Ask any EMS or other public safety professional what stereotypical trope in conversation they hate the most, and they’ll probably tell you not to ask “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen on a call?” – and for good reason. We don’t like revisiting those calls. We don’t need to trudge them back up into memory for your own personal entertainment. We have our own ways of dealing with the feelings and memories surrounding those calls, and a lot of them are private, sensitive topics and are not for public discussion. Certainly not around the dinner table, or standing at the grill in the backyard over a couple of beers. Not only that, but you, as an outside observer, likely have no idea the amount of trauma you’re about to be subjected to by engaging in experiencing such a traumatic experience in whatever vivid detail we decide to come up with in response to your imposition. Asking a public safety professional to rehash their “worst call ever” is like asking a loved one “what’s your most painful memory and would you mind sharing that with me just for giggles?”Continue reading “My New “Worst Call Ever” Has Arrived”
Revisiting Mental Health…. Again…. and Again…
I wrote about the Code Green Campaign back in 2016 in my post about calling a code on our mental health. I was talking about how some of my “ghosts” haunt me, revisit me, remind me of some of the worst calls I’ve ever been on. It happens to me frequently. At night. During the day. When my mind wanders. When I run into an old partner. When I run the same type of call. When I’m training a new hire and they ask a question that reminds me of a patient with the same type of symptoms. I guess since I’ve been “doing this” for 15+ years, I’ve run enough calls that I’ve got more than a few bad memories stacked up inside my head, and some of them bubble up to the surface occasionally. Sometimes I can just shake it off. Sometimes they stick around, and I sit with it for a while and think about how the call went. How it made me feel then, and how it makes me feel now. Sometimes I think about what lessons I still carry with me as a result of the call, because I try to never let a “bad” call be in vain. A very dear mentor friend of mine told me that every death in the field should be a gift in some way to a field provider, that we should still be able to learn from it, and grow stronger as providers and be able to better care for patients and their family members as a result of having gone on that call, even if we weren’t able to have a positive outcome for that particular patient. I also write things down in journals, so I can look back and reflect on them. I talk to friends and coworkers. I talk to my family, sometimes more than they would like, I think. Probably most importantly, I talk to a therapist. Not as often as I should, but I have built a trusting relationship with a clinically trained therapist who specializes in working with public safety employees, and I know that I can reach out to her when needed, and that’s a valuable tool in my mental health toolbox. So why am I revisiting this topic again, today?Continue reading “Revisiting Mental Health…. Again…. and Again…”
This lifesaver pin was presented to me to celebrate my first CPR “Save” – when, early in my EMS career, I worked as part of a team of EMS professionals to apply CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest victim, and this resulted in the patient having their pulse restored long enough to be transported via ambulance to an ER for definitive care for their blocked coronary artery. The patient lived, was able to walk out of the hospital, and to the best of my knowledge, lived a long and happy life for a good number of years after that. I wear this pin with pride, celebrating this moment in my career when I worked as part of a team of professionals to truly save a life, to help literally bring somebody back from the dead, to give them a second chance at life. To make the biggest, greatest, possible difference in a human being’s world one could ever possibly hope to make.Continue reading “Lifesaver? Hardly.”
The People Who Make Up My Life
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how people move in and out of my life. Quickly. Slowly. Suddenly and abruptly. Gradually or almost without noticing. The amount of time they spend in my life, in my physical presence seems completely unrelated to the amount of time they remain in my conscious and subconscious mind for days, weeks, and years after we part ways. Did they become a part of my life because I was born into a family they were already a key part of, as with my Gramma, and so I never knew a world without her as I grew up, forming every early memory and becoming the person I am today with so many of her fingerprints all over my way of thinking, of being, how I interact with people, how I think about the world around me? Or were they a coworker who became like a family member to me, a brother or sister, who I could trust with my life in a heartbeat, and who would trust me with theirs just the same? Were they a patient? Brought into my life by maybe the worst part of theirs, expecting me to solve their most dire problem at a moment’s notice, together for perhaps only minutes or an hour, and gone again just as fast.Continue reading “The People Who Make Up My Life”
EMS Week 2020!
It’s EMS WEEK 2020! It sure doesn’t feel like it, though. Usually as we are approaching this week, we’re talking about crew breakfasts, the EMS week banquet, service recognition events, team-building, and other fun events. Instead, our discussions are focused on things like PPE utilization, COVID alert rates, disease spread, and community fatality rates. Much of the work that ACEP and NAEMT have done in preparing for EMS Week this year has basically been to support all of us in EMS in continuing to do the job that we love so much in the face of such a strange and challenging pandemic, rather than their traditional roles of cheer-leading and boosting morale during this week. Continue reading “EMS Week 2020!”
Connecting with a Drug Overdose Patient
She’s only 20 years old*. 15 years younger than me. Laid out on the ground in front of the house. It’s 40 degrees outside at 1am here in Texas. Her boyfriend woke up and found her not breathing and did CPR on her while waiting for us to show up. The police showed up first and she woke up. They started their investigation before Fire and EMS even made it to the scene, and proudly declared to me that they had discovered heroin and drug paraphernalia inside the house. All around me are public safety employees shouting at this young woman, “what did you take?” and “what are you on?” and “whose drugs are inside the house?” Continue reading “Connecting with a Drug Overdose Patient”
I owe some of you an apology…
Throughout my EMS career, I’ve often wondered why a certain subset of people call 911 so often. Seemingly minor concerns are blown way out of proportion, and, throwing logic and reason to the wind, they demand that the patient be taken to a specialty ER for examination by a specially trained physician.
Who are these people? What subset of the patient population could I be referring to?
Bringing New Life Into the World
I don’t often share much about my personal life through this blog, but I am elated to share with you, my readers, that my wife and I are expecting our first child, a boy, due in January 2018! Admittedly, this is a very happy, hectic, exciting time in our lives, and I can’t help but think back on some of the times that I had the opportunity to share in the beginning of a new life in my EMS career.
I’ve had the privilege of assisting with the delivery of 4 babies in my career. I know plenty of medics who go their entire careers without a single field delivery. I guess I’m just lucky? I do feel that it’s a privilege. Very few calls are so high-acuity, with the potential for SO many things to go wrong, as a childbirth. At the same time, very few calls can be SO thrilling and amazing and emotional when everything goes right and you end up with a healthy baby to hand over to Mom. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, doctors are much better at predicting due dates and monitoring pregnancies as they progress, so field deliveries have become much less common than they were in decades past. However, sometimes things catch you by surprise, sometimes mothers (for some reason) elect to forgo prenatal care, and sometimes it’s just chance that a mother winds up delivering a baby at home or in an ambulance. For the record, if I never have another field delivery in my career, I’d be OK with that. It’s a stressful, messy, high-acuity call, and having been a part of 4 of them, I can say that I truly do appreciate the miracle of life.
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
Firstly, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or by leaving a comment below the post here. Thanks again for reading – and Happy New Year!