Monday, October 27, 2008

We'll leave the light on for ya!

No, my name isn't Tom Bodett but sometimes I feel like my ambulance could double as a Motel 6. This is my first EMS Taxi post so let me take a moment to introduce myself. I've been a volunteer EMT-B for about 8 years, I'm currently studying to become an EMT-Enhanced which just means I'll get to start IVs and give a few more medications. I volunteer in a small town next to a big interstate.

The interstate is where I ended up yesterday during my shift. Things have been really quiet in our county lately so when I heard the printer start whirring I couldn't help but jump up from the couch in excitement. This excitement left my rookie very confused because he hadn't heard the printer and I'm pretty sure he thought I had finally gone around the bend. I grabbed the "rip and tear" and headed out to where my driver was already sitting in the ambulance. A medical call on the interstate, the patient is having stomach pain, is sweating and is shakey.

Our first due area on the interstate is about a 12 mile stretch and the patient was just on the edge, almost into the next county so it took us a few minutes to get there. Upon arrival I note that the patient has vomited a few times, is very pale, sweaty and says he is having a hard time breathing. Due to our location on the shoulder I had the engine company shut down a lane so that we could get him into the ambulance quickly. As soon as we are in the unit I asked my driver to get a baseline set of vitals because dispatch wanted to know if ALS was needed. The first set looked good so I told them no, we would just go ahead and transport. (At that time we would have had to wait approximately 20 minutes to get an ALS unit there, about the time it would take us to get to the ER.) The patient said he was having no trouble breathing at all, his stomach was fine and he just didn't feel well.

The rookie hopped up in the back with me as we began making our way to the ER, he has only been on a few EMS calls so he is still getting the hang of it all. I asked the patient a question to which I received no reply. I asked my question again and the patient didn't move. Just as I am about to switch from "easy ride" to "get me there!" mode I noticed him pushing his pulse ox off of his finger very slowly. I asked him another question, this time even louder, and he opened one eye, looked at me and said "I am very sensitive to noise, would you shut up?"

The rookie looks at me with "WTF?" written across his face. I tell the patient I will talk quietly to him but that I need him to answer my questions. I ask medical history and I am told he is "sensitive to light, noise, smells temperature and people in general." He asked me to turn off the light, he told me the oxygen smelled horrible (we'll look past the fact that he probably hadn't showered in a few days...) he told me I talked way too loud, even when I whispered, and that the ambulance was too bumpy. Then he fell asleep and started to snore. In our 20 minute ride he woke up every few minutes to complain about the light, the smell, the bumps, the weather, the color of my hair (yes the color of my hair), the Redskins game, the fact that we wouldn't go an extra 20 minutes to his favorite hospital, and the equipment I had on him. If I asked him a question he would tell me that talking required too much effort but if I said nothing he would complain about one of the above. He would remove the cord from the blood pressure cuff that was hooked to our Lifepak 12, then he would remove his pulse ox every time I put it back on and he would do this without ever opening his eyes.

When we transferred him into the hospital bed he curled up into the fetal position, told the nurse to go away and then asked her to bring him water first. When the nurse asked him what exactly was wrong he said "my back hurts and I'm tired. I just need sleep. Can't I just sleep and you come back in a few hours?" He never told me his back hurt (even after I asked specifically) and told her he never had nausea/vomiting and that I was just rude. The nurse and I smiled at each other, you know the smile of "I'm sorry, I can't help who calls 911 and isn't he a fun patient?" I went back in to his room about 10 minutes later to drop off the cigarettes he had left in our ambulance, there he was snoring loudly. The nurse told me he said he just needed a place to sleep. The worst part? He was only 3 miles from home when he called 911.

Motel 6, we'll leave the light on for ya!


Ambulance Mommy said...

Yep. Been there. We had one that we took in so frequently, that they refused to accept her anymore. Seeing as they are a private hospital, guess they can do that.

Elizabeth McClung said...

This is a bit of a conflict; I appreciate the story and knowing that this is 60-70% of what you probably deal with. I know this becuase I live in a country (Canada) with no diability act and crappy curb cuts and sidewalk so my wheelchair casters get eaten, I get thrown, my head bounces, I go into seizure, someone calls 911. In fact, I can't really do anything without someone calling 911. So 911 knows me, of course, I have probably torn some muscles and such but I am back in my chair and say, "Please, are there no drunks that need you?" Because in my early days, when 911 was called they used to take me in and I could hear (I actually DO have sensitive hearing) the 'nicknames' for all the frequent flies as well as all the tricks the EMT's and Nurses had pulled on passed out drunks. Which made me feel like calling the Hague and saying, "Hey, want some crimes against humanity, I got some!" Particularly when they started treating me the same (hint: don't treat someone is taking boxing and used to be a national level athlete with a Ph.D. like a twit becuase she is female and has seizures or drools after).

I don't know the solution, except educating the public on when NOT to call 911. And getting the cowboys OUT of the EMT game, and people who remember that the humans they transport, however stinky or nasty, are still humans and if they want to play, "I am a superior being" then I don't know, stay at home and play games online or something; just don't risk people's health with it!

Sorry, started out sort of nice, got into a rant. I have had many TERRIBLE EMT experiences, have YET to have any EMT allow my partner to ride with or not assume she is my 'care assistant' (even though we are LEGALLY married in Canada and live in Canada!). But have also had some very nice and understanding EMT people who were very kind to me when I have actually done stupid things like tried to rock climb IN my wheelchair. One EMT got very upset, sounded like rookie becuase I wasn't going to go and he was all, "But you could have a spinal injury" and I said with the most sincere, worried, puppy eyes, "Tell me the you think I could end up in a wheelchair?"

Christopher Mader said...

I have to say, after reading the last comment I felt the need to post my own rebut. Before I went ahead though, I read the original post that prompted it. I still can't see in this post anywhere that the author was doing anything other that venting about yet another person who is misusing 911 and putting everyone else at risk while they tie up an ambulance.

Ms. McClung, from your comment it sounds like you have indeed seen the worse side of the system. We've all seen these EMT/Medics in action. The ones that are either too burnt out to care or can't seem to be able to check their egos by the time clock. They give the 911 system a bad name.

However, there are those of us that care about the patients and still get upset about the misuse of the system by drunks or drug addicts who are frequent fliers. They are a drain on the system and a blight to society. Sure they need help and that by nature is our job, to help those individualizes that have slipped through the cracks. But even the best natured emergency worker has to shake their head from time to time and wonder when will it all end.

I couldn't say I'm sorry enough for the experiences that you have encountered from your emergency workers. Also I'm saddened that you took this post to heart and left this site with a bad taste in your mouth. This site wasn't erected to upset anyone and if any post ever crosses the line, it will be removed straight away.

If you still feel upset, please feel free to email me. It's always good to get the prospective of someone who is outside this field of EMS.

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