Archive for the ‘Stories’ Category


I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t understand.  I have images burned into my brain – that have wounded and scarred me to the core of my being.  I’ve seen things that no caring person should ever have to see.

The other day, a cop friend of mine was talking about some of the things she has seen.  She mentioned how they joke about using the MIBflashy thing” when they retire – to erase all the things they’ve seen.

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CPR training

Image via Wikipedia

As I walked into the bedroom, it looked like there was more drama than necessary – more than I cared to deal with on this laconic Thanksgiving Day.  Our 55-year-old female patient was sitting on the floor, propped against her bed.  She was breathing fast and her CO2 levels were down – it looked like an anxiety attack, so I squatted down and tried to convince/coach her to slow her breathing down.  But something didn’t look right.

She was trying to cooperate with me, but there was no way her breathing was slowing down.  It was fast, about 40 respirations a minute, and deep.  Her eyes were closed and I discovered she had some chest pain – which she was unable to describe.  In fact, all of her concentration went into her breathing and I, as with the other medics in the room, were just a distraction.

It was at this point that I got very concerned.

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Study of a small girl with a prize Scottish terrier dog, c. 1935 / by Sam HoodThree times in my career, I’ve treated small children who were accidentally backed over by the family car. These kids are so small, so mobile, and very quick – in a heartbeat they are where they shouldn’t be.   It’s made me very cautious when backing my car around my kids. Usually, I just bring them into the car with me – that way I know where they are.

The first kid I saw that had been backed over was in a retail parking lot. His mom had run into the store really quick and the kids took the opportunity to get into mischief. First the three-year-old boy got out of the car, then, coincidentally, his older sister took the car out of gear. Upon our arrival, we found the boy lying in the parking lot, crying. As I bent down to assess him, he began projectile vomiting – which is a terrible sign for someone with a head injury.

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The real you by =Sha-X-doW on deviantART

There used to be a downtown “hotel” that was notorious to street paramedics.  Located on N 2nd Street, between Main and Oak, across from the Salvation Army.  We knew the address well, and unfortunately, we were often there at least once per shift.  Paramedics in large cities probably have numerous places like the Home Hotel, but in our city, during the 70s and 80s, few places rivaled the desperation one would find on the second floor of this transient venue.

As a young, naive EMT (not quite a paramedic), I had much to learn.  My first call to the Home Hotel was an eye opener.

The call came in just before shift change, about 7:00am. My partner and I were in a bleary-eyed stupor from a night of sleeplessness, brought on by the constant needs of a city that never sleeps.  She gave me no warning of what I was about to encounter – not to surprise me, but because it was so normal – at least to the medics who worked downtown.

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Photo by: Michael Ferrari - http://www.flickr.com/people/bunshee/

Photo by: Michael Ferrari - http://www.flickr.com/people/bunshee/

Time stood still as I stood motionless in the stranger’s apartment.  It was beautifully furnished.  There was a baby grand piano across the room with a silver tea set carefully placed on an expensive table-cloth.  Exquisite furniture, expensive carpets, and decoration only found in the most expensive homes.  Yet, here on the floor, lay an elderly woman in her night-clothes.  She looked very peaceful.

I was a young, eager, and very inexperienced EMT. Not yet a paramedic, that would come several years into the future.  Now, on this quiet Sunday morning in, I stood in a luxury, retirement, high-rise building in the 16th floor suite of a very unconscious, peaceful elderly woman.  My senses sought desperately to keep up with the scene unfolding around me, but my body remained motionless.

My partner on the ambulance that day was one of the first paramedics in the country, yet he was only a few years older than me.  His certification number was three – as in the third in the nation.  Bob carried himself with the nonchalance of the streetwise, the coolness of the experienced, and the cynicism of someone who has seen the darkest of the human soul.  I wasn’t his regular partner, in fact, I normally worked transporting people in wheelchairs.  This was just a fill-in shift – to prepare me for my future as a street medic.

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