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.

1 comment:

Surgeon in my dreams said...

I just found your BLOG today. I enjoyed reading it, ALL!

I hope you don't stop once your healing has taken place...