Musings on a decade in EMS

You know that song by Faces, Ooh La La, that has the chorus that goes “I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger“? That’s how I feel about some parts of my career in EMS. I realized today that I’m about 12 years into my EMS career, and about 7 of those years spent working full-time in EMS. A decade or so of working in public service has shown me a lot of amazing things. I’ve seen people cause each other great pain and harm, and I’ve seen the truly amazing side of humanity – people coming together to help total strangers on their worst day. I’ve responded to MVCs, fires, overdoses, cardiac arrests, asthma attacks, heart attacks, strokes, a wildfire, floods, a tornado, and more falls than I can count. I’ve worked for city, county, and private EMS services. I’ve worked as a volunteer, a part-timer, and as a career paramedic. I’ve been on ambulances, squads, chase cars, engines, rescues, and trucks. The one thing that stands out about every single place I’ve ever worked, and every call I’ve ever been on, are the people who’ve been by my side on each call.  Continue reading “Musings on a decade in EMS”

Knowing When You’ll Die

mt-neboFirstly, I’d like to apologize for not posting to the VEB blog for a couple months. The holidays kind of ran away from me and I have been particularly busy at work. Thank you for remaining a reader and subscriber, to those of you who are still with me. This post is a sermon I delivered at my synagogue back in October. Some of the references in this sermon are from the Hebrew Torah, (or the “Old Testament” as many of you may know it) and are easily found using Google if you need a refresher or are unfamiliar. For the most part, it’s not particularly religious, it’s more philosophical, and I talk a bit about EMS in it as well, so I hope you enjoy it. A number of people have requested that I share this online for re-reading or being able to share it elsewhere. If you do share it, please remember to credit back to me at this blog or by email. If you have any questions, comments, or feedback, I always welcome them at dave@ventricularescape.com or by leaving a comment below the post here. Thanks again for reading – and Happy New Year!

Continue reading “Knowing When You’ll Die”

How We Used to Die

An excellent piece I read a while ago and then lost the link before I had saved it. How do you handle elderly patients in cardiac arrest? Are these calls difficult for you? I often wonder if anyone has spoken about quality of life vs. quantity to the family members crying out for help for their loved one. Read this excellent blog post and let me know what you think in the comments section. –Dave

How We Used to Die (external link) 

Siren Malfunction?

ambulance-siren-lights-07012015I’ve been working in EMS in one form or another for about 10 years. So, although I am new to the system I currently work in, I am not new to EMS. I had still never encountered this issue before.

My partner, Bob, a true veteran of both EMS and of the system I work in, was in the passenger seat. I was driving the ambulance as we responded Code-3 to a call in a neighboring city for a fallen person/lift assist call. It was early evening rush hour, and traffic was heavy. The way our system works, when we respond to other cities, we switch to their radio channel and identify our unit and our ETA so that first responders know that EMS is enroute to their location. As we were heading down a busy state highway, I changed the siren tone a couple times to help move traffic along. My partner (again, keep in mind, a veteran with over 30 years of service in EMS) selected the proper channel on the radio and picked up the mic to call the neighboring city on the radio. He keyed up and said (city names changed for anonymity) “Anytown Fire, this is Main City EMS Medic 3, enroute to 123 Main Street. ETA 15 minutes.” Continue reading “Siren Malfunction?”

The Socially Awkward Medic

03ff4d26895997.5635dddabbf33I’m awkward. I’m introverted. I struggle sometimes with depression and anxiety. I’ve been, at one time or another, diagnosed with clinical depression, major depression, social anxiety, social phobia, and an anger disorder. You might be reading this paragraph and wondering aloud, “how the hell does he function as a paramedic?” – and you’re not alone. I wonder this sometimes myself.

There is a part of me that is unsure of myself, self-doubt abounds, especially when I’ve made a mistake, or think I’ve made a mistake. I try to always do right by my patients, to ease their pain, settle their mind, make them more comfortable. Some patients are unhappy no matter what I do. Some patients die no matter what I do. I’ve been in EMS for about 10 years now, and I’m starting to accept this reality, that dissatisfaction and death are a regular part of my job, and that there’s not always anything I can do about it except smile, do my best, and then move on to the next emergency. Continue reading “The Socially Awkward Medic”

Like my own Gramma

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My  Gramma’s hand, held by my sister’s, a few days before Gramma passed away.

We  were dispatched for trouble breathing. It had been a busy night, back-to-back calls, all kinds of patients. The day had felt rather hurried and frantic. My partner and I were both a few PCRs behind. We arrived on scene at a single family home and a woman waiting out front for us. “It’s my mom…. something’s not right…” she trails off, obviously upset, fearing that we’re going to bear horrible news when we see her mother.
The house is old, with narrow hallways and tight corners. We leave the cot in the hallway leading to the back bedroom because it won’t make the tight turn. I carry my monitor and airway bag.

As I make the turn into the bedroom, my heart skips a beat. The frail, white-haired, quiet woman in bed could have been my Gramma’s twin. Continue reading “Like my own Gramma”

A Bad Day in EMS

bad day

What does a “bad day” in EMS look like? First you have to ask if it’s a “bad day” for the EMS provider…. or for the EMS recipient. As a provider, I’ve had all kinds of days. I’ve had days where I feel appreciated by my employer, the general public, my coworkers, and my patients. I’ve also had days where I feel insignificant. In the way. Replaceable. Patients who don’t want your help, or worse, need your help and there’s nothing you can do. Family members who discover a loved one at home, deceased, having never gotten the chance to say goodbye, not even sure how long they’ve been dead. I’m a religious person, and I believe that a lot of things happen for a reason, but I also think that sometimes bad things just happen. Babies don’t die because they’re bad people or they’ve done anything wrong. Innocent drivers don’t get killed by drunk drivers because they wanted to buy groceries. In EMS, it’s our job to make scenes and create calm, direct patient care, and try to make a bad situation slightly better than how we found it. Continue reading “A Bad Day in EMS”