I’ve pretty much been a stickler over the years about carrying gear. You get a call — whether its chest pain, a fever, or a fall — you bring all your gear in. Monitor, house bag, 02. You never know.
Many years ago, I was working with a partner named Steve. Good partner. We had lots of fun together. We get called to an assault in the north end. This is a pretty common call. Someone gets punched in the face or scratched — the cops call us, we go. The patient is giving a statement. We either get a refusal or we walk the patient to the ambulance. No problem. Most of the time they are sitting on the front stoop. Anyway, we get called, and the cop coming out of the apartment building says nonchalantly, “he’s up on the 2nd floor.” We walk up there nonchalantly. See a cop writing up a report. He nods down by his feet where a man in laying prone with a pool of blood around his head. “He got the shit kicked out of him,” the cop says — “steel toed boots.” “Uh-o,” Steve says to me. “Go get the gear,” I say to Steve.
We work together the next week. No “uh-o” moments we both agree. We’ll bring the gear in on every call. First call of the night is for a “woman drunk wants to go to rehab.” This is a call we do all the time too. We walk in, meet the patient, who says, “I want to go to rehab.” And we take them to the rehab place. Piece of cake. But this time, a man meets us at the door — also up on the second floor. “My daughter is an alcoholic,” he says. “She needs to get cleaned up. I don’t think she’s breathing.” Uh-o. Go get the gear.
My partners hate it because I insist we carry all the gear in and out of every call. What bothers them is insist on bringing the gear even though I am generally a work-them-in-the-ambulance-not-on-the-scene-medic — unless they really need to be worked on scene. Why do I carry everything in since I never use it? they ask. You always have to be prepared, I say. I make all my preceptees do the same thing. Same deal. Carry everything.
But I am slacking off a little of late. For the late year I have been training for triathlons — swim, bike, run — I am in excellent cardio shape — good for going up stairs — but my upper body has suffered a little bit for the all the aerobics activity at the expense of weight-lifting. I’ve lost some muscle. The gear is getting a little heavy. Plus we have medical dispatch in one of the towns I work in so I get a fairly detailed report on what I can expect to find. I confess to sometimes leaving my gear in the ambulance. Not on every call, but a little more than I used to.
Sixty-year old lady with abd pain. Alert, etc. Sounds like a put-them-on-the-stretcher-take-them-to-the-hospital call. Let’s just bring the stretcher in, I say. We’ll leave it outside and then go in and see what’s up.
We find her sitting on the toilet. She says she feels a little nauseous and dizzy. Just get the stair chair, I tell my partner. She has a pulse. Skin is a little clammy. She’s talking to me. We get her on the stair chair, strap her in, tell her not to reach out. Just as we are going through the front door, she starts waving her arms. “Stop! Stop!” she says, and then her head drops onto her chest and she speaks not another word in this lifetime.
The other day we got called for an overdose. There are a couple cop cars there. A few family members standing around outside. No one looks too distressed. The address is deep at one end of a town and we had to cross two towns to get there. Not once were we updated or asked for our ETA. I expect to find the person sitting at the kitchen table, telling officers she took more pills than she should have. One cop comes out of the house, and smiles at us as we step out of the ambulance. We apologize for the late response. He says, “No problem. She’s inside.” Another cop meets us at the door as we enter. “What’s up?” I ask. “Overdose,” he says. “Some Tylenol and benadryl.” “Where is she?”I ask. “Over there,” he says.
I walk past him and look to where he pointed. She’s on the floor. She looks like she’s dead. There is some chest movement, but her GCS is 3. No response at all. Vomit all over her face and hair. “Get the gear,” I tell my partner.