Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Talking to God

Several things on my mind right now, and it's hard to keep hold of any of them, given my level of exhaustion. It wasn't this hard to get ready for vacation and work last year, was it? Though perhaps the amount of prep time in the evenings had something to do with it.

I can't complain much though. So far this week, I've gotten off shift on time every night. I keep expecting it to change, but the EMS ghods are smiling on me. So far. I expect tomorrow will suck several big donkey dongs, but we'll see what happens.

After the horrible day that was yesterday, today was relatively good. I was back with Bald Partner, and the FNG (a new hire that we are training, who really is a FNG. He's been an EMT for 3 or 4 months...he's still all new and green and squeaky). We ran 2 patients, both of whom could walk. The second one was a psych patient.

I hate psych patients. Even given my ability to read people's body language and facial expressions, psych patients are just too unpredictable for me to feel truly comfortable. Today's patient was different though. Clearly suffering from some sort of psychotic break, her manifestation wasn't violence or random voices...she thought she heard God. I didn't read the paperwork (FNG did all the paperwork, thank heavens, because I would have been hard-pressed to give this patient the attention she deserved AND get my paperwork done at the same time), but she had been taken from her home from the police early in the morning, and, by her claim, had been left without food or water all day at the EEP facility. She claimed they hadn't let her read her Bible, took it from her, wouldn't let her pray, all manner of horrible things (including claiming that the Devil kept shutting her up when she tried to talk to the workers there). And all she wanted, she said, was peace. Life, peace, and to feel safe.

I felt sorry for her. She wanted help, but she was so afraid. It took me a while, but FNG and I got her calmed down. I got her to feel safe with us. Not hard when you consider we were taking her from a frenetic place with screaming people. She kept calling us her guardian angels that she had prayed to God for, and God told her that He sent her guardian angels. She cried when we left her at the psych hospital, and calmed down when we told her we would visit her if we could, and that she was safe here, and they would take care of her.

As much as I bitch about days like yesterday, when everything in the world goes wrong, days like today remind me why I put up with the shit from dispatch, and the disregard from the company BigWigs. Because I can take a patient who was terrified of the world, and make them feel safe. I can take someone who was crying from fear and turn them into tears of joy, and make them laugh. I can teach a person a very small way to assert some control over their fear, simply by teaching them to control their breathing. I made a difference in someone's life, if only for a very small amount of time. As cynical and jaded as I've become about people and life in general, patients like this really do remind me of why I enjoy this job so much.

And they very often come when I need them most. Like today, when I was questioning my whole plan to become a paramedic, and how could I survive years of dealing with crap like this, only with more letters after my name, and did I really want to do this, and how could I get out of having to do this even part-time. That, my friends, that is fate right there.

And faith. I may have a somewhat twisted view of the world, I may question my purpose here (really, who knows what their purpose is, anyway?), I may be more superstitious than is generally healthy, but I have a firm belief that everything happens for a reason. The fact that I get patients like this, who reaffirm for me that I am doing something right, after I've had days that make me question my continuation in this field, means that Someone up there is telling me that I'm on the right track. I'm doing something right.

I've been told by several people that I have a gift. The gift of empathy and understanding. I'm not sure how much of it is gift, and how much of it is humanity. I've worked with a lot of EMT's in the years, and with many of them, it's hard to believe they mean it when they tell someont to 'Take care.' Is it experience that seperates those with a 'gift' from those who just go through the motions? I don't know. I do know that Bald Partner has the same 'gift' as I am purported to have. He doesn't use his as much, since he drives on every call, but even though he tells just about every patient the same thing, he is sincere. I believe that he really does want them to get better. When we ran the code a few weeks ago, and said goodbye to the wife, he grabbed both her hands and said I'm sorry for your loss. But his words, though cliche, were sincere and you could tell she knew he meant it.

Bald Partner and I have talked about it, and both of us feel that it is a manner of treating every patient as if they were your family, and how you would want a member of your family to be treated. Maybe it is as simple as that.

In other news....a young member of my firehouse (early 20's maybe) who isn't an EMT yet had an exposure a few days ago. From talking to her this morning, there is no info on the patient who gave her the exposure, so they're doing the whole nine yards of prophylactic treatments, as far as I know. I know transmission rate is very low for most of the diseases we worry about, but it's still a scary time.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


I am toasty. I feel like I'm in exactly the opposite boat as I was in with my last job. The last job was a case of love the company and the people (well, till they laid me off, at least), hate the work. This time it's love the work, hate the company and am ambivalent about the people.

I hate the fact that the employees that bring in the money that keep the company afloat are treated like crap, because there is always more where they came from. My supervisors are blowing sunshine up Bald Partner and my rear-ends, about what wonderful employees we are, and how much they value our hard work and initiative, yet, when we show initiative, the company does not recognize it.

Take this example...The other week, we stopped to get a bite to eat since we had some time. We parked in a parking lot for a college, that had a sign posted for the local bank for no parking. There was NO sign saying that this was for the college only, etc. In the time it took us to run in and order our food, our ambulance was towed. Luckily, a bus driver saw it, told us, and took us to the tow yard, where we met the tow truck as it was off-loading our poor ambo. My partner and I had a call waiting, so I ponied up the $200 to get the truck out of hock, and we went on our way. The fact that we were early for our assigned call is just icing on the cake.

Yesterday we were told that the company would not reimburse us (me) for the expense of paying for the tow. Let me just iterate....that $200, at the measly hourly rate I am paid, is almost 2 days pay. And I am in the highest pay bracket for basics! Yet I was told by my supervisor how much he values us for just doing it and getting the job done. Well, let me assure you, supervisor-man...should something like that happen again (and I will try my damndest to see that it doesn't) I assure you I will do just like all the other crews do, and wait for you to come down to pay for the ambo. Especially since you are so much better paid that I am, and because at the measly rate I am paid, and thanks to the company's refusal to reimburse me, I can no longer afford to do such a thing.

Hell, the company won't even reimburse the toll fees you may have to pay (for the privledge of travelling through Baltimore rather than taking the time to go around it) in the chance that the truck you're in doesn't have an EZPASS. That's pretty cheap if you ask me....Going through the city easily cuts off half an hour or more of time (much more if it's rush hour), and yet we have to foot the bill for the tolls if we dare try to make the company look good.

Today I was paired with a guy, who while very nice, is in a bit of a spot and is in one of those years where nothing goes well. I won't go in to details, but suffice to say, neither one of us was paying attention, and we nearly broke the ambo. Things were caught in time, but the ambo was put out of service, and we took the last, oldest unit left in the bay (everything is out of service). Which didn't have AC in the cab.

Hoping that we still had AC in the patient compartment, and not too worried because most of our patients are elderly and don't like the AC anyway, we took a call for an hour long transport. Again, no details, but the patient was very sick, got way overheated (as did I), and it was all I could do to keep her from vomiting all over my ambo. I tried ice from a cup in a glove (couldn't find ice packs), and water on a sheet to keep her cool, but nothing much was working. It was just to damned hot. I also endured evil looks, sighs, and eye rolls from the patient's family member riding in the back with me. I continually apologized, the entire trip. I apologized as we attempted to find the correct building and endured the snarky remarks from the family member about why an ambulance couldn't find a hospital (because, you know, all ambulances and their crews know every single hospital in every single city, and every building on every single large hospital campus). I continued to apologize as we tried to find elevators, and after we got the patient on the bed. And I meant it. Had that been a family member of mine, I would have been burning up the phone lines about why such a horrible vehicle was on the AC, and can't go faster than 60 mph without vibrating wildly in the back.

I am toast. I am burnt. I am tired of caring, and having no one give a shit about me. I am tired of doing my job, and getting nothing but shit for it in return. I am tired of being used and abused, and of having nickle and dime OT being the norm rather than the exception.

I have 2 more days on full time, and then I switch to part time after vacation. I'm hoping that moving to part time will allow me to take this more in stride, but I'm wondering if I am not permanently burnt on this. I like the job, but I know most of the other companies around here are the same way, so I don't know that I can escape.

Depressing thought...

I'll try for a happier post tomorrow....after all, I go on vacation in 3 days.