Reality Check


It is always interesting when we can have a moment where we can look at ourselves and see some aspect differently.

At work it feels like I am surrounded by many disgruntled co-workers. Or at least folks who are not really into what they are doing; or maybe they are just exhausted? They work with kids in a school, which can be tiring, especially these days for sure–but somehow I figured there would be more passion in the people there.

Instead I find a group of (mostly) frustrated, cranky, unhappy people who seem like they would rather be anywhere be where they are…and I suddenly realized yesterday, after hearing my immediate co-worker complain and whine, that oh my goodness: this was me for so many years in my last career!

How miserable it must have been to be around me! To hear me complain all the time and see my grouchy face. And to hardly ever hear anything nice come out of my mouth. Yikes. It stopped me cold when I realized how it must have been to be work with me all the time.

Because I know what it’s like to be around these folks day in and out. It’s a downer. And how must it be for the kids? We’re suppose to be models for them after all, eh? Was I able to fake it for my patients on the ambulance, because I know these educators aren’t hiding anything from these children.

It really made me ashamed of myself, that I had put everyone I worked with through all my stuff. Honestly, it doesn’t even matter if it had cause or not; I should have left it at home. Work is not a place to drag your baggage. It’s not fair to anyone around you, yet I did it for a long, long time.

These folks may have what they feel are ‘good excuses’, but really none are when you get down to it. If you’re unhappy, find something else to do. It’s hard to find other work, yes that’s true. But if you’re heart not in what you’re doing, we all can tell.

If you can fix the things at work that’s the best solution. Or maybe you can learn to suck it up and push your way through things (not let things bother you as much)…but the ultimate solution may simply be to move on…. That’s the sad truth. I finally left a career I loved because of the extraneous stuff that bugged me too much.

So, in the end, I am very regretful for all those I drove crazy with my unhappiness. It’s clear now as I can see it in others (and it’s hard to take). In payment, I’m trying to be as upbeat as I can to make this place a little brighter…

And I know at least the kids appreciate it.

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Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You???


Some of you may be surprised to know that I am taking a 9 week course in my town that is a Citizen Police Academy. No, this doesn’t mean I will walk around with a gun or even a taser when I’m done. But it is giving me a close up perspective on what the women and men do on my city police force.

The idea behind this Academy is to build community between the citizens and the police department. Of course, the folks who show up for the course aren’t necessarily the ones they need to preach to–we are their choir already. But we’re also tax payers and some of us are future police officers, and it’s a good show they put on.

They give us all the bells and whistles; or at least dogs and flash bombs. Every section of their department gives a presentation from the marine unit to the SWAT team to dog officers. We’re up close and personal with equipment, loud noises…and maybe not too close to the German Shepards.  Not only do they present the history of this department, but of how certain units came to be initially; like SWAT units started during the race riots in the 60’s.

Having been a paramedic I’m used to working near the police, so some of the stuff is familiar. But I admit, this is a medium city and this department has some pretty big advantages. This also means different types (and more) crime. In some ways being in the class gives me the willies knowing what goes on around me, like the gang violence for instance. Who knew they are high school kids? But in other ways in is comforting to know these people are quite dedicated to serve and protect in some extremely dangerous situations.

An interesting thing I have noted is how many women work in this department; the Chief is currently a woman and one Assistance Chief too. Even one of the SWAT members is and the program is incredibly rigorous. It’s also a very culturally ethnic department.

This department does other community events like Coffee with A Cop where they meet the public at none other than Dunkin’ Donuts just to have open dialogue. Not a bad idea in these troubling times.

We get to sign up for two ride-alongs with an officer on duty. I’m looking forward to that one. Hopefully I’ll get some action that night. Maybe we’ll catch some bad guys? It might bring me back to my ambulance days…sigh. One (silly) man asked if he could bring his gun that night if he had a concealed weapon license; the answer was a resounding NO. Really?!

Anyway, a lot of effort goes into this course, and I know it’s really a bunch of PR for them, but they do have a hard job. My cop friends would tell me over and over that all they saw was bad stuff and bad people. It got old for them and some were pretty bitter. Maybe this is a way for these guys to do something good for a change? And to get a good rap for once? It’s not an easy job by any means; trying uphold the law when there’s so much negative stuff in our world these days. I don’t envy them.

And some of these Officers do this stuff on a voluntary basis simply because they love what they do and are committed to it. There are certain teams (like SWAT) that are voluntary to be on call until you’re called.  That’s pretty amazing when you think about it. And yet they train constantly! These Officers were not folks I would want to meet up with at any time! Yikes.

So, I’m learning some interesting and new things. And trying to look with an open perspective. Even though there are some police that don’t exercise good judgement , I wonder what it would like without any of them?

Like A Dummy


No-one like to feels like a dummy. But I think we all can agree that the first day of any new job can make any of us feel that way. Even if it’s a job that we may have experience doing, but especially if it’s something new or if we’re rusty doing it. Then, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in elementary school when the teacher calls on us and we don’t know the answer.

Today was my first day at my new job! And mind you, I made a conscious decision to get out of healthcare! So I totally understood that I could make myself look silly starting over at something completely different. I simply could not take it any longer in a field that I personally feel is rampant with unhappy, over-worked and often petty employees.

So I began to apply to anything that remotely appealed to me or where I thought I might have a half a chance of getting a job. I had certain criteria of course: Part-time was preferable for the pets; close to home if possible; if it had to be a big corporation again, then hopefully it would be decent or have good benefits with it; and if I was lucky, maybe be something I actually wanted to do! Another dream part of the job, of course, would be if I ended up working with great people….

Well, I’ve ended up in a sweet little position working as a cashier at a local Farm market. The farm itself is huge and specializes in sustainability, organic vegetables and fruit, locally grown also, U-pick on the property, all sorts of local breads and other wonderful items. What a difference working in a place that smells nice! It can’t compare to the smells on the ambulance!

They had a sign on the Cash register that said: Cashier in training, Be Nice! So they even have a sense of humor. As I bumbled along trying to figure out why they considered an avocado a fruit and which items were sold singly and which by the pound, my customers were very patient. And even though I thought I knew my vegetables pretty well having been a vegetarian for 40 years, a rutabaga looks pretty much like a turnip when you’re in a hurry.

A place that has a 21-year-old in charge because he’s been there since he got out of High School (he told me his goal is actually to become a fire fighter/paramedic–imagine that), can’t be all bad. And they even have an AED, so while the boss wants me to save him if he has a cardiac arrest, he wasn’t sure the batteries were working. Yikes. Stick with farming dude!

So while I was nervous and felt like pretty dumb at times, everyone was helpful and assured me at the end of the shift, I wasn’t fired yet. Even though I didn’t do a very good job wrapping the breads that came in either. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me? And this place seems to have my most/all of my criteria for jobs too? Time will tell…

But riding home in my car I thought: gee, I used to save lives didn’t I? I guess eventually I’ll get the hang of this won’t I? Of course I’m older now…but like we used to say in the back of the ambulance: just pretend you know what you’re doing and be nice. The customer/patient may not notice it’s not true…..

Who Knows/Who Cares?


Sometimes we know too much, sometimes we feel we know nothing at all. Being empowered with information can be a good thing, or it can make us crazy with frustration when we see things we feel aren’t being done correctly or at least up to the standards we believe to be right.

This is the case with me as an ex-paramedic. I’ve had more than I’d like with the health care system lately and am completely discouraged with it all. There are plenty of things I absolutely do know about, and others that may be out of my scope of practice, but that I surely have enough information to sense when something seems out of whack.

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So when my Mom called again today to say she was having left arm weakness and tingling, only three weeks post heart attack/stent, I told her to immediately call the ambulance. She was reluctant given the bad experience we all had, but did what I asked. Thank goodness.

This is where my saga gets frustrating. Why does an ambulance take so long? Why can I take a shower and come from farther away and still beat them to the hospital, driving well within the normal speed limit? Seriously?

I mean I knew, having not even seen her, this could possibly be a stroke/TIA or another heart attack. A little speed on their part might be in order. I don’t get it. And don’t even get me started at the hospital. As soon as I saw her, the first thing I did was look at her face and asked her to smile. I noticed facial droop, but the nurse told me no she didn’t see any.

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Again I say: seriously? Who would know better? Her or the daughter? It’s nuts. Luckily the Stroke RN and neurologist (when they finally arrived, which wasn’t too fast), agreed with me. Wow, there’s a miracle. So the conclusion was, most likely a TIA (mini-stroke) which had mostly resolved itself by the time she had called me (which wasn’t right away) and they had gotten her to the hospital (they took their time).

Thank goodness it had resolved itself!

So why did it happen? Well, that’s the million dollar question. Most likely due to medication changes from her cardiologist because of the stent. Were these prudent? That I don’t know. This is where knowing too much/too little gets me in trouble. The bigger issue may have been being sent home from the 5 day follow-up visit after the stent because they didn’t think she was booked. They messed up there. Maybe this wouldn’t have happened. Who knows?

Does anybody know anything these days? Is it all a crap shoot? Does anybody care really when it comes down to it?

I’m really beginning to wonder.

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Being On My Game


A weird thing happened to me on Friday on the ambulance. I’ve been an emergency worker for almost 20 years and can say that only one other time have I been hurt by a patient.

We were called to meet the police for a patient. Anything that involves the police is usually never good and this certainly was the case for this call. The patient was face down in a driveway surrounded by way too many police officers.

On closer inspection and after hearing the story, we came to find out he had been assaulted with a baseball bat and was extremely drunk. Over the years I’ve dealt with many intoxicated patients and they are usually happy or angry. This guy was the latter. Pissed off and very aggressive.

This should have been my first clue we should have brought PD with us. My partner was quick enough to realize that I shouldn’t be in the back alone with this guy, but luckily extra people were showing up because it was change of shift. Unfortunately, the wrong person ended up in the back with me.

It’s our job, no matter what, to try to keep a situation under control and to try to remain professional and under control ourselves. Sometimes this can be extremely difficult given the harsh conditions we are expected to perform under and the unpredictable patients. This was one of the cases.

The partner I ended up with in the back that night has also been under his own stress and personally does not have a high tolerance for abusive patients. So this was a volatile situation waiting to happen. I suppose I should have realized it.

From the get go the patient was mouthy and rude, swearing and pushing all the buttons he could with both of us. It becomes very hard to feel the compassion and sensitivity to help a person when they are calling you every name in the book! But try we must and realize that it’s maybe the alcohol, personal pain or some other reason that makes the person act the way they do. It’s never our job to judge. But still….it’s not easy!

So the situation became more ramped up and the patient kept demanding us to move him, and the more we explained what we were trying to do, the more angry he got. My partner ended up moving him (because he got angry and upset himself) a bit rougher than he would have normally.

The patient immediately knew what was going on, and that’s when he just flipped out. His swearing escalated and his anger soared. He ripped off the collar we had put around his neck to protect his spine and flung it. It hit me square in the face! I was stunned and it hurt.

But now all bets were off. I knew this guy meant business and while my partner wasn’t right, we were potentially in danger in this little box. So I rapidly drew up some medications to calm the guy down and some pain medications too (which I planned anyway). It was explained they were to help him and he willingly received them.  And everything finally became in control.

Police were waiting when we arrived. The patient apologized to me (although he was still angry at my partner), but I explained to him what he had done to me was uncalled for because I had done nothing but try to help him. And I told the police he assaulted me.

After the call, I did talk to my partner and explain that I felt what he had done was unprofessional. He hadn’t realized what he had done or how upset he had become. We are all only human after all. He felt this guy kept screaming that he was choking and wasn’t listening, so he ‘rapidly’ moved him.

It was a good lesson to us both to be more diligent. We should have brought the police from the beginning. My instincts had kicked in long before he hit me that I should give him something to calm him down. Sometimes verbal reasoning is futile as in this case. Substances blur all reason.

I have no idea what this guy is like normally. Honestly, I have no desire TO know. But we were lucky this time. I could have been hurt much worse. But it scared me. And I know who to be in the back with now in the case of a dangerous patient. We have to trust our partners with our lives in my business. And we always have to be on our game. Because we never know: we can save a life, or lose ours.

Remember


Two days before Christmas and today was a hard day on the ambulance and in the fire department. My ambulance call was a 43-year-old woman dying of cancer. She didn’t really need 911, she really needed hospice, but her home care worker called us instead. They often do. So we went and I transported her.

There was nothing I could medically do honestly–she had a port, and didn’t want me to start an IV. I can’t use the port, so couldn’t give her any medications to make her feel better. So my only help could be emotional support.

When I asked what I could do, she broke down and cried. Cried about the three children she would leave behind. I cried with her. And hugged her. That was all I could do. There are no amount of IV’s or medications that can heal a mother’s broken heart or worry for the kids that will be left when she leaves this earth.

And my second call was for a third alarm fire. A barn attached to a home. At first we thought it belonged to a family, but later found out it was apartments where college kids lived. Luckily they are all home on vacation. It did house someones workshop and they lost valuable tools, and also antique ones that were in the family for a generation. No-one was hurt luckily, but property was lost.

So my thought to you all tonight is remember: remember to be grateful, thankful and joyful. Whatever troubles you may have, I guarantee you would take yours back if given the choice of taking someone else’s.

Happy Holidays

Healing


Sometimes in my job as a paramedic we have very tragic moments. But sometimes these tragic moments also have attached to them rays of hope and resilience.

As some of you may have read, last week I responded with my crew to a very bad call that ended with the fatality of a driver of a motor vehicle. She was a young mother. Her teenage daughter was also in the car and we transported her with serious injuries.

Today that young girl walked into our fire station–halo attached to her head and all! She was supposed to be in a wheel chair, but she opted out (still being a teenager afterall!). She went to school for the first time today, for part of the day, and was apparently met with a huge reception! I can just imagine.

I, too, saw her with joy filled in my heart and soul. The last time I saw her she looked nothing like the normal (well fairly normal) kid I saw standing before me today. Oh sure, she was minus some hair and had a huge scar on the top of her head, plus a crazy contraption screwed in also, but that wasn’t stopping her at all. Because it was her light and smile that showed me she will be OK.

We talked about the accident a little and about her mother. It amazed me that she could! But I realized just as we on the call need to talk and heal, so does she. Talking about her mom those moments before we got there were important to her. She needed to share those minutes with us. And I needed to hear them. It’s part of the healing process for us all. I believe she needed to know about what happened in the ambulance to help piece together the blank moments she doesn’t recall.

This dark time in her life will be heavy in her heart always, but shedding some light on it can only help her to move forward. And sharing it with the people who were caring for her during the time of the crisis is critical to healing. At least in the early part of the healing process. We as providers ease our pain also, instead of letting it build up, when a patient like this comes back to us after the call.

The whole town in which the family lives has poured their love onto this family. Gifts, money, offers of baby-sitting. I said to this young girl that now she has taken the role of mother in her family with her two younger siblings. She said she already has done just that. She told me she was very close to her mother, so I know this job will be one in which she will excel. She is now channeling her mom.

We can’t change what happened. But I know any mother out there, if fate had it that one was to die, would want their child to live. And live she does: with strength, happiness, resilience, love, memories and faith. We could all take a lesson.