Why do we rant in EMS? That’s what I want to write about. I want to write about it in a way that is not a rant, and I want to write about it in a way that will help to stop me from ranting because I don’t think it is a particularly attractive quality.
Yesterday after I wrote my ranting anti-rant which on reading seems still like a ranting rant, I had quite a day to rant about, which I will try to avoid ranting about here. I did spend much time thinking about why we rant, and may have some answers but will need more time to write it up because I don’t want it to be a rant.
I will mention one call where I had a chance to atone for my ranting, but I did not.
The short of it was a patient who slipped getting out of bed, hurt all over, and was ordered out to be evaluated. He had a constant history of pneumonia, and recently had MRSA, but evidently didn’t have it any more according to the nurse. He coughed all the way to the hospital — coughed up thick mucus — enough to fill a bowl of oatmeal. His eyes watered as he coughed and you could see how fatigued he was. His nasal cannula had dried secretions all over it. He was also covered is what I initially thought was shit because he said he was covered with shit, but then qualified it as the chocolate milk shake he was holding when he fell out of bed, probably from coughing so hard. I didn’t even want to touch him he was so nasty. Now, I’m not admiting I just copied his vitals off the nursing home W-10, but I did the bare minimum on the call. On the way in, he asks me “Do you think they’ll brush my teeth there?” He asked it almost like a little boy, who is hopeful, yet used to disappointment.
“They don’t brush your teeth at the nursing home?” I asked.
He shook his head and said “No, they never do.”
“They probably will if you ask them,” I said. “They have toothbrushes in all the rooms, the disposable kinds.”
He nodded, but I saw nothing but fatality in his eyes. “I just want to die,” he said.
In the hospital room, I found one of the toothbrushes and said to him, “Here’s the toothbrush. I’m going to leave it here so you can remember to ask the nurse when she comes in.”
He muttered thanks.
It wasn’t until I was back out at the ambulance that it occurred to me I had had a chance for a gesture of kindness, a chance to break through and in the smallest of ways make the world a better place. “I should have brushed his teeth,” I said aloud — not to anyone because I was out there by myself. I just said it to the stretcher, to the ambulance, to the graying sky.