. Calling dispatch to announce our arrival on the scene, we stepped into the autumn evening.

So, there was (and, likely, still is) a considerable, amorphous, body of knowledge, that might be termed “street smarts”. For example, there is what we called “Decker’s Law”, which opined that, should you be on a block, and you were sure your call was at one house on that block, but, of course, there were no house numbers, you should knock upon the door of the house that appeared most likely to be a heap of rubble by the time you went back in service. Your patient awaited therein. Or, Ciaramataro’s corrolary: the house with the steel window and door bars was your scene. Or Ivan’s Axiom: the house with the “ghetto gates” had nothing within it worth stealing. And, those folks likely knew who was doing all the B & E’s in the neighborhood, because they were likely the ones performing them.

Other insights were more what might be called stagecraft. As in, do not have your back to residents of the scene. Or, know two (or more) exits from every scene. Or, do not stand directly in front of the door. Or, and relevant to this tale, plant your boot in front of an outward opening door, because you just might not really want whatever is inside, to abruptly come outside to play. With you. Or your partner.

So, TINS©, TIWFDASL©, with Doug on one side of the door, and myself on the other. Doug was on the handle side of the screen door, and I was on the hinge side. I knocked, and announced our presence in the immortal words of yore: “Fire Department!”

The occupant came to the door, and we heard his dogs enthusiastically greeting us before the door opened. Doug, thoughtfully placing his boot before the door, allowed said occupant to uselessly push against the door as the dogs leapt, barked, and slathered their greetings. This gentleman was exhorting us, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! He could be dying in here!”

We suggested, “Sir, if you will secure your dogs, we will be right in!”

He responded, “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! Dude’s dying in here, and you all be fucking around!”

Again, Doug suggested, “Sir, you have to put your dogs up, or we aren’t coming inside! We aren’t going to get bitten by your dogs!”

Our Host again responded, “I ain’t putting my dogs up! Y’all get in here! He could be dying!”

I looked at Doug, and he looked at me. “You need to hear anything more?” Doug asked me.

“Nope, heard everything I need to hear.” Doug nodded, and said, “Let’s go!”

We got. Once in the truck, and around the corner, we went a couple of additional blocks, and called dispatch. “When you get another call to this location, send police. The resident has a couple of big dobermans, they are aggressive, and he refuses to secure them.”

I finished the run sheet, and prepped the next one. Dispatch did not disappoint.

“Medic Seven, you still near you last run?”

“Affirmative.”

“Respond to that scene, run number (number), address (address). Scout car has been dispatched. “

“Medic Seven on scene, around the corner, waiting for scout.”

The police car soon pulled up, we regaled them with the above story, and off we went. This time, the offices stood at the door, their boots were on the door, and we stood back to admire things.

The same gentleman opened the door, the same dogs danced and growled, and the same dialog. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon! He could be dying!”

One officer said, “Sir, secure your dogs.”

Our Host had considered his response. “I ain’t locking up my dogs!”

The officer asked him, “Did you just tell me somebody inside there is dying?”

“Yep, and you all are fucking around on this porch!”

The holster snaps were released. “Sir, we’re coming inside in 3 seconds. Those dogs will be secured, one way or the other. You need to lock them up, right now!”

Our Host began to protest, as the other officer placed his hand on the grip of his sidearm, and began to count. “Three! Two! ….”

Somehow, it appeared, the dogs levitated, and disappeared with a “whoosh!”. Seconds later the gentleman announced, “They’re locked up, in the bathroom!”

The officers unholstered their pistols, and led us into the house. One officer, locating the closed door, presumably the bathroom, behind which the barking continued, ensured that it was latched, and waved us past. We moved on, and found an inert soul, unbreathing and pulseless. We started CPR, transported him to TSBTCIDC, and they pronounced him.

Yeah, some runs you remember, even after the better part of forty years.

Life in Da City!

Another use for a leg abscess

 

So, I spent some time pulling calls in and around “Da Corridor”. One schedule, early in my time on da street, I was working days at Medic Eight, and found that we had what might be described as “frequent fliers”. One such soul was a young woman who evidently worked what might be termed “The Entertainment Industry”. The first time I met her, I was amazed at the abscess on her right thigh, which appeared to be as big around as my fist, and a couple of inches deep. For all the hugeness of the wound, it appeared remarkably clean. No redness, no pus, simply pink moist tissue in the wound depths. It looked like a pink crater in her leg.

A convenience sample, with no rigor to the study whatsoever, suggested that IV drug use was really, really common among these folks.

We transported her for whatever the malady-du-jour was, and went back in service. I was surprised when the same woman was in my ambulance several weeks later, crater still there, still appearing uninfected, for some other illness. I asked her, “What have you been doing for that wound? How come it isn’t healing?” She rattled off some answer, and I let it go. Report to nurse, patient on cart, inservice, and away!

Yet again, the same woman several weeks later yet, another not-persistent-leg-ulcer-related nature of call. Yet again, same ulcer, same tremendous size, same did-not-look-infected appearance. I asked her, again, what was up with the persistence of the wound.

Her answer was astonishing. “Well, when I go to do my do (administer my heroin), I can just sprinkle it in my sore, here, wrap it up in saran wrap, and I get my fix. It’s about as good a rush as shooting up, and no needles!”

Life Lesson: Ostensibly poor life choices do not necessarily map directly onto “stupid”.

Life in Da City!

Baby Huey’s Theory of Stress Management

So, my good times with Baby Huey did not end with the gentleman seeking to fall from the stretcher. Nosiree! I worked the rest of that schedule with him, and Cletus. So, TINS ©,TIWFDASL ©, when we caught a run in “The Corridor”. This was a section of Da City that was south of Da University, and renowned as a hotbed of drugs, prostitution, alcoholism, a veritable wretched hive of scum and villainy. Indeed, the fire house serving this area had so many working fire calls, that the house was known among the firefighters as “Fire Island”. Or, it was, until some wag noted that New York’s Fire Island was a noted vacation spot among the “Faaaabbulous!” of Manhattan. With that insight, the cachet of the nickname seemed to fade.

So, as it turned out, we were dispatched for “difficulty breathing”, or some such bullshit. Therefore, the three of us, Cletus, Baby Huey, and The Stretcher Ape, arrived without the police. This was not usually a problem, both because EMS was sort of cloaked in invisibility with regards to the citizen antipathy towards other uniformed services, and, even if things were jakey, there were few problems that could not be solved by transport. Prompt transport.

We found ourselves outside some bar, door open, in the warm May sunshine, and (curiously) nobody about. (THAT should have been a clue!). Cautiously, we entered. There was nobody inside, if you ignored the woman halfway slumped against the bar.

She appeared to be around a suburban sixty years of age. That would place her somewhere like a corridor forty or so. It was difficult to eyeball estimate folks’ ages, because, as a later partner would put it, “Life is tough in the ‘To” (as in “ghetto”). In any event, it became clear, both, that she was our named patient, and why she might have “difficulty breathing”. There were six red holes angling diagonally up her torso, and she appeared to have no notice of our arrival. In the course of her fall, her dentures had been halfway knocked from her mouth.

On this day, Cletus was driving, and so he rapidly assessed the situation, and pivoted to hotfoot it to the truck and retrieve the cot. Baby Huey knelt at the patient’s side, and began to wave his hands over her, just as if he were warming his chilly fingers in the (fading) warmth of her inner fire. I was fumbling with the straps of the medic bag, since I very much wanted the BVM in my hands, and similarly wanted to commence to resuscitatin’. While I was fumbling, and Huey was waving, he was saying “Relax! Relax! Relax!”

I was puzzled. Not puzzled enough to stop retrieving the ‘Bu, but puzzled nonetheless. My snap assessment of this woman was that, among her multiple medical and surgical issues, stress and tension were not prominently featured in my differential diagnosis. I shared this with Baby Huey.

“So, how about laying her down on the floor, removing her dentures, and we can start some CPR?”

I know I spoke. I heard myself. Baby Huey, however, continued his invocation, evidently seeking to exorcise her of the demons of stress. It occurred to me that just a LEEETLE more tension among her rescuers might be a bit more helpful, and I shared this new insight.

“Uh, lay her down and clear her airway, OK?”

No change. She still wasn’t breathing, he was still hypnotically entrancing her, working feverishly to allay her nervousness. AHA! BVM finally in hand, I moved to her side. I repeated myself to Baby Huey.

“Lay her the fuck down, get the god-damned false teeth out of her mouth, and then get the fuck out of my way!”

Evidently, I simply had to enunciate my thoughts in terms that he could comprehend. He stopped with the hand-waving, he ceased the incantation, dentures magically moved from her mouth, and, Viola!, she was supine on the floor. I extended her head, sealed the mask on her face, and set to ventilatin’. Baby Huey, finally struck by the Clue Bat with sufficient vigor, lined up, located her xyphoid, and set to chest compressions.

Cletus arrived right about that point in our festivities, and so Ms. Beenshot was loaded up, and trotted to the rig, whereupon Cletus skeedadled us the 4 blocks to TBTCIDC, where she expired.

No, I am not making this shit up. True story, near as I can recall it from around 40 years ago.