Tuesday, December 23, 2008

'Tis the Season

I don't really have a lot of stories about holiday calls, mainly because I was usually back up in the wilds of the Poconos with the family for Christmas. I do have lots of winter calls, but somehow that doesn't equate to the same thing.

'Tis the season for stove fires,
Fa la la la la, la la la laa!
Suicides and frequent fliers,
Fa la la la la, la la la laaaaa!

Food on the stove calls and kitchen fires are common this time of year, since people start cooking a lot more with the cold weather and holidays, and then forget that they left the stove on with the pot still on the burner as they bustle off to wrap presents or whatnot. Then the kitchen fills with smoke, and they call 911.

Myth says that suicides are up during the winter holidays, due to those with family troubles or problems with the long dark nights. Truthfully, I haven't ever run more suicides during the holidays than any other time of hte year. However, I have noticed a trend towards more attempted homicides during this time of year, usually towards family members. Several years ago, a medic I know went on a call for 'one stabbed' on Thanksgiving. Turns out Son wanted to carve the turkey and Dad said no. So Son grabs the carving knife and carves Dad's arm instead.

The frequent flier calls usually do edge up around now though...either due to the cold and needing a bed and a couple square meals, or the elderly and lonely who just want someone to talk to. For some elderly, especially the widows and widowers who live alone, the holidays can magnify the lonliness, and that can magnify that little ailment that they deal with on a daily basis into something huge and troublesome. Sometimes they only need someone to sit and talk to for 10 minutes, sometimes they need an actual trip to the hospital to ease their mind (not that I like burdening the ER any more than it already is).

Another thing my old company did around this time were 'Santa Runs.' We'd take an extra crew, and the reserve engine and the front line ambulance and put Christmas lights on (ambo was available for calls). Every night was a different neighborhood, and we'd head out with supplies of mini-candy canes. Once at the start of the neighborhood, the unlucky guy would dress out as Santa and we'd replace the deck gun with an old seat. Santa would sit on the seat with the scene lights shining on him, and everyone else would hop on the tailboard or sideboards (or running board of the ambo) and we'd put the lights on and head down through the neighborhood. Short bursts of the siren would call all the kids out and the firefighters, dressed out in their turnouts with Santa hats on, would hand out the candy canes. The ambo usually had on the 24-hour Christmas music station on the radio and would blast it out the PA speakers. And just so no one felt left out, one of our Assistant Chief's neighborhood would have a Hannukah party and we would head over with bags of chocolate coins and blue lights on the engine. Lots of fun for all.

All in all, this was a good time to be at the station. Neighbors would bring candy and cookies and such for us, kids made us Christmas cards, and there was always something going on. One year we had a spare fridge sitting out in the day room (it broke and hadn't been taken to the dump yet). One of the captains and one of the master firefighter's were from an area that was well known for it's farms and 'hicks.' So someone wrapped extra lights around the fridge, duct taped up 2 old socks (one with a hole cut in the toe) and wrote 'Redneck Christmas' in black Sharpie on the fridge, and the name of the captain and the master FF under each of the socks.

You know, much as I like life now, there are times I miss living at the station.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


I can only remember being disturbed by a call a handful of times in my career as an EMT. By disturbed I mean totally grossed out, or horribly sad, or scared for my life, making me rethink that whole 'emergency button' thing.

Horribly sad.

Call for an elderly man 'not right,' possible stroke. We got there first, the medic was on it's way. I seem to have wiped the details from my mind (thank God) but I remember that the guy was just totally blank. As in, not seeing who was there, not speaking, the whole thing. The medics took him in. I have no idea what happened to him eventually, but the thing that made me cry was his wife of 60-something years, holding his hand as they wheeled him out to the ambo. "It's ok dear, I'm right here with you. Dear, it's me, look at me." I got back to quarters and cried like a baby. All the calls I've been on, and none have hit me as hard as that one. For whatever reason, I was able to empathize with her on a level I never had with any other family member before, and the idea that this man who had known her for 60+ years, had been with her through thick and thin, children, grandchildren, and who knew what else, would most likely never recognize her again. The thought terrified me, and made me mourn for her in a way that my tiny little black heart had never mourned for a patient before.

Flat-out gross:

Called to the local stacking shack (I can't in good conscious call this a nursing home, as that would imply the act of nursing and care) for an elderly man vomiting, possible GI bleed. Luckily the pt was pretty far gone in dementia. Dude had a colostomy bag, and it wasn't till we were halfway to the hospital that I looked more closely at the bag. The stuff in the bag was eerily familiar, and I realized that the same stuff in the bag was the stuff that the staff had tried (unsuccessfully) to clean off his face (to be fair, they mostly got it off his face, but there was stuff stuck to his lips and in his fake teeth). Um...WOW!!!

Terrified for the lives of myself and my partner:

Called out at 2am for the MO (mentally off, yes it is a call-category). Arrive on-scene to find the son outside. Mother hasn't taken psych meds for a bit, and is acting 'crazy, but she won't hurt you.' Against my better instincts, we go in without calling for the police. My partner, Ostrich Boy, stands just inside the doors, propping it open slightly just in case we need to bug out.

Seems the patient really hasn't been taking her meds. She's pacing in the house, wandering back and forth, not really lucid to us or her son, pretty tight in the grip of mania. The few times she stops and stares at me in her hallway, I am spooked. She has that totally blank look on her face, the blank stare in her eyes is a reminder of others I've seen just before I've been attacked.

I generally pride myself on my ability to talk to patients and get them to do what I want. I have a good bedside manner when I want it, and I've had all manner of patients open up to me. So I talk to the woman, keeping my voice low and slow, asking her what meds she's on, asking her if I could take her BP (son says she's also HTN and called someone earlier this evening cause she didn't feel well). She has a few moments of calmness, when she asks her son to find her meds cause she really needs to take them. He finds them and she takes one, but continues her pacing. My partner and I stand in the hall, waiting for the resolution. Ostrich Boy has already called for local PD to come without lights and sirens but to not hang around. By now they are waiting in the parking lot for us, and dispatch has called us 3 times, checking our status and making sure we're ok. Another 10 minutes goes by and she's finally calm enough that she lets me take her BP. Her face is still blank for the most part, but her eyes are no longer empty, and I can see humanity flickering deep in there. Her BP is high, and we tell her we'd like to take her to the hospital to get checked out and maybe get better meds. Her son pleads with her, and, now that she is clear, she is more worried about him studying for his final tomorrow (later today) than she is about herself. He convinces her that he'll study in the waiting room while she gets checked out, and she finally relents and lets us take her in. I can tell she's a good mother. She doesn't live in the best part of town, but her son seems like a good kid, and the whole ride to the ER she's crying about what a good kid he is and that he deserves better than her and how proud she is of him.

All in all, it ended well, but there was a period of time there when I was sure I'd be pressing that emergency button on my radio.

Friday, December 5, 2008


I often bitch about people who I take to the hospital because they call 911 for what I feel are spurious reasons.

But I am often confronted by the feeling of whether or not I should feel sorry for them. Usually it depends on my mood and how tired I am at 3am. I really do try to remember that 'they feel it's an emergency' but when you find people who just use the system cause it's there, it's hard to remember that.

Here are my 2 big conundrum makers.

LOL or LOM (Little Old Lady or Little Old Man) calls around midnight or 0200 or so. They've been sick for a few days, not serious, but now they want to be seen. No fever, vomited sparingly (ie, no dehydration). Doesn't feel comfortable driving at night, especially when they're feeling poorly. Usually you hear from them, 'I'm so sorry to call you at this late hour. Normally I wouldn't, but I just feel so poorly and it's getting worse. I don't know that I can wait till morning to see my doctor.'

These people I generally feel sorry for, and have very little irritation with them. Sometimes they don't even have a car. They're almost always on a fixed income, so getting a cab to drive them may be a hardship, and who knows what kind of health insurance we're talking about, so maybe they've tried a clinic but the wait was too long or something. At any rate, these people usually have some kind of hardship, and they certainly don't abuse the system the way younger people do (sweeping generalization here though...) I have had to convince elderly people to go to the hospital when they are having 10/10 crushing chest pain and trouble breathing.

The second ones are the 30 or early 40-something couples. One of them is sick, and has been for a while, limited vomiting, low fever...generally the same symptoms as above. Usually they call between 0200 and 0400, sometimes earlier, because they are sick and woke up the spouse, or what-have-you. The line usually goes something like this. 'Sorry to call you, but I've been sick for the past couple days. My doctor won't see me till next week, but I'm feeling really sick and threw up twice 2 days ago.'

The spouse usually chimes in here. 'I'd take him/her myself, but the kids/babies are sleeping, and I don't want him/her to drive by themselves.'

Where I ran, we were 10 minutes from 2 hospitals. These people generally also had at least 2 cars in the driveway, and very nicely decorated houses with all the ammenties. These people were the ones I would get irritated with. I totally understand not wanting to wake up the kids or the baby to drag them to the hospital for an unknown amount of time. There are cabs you could call, I'm sure you have neighbors (though perhaps not at 0200). What made you think this was an emergency in any way, shape, or form?

So the conundrum is this. Why, given a fairly similar situation, should I feel sorry for the older person, but have nothing but contempt for the younger family person*? If I am irritated at one, shouldn't I be irritated at both?

And don't get me started about the 40-something people who call us out at 0300 because they don't feel good, but have an appointment with their doc in the morning, and don't want to go to the hospital. Sometimes I suspect the spouse just called 911 to keep the sick one from bitching anymore.

*The middle-aged guy who was vomiting all evening and trying to wait to see his doc in the morning, and couldn't go 5 minutes without dry-heaving is totally exempt. Although he DID try to get in the car and drive. Backing out of the driveway made him hurl.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Non-Medical Rant

And now, from the caffiene-fueled anger center of the Gnome...

I watched Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer last night.

When the hell did the PC-idiots change friggin' Rudolph?

I can't remember what the song originally was, but it's no longer there. The song when Rudolph and his new misfit pal Hermie the wanna-be dentist leave Christmastown, they sing a song. But the song I heard last night is definately not the same as the one I heard as a kid.

And, pointed out to me by a friend who watched it with his young daughters (I was in the kitchen making cookies), they have removed the part where Hermie reaches up to the general area where the 'Bumble's nuts should be with his pliers and squeezes. The 'Bumble gets a funny look on his face, and Cornelius tackles him off the cliff. Now Cornelius just tackles the 'Bumble off the cliff.

Who the hell was the PC nut-job who made these changes? It's not ok anymore to teach kids that if you act like an asshole, you'll get kicked in the nuts?

It's not ok to sing whatever it is that song is about? (I can't remember the words off the top of my head). Well, hell, while we're at it, why don't we just stop showing Rudolph, since it's a movie that shows that not everyone is a special snowflake, and that sometimes you get made fun of. I mean, we wouldn't want to offend or upset any kid who gets made fun of in school. Seriously...even Santa tells Rudolph's dad that he should be ashamed for having a kid who's different than everyone else. If anything should offend someone's sensitive sensiblities, that should. Isn't Santa supposed to be an equal opportunity gift-giver? Clearly that mind-set doesn't transfer over to those in his employ.

Come to think of it, Santa gets made out to be a real dick in this movie. He's snappy with the elves over that stupid song, he tells Rudolph he's no good cause he's got a light-bulb for a nose (although as soon as Santa needs something from Rudolph, that light-bulb is great and wonderful and awesome and Rudolph is now a member of the community again), gets mad at his wife for trying to cheer him up...the list goes on.

While we're at it, why not just cut out the whole Rulolph song from kid's holiday songs? After all, Rudolph gets made fun of and ostracized by the rest of the reindeer community cause he's got a glowing nose. That might offend someone who has rosatia or something. I mean, this is a clear instance of discrimination based on appearance. Where are the lawyers? Someone should be pushing Rudolph to sue for discrimination and pain and suffering. Come to think of it, are those elves legal immigrants? Does Santa have a license for making toys? How many reindeer does he have? Does he have a license for owning more than 'X' number of livestock? Once the lawyers sue on Rudolph's behalf, they should go after Santa for all those violations.

Honestly people. Come on. Surely there are more and better things you could be censoring than a stupid fucking kid's Christmas special (note, I said CHRISTMAS, not HOLIDAY. Last time I checked, Santa was associated with Christmas). What's next, changing Frosty because it might offend magicians who feel that the magician in the movie paints them in a bad light? How about taking out all instances of Lucy taking the football away and making Charlie Brown fall, because that could upset people who aren't good at sports. Not to mention all the times Charlie Brown gets hit with the ball in baseball and gets his clothes knocked off. Someone may get offended at a semi-naked cartoon character.

Many generations of kids grew up to be perfectly fine adults seeing that stuff on TV (don't get me started about Looney Tunes being too violent). In fact, I don't know any sane adults who think that it's ok to kick people in the nuts and tackle them over a cliff for being a jerk (much as some of us dream of doing that), and I don't know anyone who's been scarred for life because a talking reindeer with a lightbuld for a nose, and an elf who wants to be a dentist rather than make toys say they're misfits.

There is only one thing I personally find insulting about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And that is when Donnor essentially tells Rudolph's mother to 'stay in the kitchen and make me a pie, bitch!' while he goes out and looks for Rudolph (cause, you know, he's the big bad male with horns on his head. Never mind he's useless in a crisis and gets his ass knocked the hell out by the 'Bumble.) Of course, the 'women-folk' go out anyway, and of course get into trouble, and have to be saved by the men. But you know what? This stupid movie is a MOVIE that was made in the 50's or something, when that was the attitude of the day. And if I feel that it would anger me too much (not that it does, because I know how to take something in the context of the time in which it was made) I can always exercise my right to not watch it. I don't need some weenie in a suit who got beat up by the other reindeer making my damned decisions for me.

If you can be offended by a stop-motion photography movie about elves and talking reindeer, I think you have bigger issues.

If you can beat me down the hill to the ambo, you don't really need one...

Last story in the blizzard trilogy, I swear...

John-Boy of the first evening had left sometime during the second day, and in his place was a new driver. A nice enough woman, I'd worked with her enough to know that her EMT skills were not that great, but she was a good partner, and knew enough to know what her limits were. We got along well, but she didn't drive that well. Normally, she was slow, seemed to hit every pothole in the road, and often got lost once off the main roads. On a day when the roads were mostly covered with an inch or more of snow/slush/ice, the slow driving was a plus, the potholes were non-existant, and it was hard to get lost on the back roads when a huge county plow/dump truck with a flashing yellow light was leading you in and out.

It was evening when we got toned out. I know we hadn't eaten dinner yet, but it was dark. The call was for the possible stroke. 'This better be an 80 year-old woman who is fucking paralyzed on one side,' I growled. (Most times, 'stroke' calls are really strokes, but for some reason, they send it BLS rather than ALS, since 'there is nothing that ALS can do for a stroke.' No really...I swear...but that's a rant for another time...)

We get to the road leading to the development, but it hasn't even been touched since the snow began (it had stopped by now). There is a small plowed-out area at the end of the road, mainly just the place where the plow was pushing all the snow from the main road across the street.

Oh, did I mention this road we STRAIGHT UP A FUCKING HILL????? So help me God, it looked like it was straight up. Slow Driver pulls across the street (the ass-end of the ambo is sticking out into traffic) and says to me, 'Where do I park?' Mind you, there is zero road shoulder.

'Just pull into the clearing as much as you can to get us off the main road,' I tell her. What does she do, but pull practically straight in, launching the ambo's front tires into the pile of plowed snow. I told her, 'That's not what I meant, exactly,' but it's too late, we're stuck. She tries to back out, but all she's doing is digging holes with the tires. We decide to leave it as is, call for a back-up just in case, and slog up the hill (dragging the Reeves, the O2 bag, and the aide bag). I'm wearing my bunker pants, and the snow is packed in up to my knees, which ironically, is lower than the level of the snow I'm slogging through (I could have sat down without moving much). We finally get up to the house, and knock on the door. A middle-aged woman answers, with a 4 inch thick pile of folders and papers in her hands.

Now knowing this to be a complete BS call, totally exhausted from dragging my ass and all the associated crap for a real stroke up a huge fucking hill with snow up to my hips, I nevertheless attempt a smile. Slow Driver is at the bottom of the stairs with the O2 bag and the Reeves, since the stairs are about 10 ft off the ground, and are coated in ice, and the landing up top is even worse. 'We're with the ambulance, Ma'am. Did you call 911?'

'Why yes I did, but that was 20 minutes ago. What took you so long?' I want to say Two feet of fucking snow, bitch. But I don't, and she goes on without really waiting for a response from me. 'Well, you see, 2 nights ago while we were eating dinner, I experienced some slurring speech, fuzzy vision, and some tingling in my right arm. But it only lasted about 15 minutes, and then went away. Yesterday afternoon I had the same thing, only it lasted a little longer, maybe 20 minutes, right Frank?' Frank, who I assume is her husband, is a little squirt of a man, and stands behind her, nodding emphatically at all she says.

'So why did you call us tonight?' I ask, forcing my eyeballs not to roll back and stare at my brain.

'Well it happened again tonight, for about 10 minutes so I figured I would go to the hospital. I brought all my medical records too.' This she says proudly, as if it will be a huge boon to the hospital that all these papers will be around. Because, you know, no one in the ER knows how to get your damned records from the computer.

'What time did this happen?' I ask. Meanwhile, we are still standing outside. She hasn't invited us in, and normally a patient or family member will step back from the door to allow us to at least access the light of the house for a proper assessment. But she stands directly in front of the door, blocking what little light is coming out, and not allowing me to come in. At least I have the warm air coming from the house. Poor Slow Driver is stuck 10 ft below me, on the snowy walk. The temperature is dropping, and the wind is picking up. The roads are not going to be nice soon.

'About 3 hours ago,' she replies. 'Frank, get my coat.' Frank scurries to get her coat, and hands it to her, along with her keys, cards, and cell phone. She hands me her 'medical record' while she pulls the coat on, and then steps out, oblivious to my caution about the ice. Somehow I make it down the steps carrying the aide bag and her medical records, which she takes from me the minute she's on less slick ground. I point towards the ambo at the bottom of the hill. 'That's our ambulance,' I tell her. Slow Driver has already headed down the hill to work on getting us un-stuck, and I struggle down the hill, dragging the aide bag and now the O2 bag (Slow Driver left it so she could high-tail it down). The patient has set off at a pace worthy of Sir Edmund heading down Mt Everest, and is down at the ambo before I can get halfway down the hill. I finally make it down, and find that Slow Driver had been digging more holes with both the back and front tires. I check with dispatch to see where our back-up is, and fill out the paperwork. The back-up that arrives is an ALS unit, whose medic is less than impressed to see an upright, walking talking stroke patient. I explain that we got stuck, and all the woman needs is transport. He rolls his eyes and they take off.

So, now we are stuck. Slow Driver has dug holes so badly that the entire weight of the ambo is now supported by the snow packed in underneath it. And remember, this is not new-fallen snow. This is snow and ice plowed from the roads, so it is hard and chunky. I am in turnout pants, with snow packed up to the knees, rubber turnout boots, and my job shirt. There is no hat, there are no gloves. I take out the shovel and Z-hook from the side compartment, and attempt to remove enough snow to at least allow one set of tires traction. No dice. I go back to the front of the ambo to get rid of the snow behind the front tires. Still nothing. I try not to snap at Slow Driver's inability to do anything but gun the engine when she tries to rock it out (not that rocking an automatic transmission is the easiest thing to do). I'm standing to the side during one of her attempts to gun it out of the space when I hear the knocking of metal on metal. Sure enough, we've thrown a chain. But only half a chain, since the side in by the dualie is stuck fast. Maybe I can get it off when we get out and I have a bit more room.

Luckily, about 30 minutes after our patient left with the ALS unit, a county plow comes up and takes pity on us. He comes at us from the front, piling up a good bit of snow to protect the ambo, and pushing the ambo backwards out of the snow. He also gives us some heavy-duty zip ties to hold the chain on, swearing that it'll work. We thank him profusely, and head on our way home.

The trip home took at least an hour. Mainly due to the stops we had to make to replace the zip tie after it broke. We are crawling at about 10 mph, well below the 25mph you are required to use when driving on chains. I am hungry, cold, and my hands are wet and frozen and dirty. About 10 miles from the station we run out of zip ties, and have to just pray to make it home.

Once back at the station, we find a lovely thing has happened. The chain has caught on the sheet metal that comprises the wheel bed for that wheel, bending and pulling it up so that is caught on the chain that covers the rest of the wheel. We can still drive, but it just continues to bend the metal. We put ourselves out of service, and call the mechanics, one of which come out to the station to see what he can do. Unfortunately, our air line in the station is compromised, and the engine is out on a run, so there is no way to run the air jack to raise the ambo on that side to pull the wheels off and cut the metal. He manages to get the chain off, and heads back to headquarters, where we will meet him shortly. The metal sheet is touching the tire, and there is not enough room to get leverage to cut it off or bend it back.

The engine gets back, we tell the captain we're heading to HQ, and slowly head out with no chains. The problem is fixed there (the metal is cut off) and we find out we aren't the only ones experiencing issues. The truck tried to get down a road in a development known for tight roads, and not only slid and hit a couple cars, but was stuck and had to be towed out. The ambo at HQ went on a call with the medics for a heart attack, and there were no plows available to get them down the small side road. The patient ended up staying dead because they had to walk a quarter mile down the road in knee high snow with the cot. The young EMT I was mentoring had a hard time with this one, as she was riding on the medic unit at the time. She couldn't wrap her head around the fact that he was already dead when they got there, and regardless of how much CPR or drugs they pushed in the guy, he would likely have stayed dead. The fact that it was her first death didn't help. What did help was that they went on a labor call not long after, and they helped deliver the baby at home. Circle of life and all that.

We get back to our station, and put ourselves back in service, now with only half a wheel well on one side. The chains go back on, and I get ragged on by the engine crew for throwing a chain and allowing my ambo to get dinged up from the chain banging around.

Yeah, the blizzard was much more exciting than the un-hurricane we went through later. That was just boring.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Here's Your Sign..

First things first...

Yay! Someone commented on my blog! I am loved! Thanks EE, glad you like it, and I hope things are going well with the new little one. Good to see that the pup is doing better as well.

So, in the last post, I wrote about the stupid things people call you for during bad weather. I have much more where that came from...that was just the one day. The next day had a fun call as well, which I will relate later. This post is all about the Night the Snow Started Falling.

As some may know, here in the People's Republic of Maryland, snow is considered to be a strange thing. Many people born here don't see it often enough to understand how to drive in it, and for many of those who move here from colder climes often quickly forget how to handle themselves in the cold and snow, perhaps having had their brains bleached by the intense summer sun (which has gotten so hot a co-worker of mine had the nylon string on her fuzzy dice in the car melt. I'm sorry, but your damned car SHOULD NOT get that hot unless you are in a fucking desert).


Anyway, the snow (really, and precipitation falling from the sky, regardless of temperature) seems to turn the people around here to mush-brained, mouth-breathing idiots. On this particular night, we were hunkering down, waiting for the other shoe to fall as soon as the snow started (the night already had boasted a woman attacked by her son, who insisted we come into the house with her while the son was still there. Um, no). The snow had started falling lightly, and soon the roads were covered with a good 2 inches of the stuff. Tones drop for an MVA (we call them PIC's) on a road that is at best a hell to drive in the sun. As we head out, driving slowly, we are updated. Now dispatch is telling us that the patient is at home. We pass the car in a ditch, and make it to the house. The patient is a woman who was driving home, slid into the ditch, but was only going about 10 mph anyway. She has a cut on her hand from her fingernail. We, of course, offer to take her to the hospital, but she refuses, and we head home again. The engine has beaten us there, and is in the middle of putting on their tire chains, as the snow was getting too deep to use the on-spots anymore.

My driver, who otherwise was a reasonable, well-intentioned man, and a good partner, decides that he doesn't want to wait for the engine to finish with the blocks, and decides that he could put the chains on himself, without raising the tire up. First he tries with the air-jack, but the air line in our station runs under the concrete floor, and has a hole in it somewhere. The engine is still on blocks, so we can't use their air chock. So he decides, on the virtue that he did it with his daddy's pick-up truck, that he can just lay the chains on the floor and drive on them, then hook them up.

Insert banjo music here.

He decides to do one at a time, 'in case we get a call.' The first one he gets on but can only hook the front. He can't get enough slack to pull it around inside the dualie. Suddenly the bat phone rings (the bat phone is our direct line to dispatch. When they call, you either have a fire in your first-due, or someone screwed up). Sure enough, we have a first-due fire. My driver, John-Boy, is still fighting with the tire chain, only now he's frantic (having just completed Fire School I). The engine driver has literally just dragged the blocks over to me, and as soon as the engine company is dressed, they are gone. I finally convince John-Boy to go up on the blocks so we can take the offending chain (now twisted around the dualie axel once cause he spun the tires on concrete trying to move forward to loosen the chain) off the tire and just get going. After digging holes in the concrete floor, we get up on blocks and get the chain off, and follow the tracks of the engine (which is good, because the engine took the print-outs and John-Boy was cursing at me so much that neither one of us heard the address).

John-Boy parks at the bottom of the hill, at the hydrant the engine dropped at. He's parked the ambo across the road, in clear violation of the policy against ambo's blocking access that other fire equipment might need. He hops out, intent to charge the line to the engine as soon as they call for water. (While our SOPs state that ambo drivers and officers must be able to do this, it rarely happens, as the second-due engine is so close, by the time the first-in engine needs water, the whole box assignment is on scene and another engine driver usually performs the duty.) Meanwhile, the squad from headquarters is tearing (as much as a multi-ton apparatus can 'tear' in 5 inches of snow and tire chains) around the corner, with the driver motioning wildly for us to get out of the way. I can't drive the ambo. John-Boy can't hear me yelling for him. Luckily for me, Bald Old Man, who is a driver, hopped on just before we left, and moves the ambo out of the way, with a few choice words for John-Boy when he gets back to the ambo.

The fire is put out quickly, being contained to just the car port. The engine had hit an hydrant across the street from the house; the hydrant wasn't marked on the map books, and made a quick knock. However, lugging 1200 ft of frozen LDH (Large Diameter Hose; ie 4 inches or larger in diameter) up hill in what was now 6 inches of snow and then forcing it back into the hose bed was decidely NOT fun. Forcing the frozen handline and supply line that had been used back onto the engine was also not fun.

And what was the cause of this fire? The home-owner, in a fit of...something...had decided to build a fire in his (mostly) un-used fireplace that evening. Wanting to go to bed, but not wanting to leave warm coals in his fireplace, he shoveled them out into a plastic trash bag. He knew better than to leave them inside, and figured that even if they were still warm, it was cold enough outside to toss them out and let them cool. In the closed plastic trash bag. So he tossed the bag out into the carport, next to his car. Several hours later, an explosion woke the neighbors several houses down, who went outside and saw Mr Intellegent's car port on fire, and called 911. Mr Intellegent and his wife never woke up until the fire dept started knocking on their door. It was assumed that the 'explosion' was the tires on the car popping.

Ah yes. Winter here does seem to make people's brains ooze out their ears.*

Tomorrow the finish of the blizzard stories, including how my driver broke my ambo, and the patient who had to go to the hospital so badly, he beat me down the hill to the ambo in 2 feet of snow.

* People's brain's oozing out their ears during 'weather' is not isolated to MD, as I saw it happen often enough in PA. Nor do all people in MD take leave of their senses when forecasters say that 'weather' is coming....I'm sure that there are people in Western MD and up near the border of PA who are sensible about this kind of thing.