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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Preventable Grief

Sometimes working a shift on an ambulance service was gratifying because we were able to save a life, or bring the needed emergency treatment right there to the highway. For the burned patient, for example,  that assistance brought immediate relief for a significant level of their pain, because much of the pain is related to the burned area being exposed to the air. Simply covering the area with a bulky sterile gauze wrapping brought immediate relief.

However, there were all too many days when the shift brought a terrible grief. Arriving at the scene one night we found a middle-aged lady slumped over the hood of her car, driver’s door wide open. She had the wherewithal to pull her car off the highway, but had left the vehicle for some reason. Car trouble? Perhaps, but what we found when we arrived was a very dead woman. Her excessive consumption of alcohol had deceived her into thinking she was warm enough to leave the vehicle without her winter coat. The bitterly cold Montana winter night was well-below zero; the lady had frozen to death, slumped over the hood of her car. We all knew the woman, which made it all the more difficult.

The worst experience I had on this particular ambulance service was one very preventable grief. At home for the day, the call for assistance came to my partner. He phoned me that he’d be swinging by to pick me up because I was the closest member of the team to the scene of the accident. He’d drove passed my house on his way out.

“So, what do we know about the scene?” I was shouting through the little open pass-window, as I set up the oxygen and pulled out instruments for checking vital signs.

“Not much. Two kids on motorcycles at the top of the hill. One down, one hysterical.”

“Okay, I’ll take the one down and you check on the other one. Injuries?” I returned, while double-checking the jump box for necessary bandaging supplies. I tugged at the cubbie where splints were stored to be sure they had not been moved by another team member, while listening for Bill’s reply.

“Nope. No more info from dispatch, Sojourner. They’re right up ahead. See the squad car?”

“Got it. I’m out. Go ahead of me.” I had already lifted the bar and was jumping out as I spoke.

My first observation, made as I ran to the victim on the ground, was no helmets. Neither boy had a helmet on his head; none were found anywhere.

The second note taken was that the two boys looked exactly alike, dressed in bib overalls with no shirt underneath.

I heard Bill’s voice trying to calm a hysterical teenager behind me as I ran to the downed victim. Carefully, I checked for signs of injury, speaking my name and what I was doing as I gingerly poked and prodded. Bill heard me and shouted back the boy’s name so I could use it in an attempt to rouse him.

The standing boy was screaming, “Help my brother! Forget about me; help him!” He was flailing and fighting Bill’s attempts to check for his injuries and to calm him.

“He’s got someone to help him. See her; she’s my partner and knows her stuff. But, ya know what, son? If I don’t get a look at you, she’ll have my hide. You don’t want me getting into trouble, cuz you didn’t let me do my job now, do you? Settle down and let me check you out.”

“There’s nothin’ wrong with me. It’s my brother; go help him!”

Bill had a grip on the boy’s arm and managed to sit him down. “She’ll do a good job, Son. Let’s see how you’re doin’.” Bill had the BP cuff around the teen’s bare upper arm and was pumping up the cuff. It did the trick and the boy stopped to let Bill check him out, crying deep sobs throughout the brief examination.

Finally, I rocked back onto the heels of my boots; the roadside stones bit into my knees. Looking down at the supine form of this powerfully built adolescent, I remembered that he and his twin brother had graduated from high school only three weeks prior to this accident. Both were award-winning wrestlers on the high school team. Now, here he was, not a scratch on him, save the very small, deep indent noted on the left side of his temple. No bleeding anywhere; no broken bones obvious to the naked eye or palpating fingers. Nothing. He lay there like a boy taking a nap, except that his skin was ice-cold. He had no pulse and his lungs would never again breathe the fresh air of a Montana spring day.

The victim’s brother had been unable to go for help, at first; then, it was a fair distance before he found a phone to call it in. The squad car had returned him to the accident scene and phoned Bill. It was simply too late; the boy who had been with him since before he was born, had left this world for the next.

The brothers had been riding, single file, up the hill. The boy in the rear had not noticed his brother’s brake light. His front wheel clipped the lead rider’s back wheel, flipping him off. At the speed the teens had been travelling, the victim’s body was launched like a rocket. He landed on the stony ground with a single stone causing a deep depression of the temporal bone on the side of his head. Had he been wearing a helmet, his life might have been saved and only the helmet would need to be replaced. The doctor said that he had been killed instantly; there was nothing that could have been done, even if the brother had found help sooner. The young man’s sojourn on this earth had ended that bright, sunny day on the side of a gravel road; the agony for his twin had just begun.

As for me, it was one call I’d never forget. As soon as I walked through the kitchen into the living room, I knew my parents had been listening to the police radio in our home. One look at their compassionate faces broke my stoic resolve; I dissolved into uncontrollable sobbing in my mother’s arms. He was so young, a few years older than me. His death was so preventable, but now it was too late.

I never again rode my motorcycle without my helmet, becoming a real crusader for helmet safety.

Some asked, “Where is God in this tragedy? Why didn’t He step in and make the brother see the flash of the red brake light at the last minute; God’s done it for others, hasn’t He? Why let this young man, with his whole life before him, die on the side of the road with not a scratch on him, except that tiny dent in just the wrong place?

What I understand about God is that He is sovereign. While God loves us more than we could ever imagine, God is the One Who makes these decisions, having all knowledge, both in the past and through the future. Yes, the boys should have been wearing helmets. That’s a given, but it’s more than that. God has given us a certain number of days for this sojourn on earth. Then, there will be a time for all of us when we stand before him to give an account of the life He’s given each one of us. None of us know that date; age has so little to do with that final appointment with our Creator. We would do well to live as though today is the day!

****May you be blessed with God’s personal revelation of just what He has done for you as the final days of Passion Week 2013 come to a close!****

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Victims Known

Arriving at the scene of an accident, only to discover that that unconscious victim on the ground is the younger sister of one of your lifetime friends, really gives the ol’ heart a jolt. Not knowing the victims made caring for them a lot easier for me.

The high school girl mentioned above had turned the handlebars of her three-wheeled ice cream cart a bit too sharply, tipping it over. Half of her body was still under the cart; gasoline had already soaked her long blond hair, continuing to spill around her head.

Extreme caution was taken in all movement near the girl; a spark from the gravel underneath could be deadly. I knelt on rolls of bulky gauze under each knee to do my emergency assessment. Gayle* was breathing, which was good, but being soaked in gasoline also meant that she was breathing in gasoline fumes. She would likely develop pneumonia as a result, but we could minimize the damage to her fragile lung tissue by getting her out of there and on to oxygen as soon as possible. The flow of fuel was stopped, the cart righted. Ever-so gently I secured a cervical collar around her neck and moved her onto the wooden backboard; nothing metal could be used.

Once inside the ambulance, I hooked her up to the O2 and began removing her clothing. Gayle’s outfit was new, so I took special care to use the seams to cut off her clothing, making a return to use possible with a bit of sewing once she was well. Next I soaked up the gasoline from her hair, rapping her head as best I could without changing the position of her head.

I spoke to her the entire trip to the hospital, but Gayle didn’t regain consciousness until we moved her from the vehicle to the Emergency Room. As is often the case, Gayle’s disorientation caused her to be immediately combative, arms flailing, legs trying to get her body off the ambulance cot. Security straps prevented any exit, but the straps could cause abrasions if she didn’t stop. “Shhh, Gayle, its okay. You’ve been in an accident and we’ve brought you to the hospital. It’s okay. Your mother has been called and she’ll be here soon.” The mention of her mother calmed her down; she collapsed back onto the cot.

Shortly, we had Gayle in the curtained enclosure of the Emergency Room and the staff began their work, while we retreated with our gear. A cup of coffee would steady my own nerves, as well as prepare me to talk with Gayle’s mother.

Our young victim, now a patient in the hospital ward, smiled when she saw me enter her room. No doubt, she was relieved to have someone there who could explain things to her mother. I did so and promised to return to check on Gayle as often as I could.

It happened that she did, indeed, develop the pneumonia, which was the main reason she had to stay in the hospital for a week or so. She quickly recovered from the mild concussion, but her lungs had been burned by the gasoline fumes. Gayle recovered just fine, though the stench of the gasoline didn’t easily leave her lovely locks.

One hot, sunny summer day, I worked around the house, pager clipped to my waistband. I wanted to be outside, doing work in the garden, but knew better. If a call came in for the ambulance, I had to be clean and not make the victim wait until I had a shower! Bill was out filling the vehicle with gasoline and giving it a good wash when the call came in.

“Call Bill and tell him I’ll meet him at the pool. I’m only four blocks from it now and can get there before he does. How old is the boy?”

“Not sure, but not old enough to have the smarts to stay out of the deep end of the pool until he can swim!”

I grabbed up a couple of different sizes of the curved rubber airways and ran for the city pool on the edge of the park. The heat of the sun beating down on me as I pumped my booted feet over the cement finally brought me to my own senses. Slow down, or you’ll need the oxygen yourself when the ambulance gets there, I told myself, changing to a fast walk.

Once the pool came into sight, however, I ran full-out to the cluster of swimsuit-clad bodies.

“He…he didn’t come up. He jumped in over there, “ the lifeguard was pointing to the ten-foot line on the side of the pool, “and just didn’t come up. The kids began yelling at me, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It’s always noisy in here, ya know?”

“It’s okay, just tell me the story.” I was already down at the side of the young boy, a weak pulse, but no respirations. I inserted the airway and began breathing for him.

“Well, finally, I just jumped in where they were pointing and…and…I saw him at the bottom of the pool. I pulled him up right away but he never moved. I guess someone called you, but I …I—“

“It’s okay; I’ve got him. Get me some towels to cover him.” I spoke between breaths into the airway I’d placed over those dark navy-blue lips. I continued to feel for his pulse between breaths. Once there was none, but a pre-cordial thump brought it back.

Finally, I heard the blare of the siren. The cervical collar was carefully secured to his neck, and the boy slipped onto the backboard for transport to the waiting ambulance. Fortunately, Bill had thought to grab the warm blankets so I could wrap the still unconscious victim, leaving the towels behind. “Tell his mother we’re taking him to St. V’s.” I was already running with the wheeled cot, but heard the Roger that, shouted behind me by the deputy sheriff who’d just arrived.

The oxygen hooked up, I rapped his small upper arm in the blood pressure cuff. The BP was really low; but at least, he was breathing on his own now. He’d coughed up a lot of chlorinated water at the poolside, before beginning to breathe. Respirations were labored but, at least, they were there! His lips weren’t pinking up as quickly as I would have liked, and he didn’t respond to anything but deep painful stimuli.

“Know who that kid is?” Bill shouted through the little window between the cab and back of the ambulance.

That’s when I took a good look at him. He did look familiar. “No, didn’t you get his name?”  

In such circumstances, Bill was normally the one filling out the paperwork while I tended to the victim. “He’s Timmy Walters*. You know his sister, don’t you?”

I stared down at the young victim, so small on that cot. I gulped out my affirmation, as the tears began to fall. Timmy still didn’t move, though I knew he could because he did when he was choking on the pool water. His lips were still so dark, his face so grey. I didn’t know if he’d make it. I mentally re-scrolled through all the possibilities of anything I might have left undone. Nothing came to mind.

I always prayed silently for the victims as we transported them, but now my heart really ached for Timmy to wake up and return to his normal color.

Once we transferred paperwork and victim to the ER staff, I headed for the chapel, not the cafeteria. “Hey, Sojourner, c’mon, let it go; you did what you could. Let’s get some coffee.”

I waved Bill off and kept walking. “Wait for me there; I’ll find you in the cafeteria.”

I wanted to wait for Patty, Timmy’s mother, but didn’t have the time. I needed to get the vehicle back to the ambulance barn; our shift was about over. It was a quiet return trip; my thoughts stuck on the memory of Timmy’s limp body with the ghastly coloring. He, definitely, needed a miracle.

I visited Timmy not long after he had regained consciousness; his mother sat by his bedside. It was so good to see him awake again. The reports were good, though cautionary. Everyone was hopeful that God would finish the miracle He had begun in this small, twelve-year-old boy.

I’d heard Timmy had been discharged from the hospital, but had not heard if he was back to his normal health or not. In fact, I didn’t see him again for more than four years.

I was early, hoping to get a good seat for the evening’s beginning session of church camp. There was a bustle of activity, not the least of which was around the placement of all the cords of the sound system. Microphones were tested, volumes adjusted from all over the auditorium. A flash of a dark Afro haircut, so fashionable that summer, caught my eye. A teenage boy, still in the process of filling out those muscles but well on the way, turned to smile at me.

I returned the smile, convinced of the identity of the adolescent assisting in setting up the sound system, but he, clearly, had not a clue who I was. “Hey, welcome to camp. Find a seat; it’s still about half an hour to the start.”

I did as suggested. While Timmy, now only known as Tim, rushed back to his duties. I sat with tears in my eyes, grateful to serve the mighty God who had, indeed, finished the miracle a drowning boy had needed that summer day long ago.

*Actually, all names have been changed, not just Gayle’s and Timmy’s.

****Field Medicine: Preventable Grief…Next Post

Friday, March 8, 2013

Not in Any Book

Stapled hand-outs, chapters in books and practice with all sorts of equipment offered a basic idea of what I should encounter on any adrenalin-depleting ambulance run; however, there are things that they just don’t put in all of that paperwork!

Still in the early days of training, working an accident, I mostly did the scut work and watched others do what I was learning in class or practice sessions. That was fine with me; my heart raced fast enough just to be in that position of little responsibility. During the actual ambulance call, my brain constantly scrolled through material I’d read, figuring out the why’s of what I was seeing my colleagues do and anticipating their next step. Truly, there was a ton of stuff to remember and assimilate into the space of a few critical minutes.

If the dispatcher had given enough information, my training partner gave me instructions, as emergency items were pulled from cubbie holes and bins around the periphery of the ambulance. The sound of the siren, the roar of the engine accelerating intermittently as we made our way through intersections and onto the Interstate highway to the accident scene, along with the bodily tossing around that goes with being in the victim’s end of the ambulance, all made hearing any instructions a challenge. Needless to say, the instructions were not repeated; get it the first time was the unspoken understanding.

“Car exploded, on fire, victim thrown from car. May be others. Follow me.”

Bulky bandages were squeezed into the several others in the Jump Box, which was tossed to me. Oxygen tubing was rammed onto the port just as the driver threw open the door. As soon as my feet hit the ground, I moved aside for the trainer, who was Marie on that day. Together, we ran full-out towards the victim, lying next to the smoldering vehicle.

“Any more vic’s?” The trainer shouted to the uniformed officer, while glancing back to see Bill pushing the ambulance cot over to us. The Patrolman couldn’t hear her; he was trying to keep the onlookers away from us. “Sojourner, no bleeding, breathing okay for now. We need to get her out of here. Help Bill get her onto the cot and loaded in. As soon as you get her in, pull off the O2 tubing I hung. Break open the sterile box and get gloved. Don’t use anything on her that comes from anywhere but that box. Got that?” I nodded, while carefully rolling the lady slightly to one side for the backboard. Marie continued instructions as Bill and I lifted the board to the waiting cot. “Get a sterile mask and start the O2 at 10. I’m taking the Jump Box. Get her clothes off, a sterile sheet on. Remember,” Marie was nearly too far for me to hear at this point, because we had been moving in opposite directions, “Remember; don’t touch her with anything that doesn’t come out of that box!” I just held my hand up; I knew I could never shout loudly enough for her to hear me.

Getting the victim into the ambulance was a piece of cake, because the legs of the cot smoothly collapsed as it was pressed into the open door. Getting my short legs, with me attached, up that high was another matter. At five-foot, four-inches, I couldn’t just put my booted foot onto that high floor and slide into the vehicle with the ease of the cot. Oh no, I had to lift up one knee and then the other, scooting over to the side bench before I could pull myself up enough to sit and slide over to the built-in equipment boxes at the front. Once there, all went well, but I was grateful for the victim’s inability to see me get inside to care forhim/her! The victim might have lost confidence in the Ambulance Service.

After opening the appropriate box, I donned the sterile gloves. Putting the O2 mask on this dear lady’s head was difficult because of her burned skin. I gingerly placed the mask and tried to slip the elastic strip around her head, but the hair proved so fragile that it crumbled at the touch of the elastic, no matter how loosely I laid it over her head, Next I reached for the sterile sheet and opened the plastic, outer covering. The inner layer would protect the sheet until I needed it. I took the sterile scissors and positioned myself to begin cutting her clothing off. The plan was that as soon as an area was clear of the clothing, I would finish unwrapping the sheet, and lay it over that one portion. How I longed for Marie to get back to be sure I was doing things correctly.

I had only made a few short cuts when the door opened and Marie slipped in. One bang on the side and Bill had us in motion.

“Sojourner, what are you doing?”

As I had been trained to do, I didn’t look up but kept working as I answered. “I’m cutting off her pantyhose. Then I’ll lay the sheet over her legs—“

“Stop!” I immediately held the scissors up and turned to Marie. Hmm? I had thought she was just quizzing me to be sure I knew what to do; guess not.

“That isn’t pantyhose. It’s her skin. Take the sheet and lay it over her legs now. Come over here and I’ll move up to cut away her cotton blouse.”Marie had already donned the gloves, so I handed her the scissors.

To be honest, the very thought that I was cutting away her skin, froze my brain. I was relieved that there wasn’t anything for me to do; I was trembling.

When the clothing was gone, we carefully placed sterile sheets over her and a warm, thermal blanket. Heat loss is nearly as important as fluid loss for the burned victim.

In those days, we could carry the intravenous solutions with us, but the law still dictated that the IV be ordered by a physician. The hospital, to which we were connected on that run, did not have an on-site physician. We’d be there before he got to the hospital, so there really wasn’t much more we could do. Well, physically, that is. I prayed silently for this young woman. Yes, she was breathing, but it was abundantly clear that she had been badly burned over much of her body. Survival would mean a lot of pain for a long time to recovery.

Soon after, our victim had been admitted to the hospital. No longer a victim, but a burn patient. Though I didn’t wish anyone ill or injured in the near future, I did look forward to checking in on her the next time we made a run to this hospital.

Over coffee in the hospital cafeteria, I learned that what I had done was a common error for a rookie. What the books don’t tell you is that the victim who is inside or very near the car that explodes, has flash burns. Not that the flames lick the skin, but that the extreme heat of the explosion literally lifts some of the layers of the skin away from the body. Our victim had been wearing polyester pants, which had melted into the skin. It looked like she had been wearing tan-colored pantyhose, when it was actually her skin.

Sadly, or perhaps in God’s mercy, the lady succumbed to the burns. Her lungs had not been able to recover from the heat’s attack on her fragile lung tissue.

As hard as it was to work at the scene of such horrible accidents, adrenaline fueling my body to move when the sight would freeze the normal young adult, the death of a patient always affected me for longer than I’d like to remember. Learning that it is God who knows best and decides the outcome is a very hard life’s lesson for a twenty-something who thinks she will live forever. Seeing an agemate in an accident brought the truth of real life right to my door!

It, definitely, matters how I live; I never know when I will die and face the One Who created me, waiting for my accounting of how I spent the life He gave me.

****Field Medicine: Victims Known…Next Post

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Field Medicine: Humbling Introduction

Following my return from studying in Canada, I really pounded the pavement in our State’s largest city; still, employment eluded me. I was too young or too educated for any job in their classified ads. The most shocking was that I was just too honest to work in a finance company! Personal computers had not been born yet, and a Macintosh was the kind of apple one ate for a snack. Phoning companies, checking classified ads, and walking from door to door, asking for a job was our only road to employment in those days.

One morning Dad spotted an ad in our local, weekly newspaper. “How about checking into this one?” He pushed the folded back newspaper over to my side of the kitchen table.

“Dad, it’s a volunteer job. I’m not sure they even pay anything. Besides, what do I know about working for an ambulance service? Nothing, that’s what,”

“Hey, you graduated in Pre-Med; you should know something about health problems, shouldn’t you?”

“Well, sure I do, Dad; but this is a totally different kind of work here. We’re not talking about what goes on in a hospital. This is the blood and guts stage out on the highway. I don’t know anything about that kind of medical work. I really don’t, Dad.”

“Nonsense. You’re a First Aid instructor, according to the American Red Cross, aren’t you? You’ll be fine. Just give them a call; what can it hurt? They can only tell you ‘No.’ Maybe they’ll train you.”

Dad remembered that one of my courses at university had required I earn the certification as a First Aid instructor; something I’d forgotten as soon as the certificate was in my hand. Maybe he was right; it couldn’t hurt to phone. Even a volunteer job was better than no job at all.

The phone call ended up being the interview, followed by a face-to-face meeting where I filled out a one-page application form. Since I had been born and raised in the community, little was not already known about me. In this case, it was a good thing and no references were needed to secure the volunteer position as an ambulance attendant. I got the job.

With absolutely no ambition or desire to actually drive a speeding vehicle with siren and lights flashing, I really resisted the suggestion that I obtain a chauffeur’s driver’s license…just in case. I did not baulk at the requirement that I complete a course for Emergency Medical Technicians, with a focus on Ambulance (EMT-A.) I knew that this was something I needed to feel more competent to help roadside patients, which were known as victims. I had so much to learn! I would be on-call while I took the EMT-A course, not after its completion.

The first time I answered the phone and heard, “MVA. Be there in five minutes,” my racing heart nearly caused me to stumble as I quickly dressed on my way to the pick-up door. I’d better learn to sleep in more clothing. A Motor Vehicle Accident (MVA) could mean a minor event or seriously injured folks. Oh my, would I know what to do? Could I do what I would be asked in the stress of the moment? I really didn’t know; it wasn’t a hospital setting, with all sorts of support staff and gear all over the place. It was the side of a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere.

My mind flashed through all sorts of possible scenarios as I watched my partner pull equipment out of bins and hook up the oxygen. The Jump Box was tossed to me just as the speeding ambulance began to slow. “Take that and follow me. I’ll tell you what to do when I see what we’ve got. The dispatcher had no information at all; I don’t even know how many victims we have here. Follow me and be quick about it. Don’t talk unless I ask you something. Don’t ask questions; just do what I tell you. We’ll go over the case once the victims are in the hospital. Until then, don’t ask questions. Clarification is the one reason for you to speak; got that?” My training partner was running alongside me, talking a mile a minute while scanning both sides of the road and the dirt highway on which we ran. For my part, I hung on to the large, plastic tackle box that had been made to hold everything one might need to care for a roadside victim. Clinging to it while jumping out of the ambulance gave it the functional name. On this first-ever ambulance call, it also served to give me the sense that I had a part in the action. I had not a clue what to do, but I hung on to the Jump Box with all my might as I ran.

Dropping to our knees alongside the first victim we spotted, my trainer barked an order, “Take the BP. Shout it to me as soon as you get it. Vic’s got shallow breathing but I don’t see any blood. I’ll be across the road. HP says that one’s bleeding.” My training partner was gone as soon as I looked up from opening the cuff. The Jump Box went with her.

I carefully positioned the stethoscope and began to pump up the blood pressure cuff. As the cuff slowly deflated I struggled to hear the familiar beating of the heart through the stethoscope. Finally, I heard it. Mentally, I took note and rejected what I’d read on the gauge. It couldn’t be 70 for the systolic (top) number! I must have made a mistake. I deflated the cuff completely and began again; this time being more careful to press on the diaphragm of the stethoscope to be sure I heard that first beat of the heart. It was long in coming and this time it read 65. I let the cuff deflate until I could no longer hear the beat and the gauge read 45. No, that couldn’t be right; I’m doing something wrong. Unless I was working post-op recovery room, the BP was always closer to 120/80 on patients this guy’s age. I just must be doing something wrong out here on the cold, wet grassy slope next to the country highway, where the victim’s body had landed.

“Sojourner, what’s that BP? I’m not hearing you!” The shout came from directly across the road.

“I can’t really get it right. I’ve tried three times but—“

“What is it? Just tell me what you’ve got. Stop taking it and tell me what you’ve got.”

“60/40 was the last time.”

Again the shout, “Pulse?”

Oh no, I’d been too busy trying to take the BP; I hadn’t done the rest of the vital signs. Fortunately the Highway Patrol (HP) officer asked my partner a question so I had a chance to finish before she shouted a second time.

“Pulse: a fairly strong78! Respirations a shallow 6!” I returned at full volume, though my words seemed to be swallowed up by the night.

“Okay, leave him with the blankets and get over here!”  

I helped load the bandaged, stabilized second victim onto the backboard, and then hoisted him onto the ambulance stretcher. “Get in there and hook him up to the oxygen. It’s ready to go; just hook him up.”

While I attended to the victim inside the ambulance, Bill and my partner loaded the first victim onto the second backboard and carried him to the ambulance. Soon we were all flying across the gravel, headed for the interstate highway that would take our victims to the hospital.

As promised, over the de-briefing cup of coffee in the hospital cafeteria, my training partner explained the details to me. “Sojourner, did you get a whiff of your vic’s breath when you were taking his BP?”

“Uh, to tell you the truth, I can’t be sure. It didn’t make an impression, if I did.”

“The first rule is to immediately notice everything that your five senses will give you. From the moment we knelt beside him, I smelled the alcohol. I didn’t smell blood, nor did I see it. Sometimes, you can’t see it, but you can usually smell it. You’ll learn the smell soon enough. As soon as I smelled the alcohol, I knew his BP would be low. The readings you got were normal for someone under the influence of alcohol. I reckon you’ll not forget that, right?”

Boy, was that ever true! I never forgot it, or the incident that caused me to learn the lesson. My first victim recovered without incident; probably his drunken state sent him into a state of oblivion for the entire episode. His friend had injuries from which he, too, recovered.

I did get the chauffeur’s drivers license and did, on occasion, need to drive the ambulance. I never got a thrill out of it. I only sat in that position when there was no other option. Guess thrill-seeking rides are just not a part of my makeup.

I learned many important lessons throughout my training as an EMT-A…only some of which came from the textbooks and manuals! Sometimes, the books don’t think to mention some of the situations I found myself experiencing. I can truthfully admit, without God’s consolation and uplifting hand, I might not have made it.

*All names have been changed

****Field Medicine: Not in Any Book…Next Post




Field Medicine: Not in Any Book