Friday, December 31, 2010

Our Constituants are clueless

I read this article on a Boston TV website and it really didn't surprise me much. Then I read the comments, all of which almost completely agreed that the Firefighters were whining. I left a comment myself. But the point is that the public largely has no clue what the Fire and EMS Services do, and why we are here. Until they need us. Moreover, they think everybody is in this for something. The other night I 'babysat' some live wires crossing a road with a partner and our Engine sitting vigil, waiting for the utility guys to show up. We didn't have the tools or training to handle it ourselves, and leaving these live wires would have created a public hazard. Should the wires get run over, and moved, they could have easily shorted out on the car they were draped over. The car would have burned and the radiant heat would have started the garage next to it on fire, which would have started the woods on fire...... You get the picture. As stupid and cold as we felt, we had to stay there and re-direct traffic around the wires. And let me tell you, with a 20MPH wind, it WAS cold. None the less, the 3 hours went by fairly quickly. This is what we do. Whatever it takes. Boring, exciting, frightening, whatever.
 The owner of the house from which the wires had been ripped came out an apologized for having to call us. He said the power company was surly after his third call and told him to call 911 if he wasn't happy, so he did. He was worried about somebody getting hurt. He was right to be worried. I assured him he did the right thing.
 After a couple of hours, he came out of the house to warm up their second car. He apologized again and also said that he had to go find a place to keep his 2 small kids and his wife warm. I passed along the info about what shelters had just been opened because of the storm and gave him directions. He thanked me yet again. "You guys are amazing. It's so damn cold out and you stand there for hours, but all you are concerned with is that we have a place to go. It boggles the mind. You guys are amazing." I shrugged my shoulders. "It's what we do. No big deal. We are used to it. You go and get your kids warmed up." He gets it, I thought.
 Slide back, many years. It was 3 days of non-stop duty around the clock for all of us, we ate and slept, when we could, in the trucks or in the station. We have never ever seen water this high and many people would not believe what were telling them. I had been standing at a roadblock for over 12 hours re-directing traffic during a 100 year flood incident. After all those hours I had heard EVERY excuse for letting people slip through the roadblock and I was getting a little punchy. I had been nearly hit by several cars and actually struck by one of them. I was getting testy.
 Late in the evening one guy pulls up with a pretty good attitude. I told him he couldn't go west on the main road and asked where he was headed so I could offer an alternate route. "Oh, OK man, look, we were just headed out for a late dinner, but if it's as bad as you say maybe we'll just go back and cook something." I Smiled, "Good Idea, go home and enjoy your evening, getting around tonight is no easy feat." Then he started to go into chat mode, which was fine until cars started to back up behind him. "Hey man, how long have you guys had this road closed anyway?" "Gee" I had to think, "What time is it? 11PM? Well we closed it at just around noon today." "Wow" they guy said, "that's a long day. Well look on the bright side, at least your getting overtime." and he pulled away. I was dumbfounded, but I caught myself at the last second and before he got out of earshot, I hollered "OVER TIME?! HELL, TODAY IS SUNDAY, I'M GETTING DOUBLE TIME!" I laughed way too hard on that one. My partner turned to me and said "Dude, you are loosing it, time for a break, when did you sleep last anyway?"
 So if you volunteer, what does it matter if you get straight time, overtime, or double time? To tell the truth, I don't know if anybody could pay me to do this job. I do like doing it for free though. Like thousands of others, I'm just funny that way.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Never Forget

December 29th, 2009. One year ago today, at 1933 hours, the St, Anna Fire Department (Wisconsin) was dispatched to a dumpster fire behind an Industrial building. How many thousands of these type calls have we all attended? How many of us quickly go into 'just another trash fire mode'?
 For Steven Koeser, and his entire Department, it would be a night that would change, or end their lives. Steven Koeser did not survive that night, he was killed in the explosion. Eight other firefighters, including one Junior firefighter would be injured.
 Steven was 33 years old and had served with the St. Anna Department for 15 years. He was well trained and was respected as a 'go to guy' in his Department. He left behind his partner and a beautiful little daughter. He had just bought his first home and was looking forward to all the improvements he was going to be doing to it as he built a home for his family.
 Steven did not die because he was foolish. He did not die because he drove recklessly. He died because, as a group, his team could not determine what type of fire they were fighting..
 I have spent many, many hours reviewing the NIOSH Report and Wisconsin Department Of Justice's report on this incident. NIOSH provides many details about the circumstances regarding the possible cause of the explosion, but drew no solid conclusions.  The State report stated that "The cause of the explosion was as a result of the fire suppression efforts and the introduction of water and fire suppressant foam."
 I am in no position to second guess the investigators and won't. However, I do have extensive education and experience in working with the materials involved as an Engineer. I have knowledge of the chemical composition and understand well how these compounds react under various levels of heat conditions. I could postulate and speculate all night long on this, but it doesn't matter what I think, or even what you think.
 What does matter is that there is a pretty little girl in Wisconsin that will grow up without a Daddy. What does matter is that there are a many people in the St. Anna Fire Department that will never think the same way, ever again. They lost a co-worker and a dear friend in just a few seconds.
 As an instructor I reviewed this incident for many hours, over and over. I am using it in a class I am teaching this year. There is a great lesson in this, that Steven Koeser gave his life to teach us something and by God, I am going to make sure that everyone I meet in the service learns.
 We don't know what we don't know.
 If something doesn't seem right, it probably isn't. STOP, and re-think what you are doing.
I am not going to second guess the fine folks at the St. Anna FD. It's always easy after the fact. Rather, I want to point out to you that this could easily have happened anywhere. St. Anna is just like the rest of us, they are no different. It was a damned dumpster fire! Let's just put the damned thing out and go home! Would you have thought any different? Tell the truth...would you?
 The lesson here is simply this: If what you are doing is not working, STOP. Re-assess. Go through your risk/benefit algorithm again. What am I risking? What am I gaining?

 If you want to get a feel for what the real risks are, just ask Iron Firemen. In his post on the work at the National Fallen Firefighter's Weekend he states " We had the wife of another fallen Brother along with their 3 year old daughter talk for 15 minutes of their loss and the support group that quickly surrounded their lives. I’ve shed a many a tear today and am proud to say so." He was writing about Steven Koeser's family. Or you can watch this from FOX News:
 Or you can read the piece from Sunday Morning on CBS that includes an interview with Steven's partner. I am sorry the video is no longer available. It was a good piece. Or you can read this on Fire Daily.
 I too have shed tears for Steven's family. I know it could be mine and I know that I am no less likely to not get sucked into a deceiving situation than Steven was.
 So my request to you is this: Please, never forget the lessons those who have gone before us have given their lives to teach us. Learn from them, use their experiences to keep you and your mates safe.
 Rest In Peace Steven. We will NEVER FORGET.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Checking in

 I had thought with having the week off I would have had a bunch of time to put some posts up. Guess not. Although I have had the time, nothing is coming through, and I am keeping myself busy getting stuff ready to turn over to my new Captain at the end of the week, finishing up the end of the year stats for the Department, battling storms, and running calls.
 Christmas day was fairly quiet. We had an impalement call while I was in the middle of dinner, but we had plenty of folks out to handle it. At around 8:30pm local that evening, just as I had gotten home and settled on the couch with my bloated belly, the tones dropped for a structure fire in the next town over.  We caught some work on that job. Fortunately, it was an occupied unoccupied SFD undergoing renovation. The heat on the second floor drove our guys back out on the first attempt, but with some venting they could re-enter and finish it off. We still don't know what started it because there was no power to the structure. It was a cold night, and ice was beginning to be a problem when we were picking up.
 The day after Christmas, the storm came in and I prayed there would be no calls. SO we went out for a medical job just when the storm was beginning to really lay it down. Syncope secondary to some pot brownies. he patient was hypovolemic and he kept passing out with minor convulsions. I got to work with a Medic I know well who is also and Assistant Chief in a neighboring Department. So we had a nice run in. It's great having a good partner. On the way back from town two morons in little cars flew past us hell bent for leather. The wind is whipping at about 30 MPH, the snow is horizontal, and the road is covered with about 4 inches of the slippery stuff. These jerks both wig-wagged their way up the hill without ever touching their brakes. My driver slowed down to give them crashing room, glanced at me and said "We'll have real good response time to this job!" "No", I said, "It doesn't count if you call it in." We both laughed as we watched the one car get sucked off on the shoulder, bring it back on the road and cross two lanes, winding up in the oncoming lane, before he finally got control. Morons.
 Yesterday we ran 'wires down' calls, the last one keeping me out on the road for 3 hours last night in a wicked wind babysitting live wires laying squarely across the road. I couldn't leave it, and the Utility could not spare anyone to come mitigate it as they were handling thousands of outages around the county. Finally we called Town Highway to bring barricades to block the road completely on both sides of the wires. Hopefully no idiot will come along and move them and drive across. (I figure the first idiot came along in about 20 minutes.) I got home around 11:30pm.
 Which brings us to today. Cold, cloudy, with a 20 MPH wind that sounds like a freight train going over the house. They say it's gonna clear today. Maybe I'll get some new pictures of snow and ice.
 So I just wanted to let you know I'm still here. Today I'm hoping to get out and do some 'stuff for me' for a change. I have a bunch of holiday money burning a hole in my pocket.
 Stay warm, stay safe.
Here's a local shot from last year around this time:

Friday, December 24, 2010

Me being Happy

OK folks, you don't see this very often, but after my poor post this morning I have been working on my attitude, and with the help of a few personal positive notes, I am almost feeling in a holiday mood, which is as close as I ever get.
 First I spent a couple of hours making the traditional Norwegian Krumkake's (pronounced "Kruum- coga") which we have made in my family amost every year since I was knee-high to the stove. It's a bit different now since the kids are grown, but my parents really look forward to them, so what they heck. Plus, I got to use my Grandmother's Krumkake Iron which she brought over from Norway in 1895 and came from her family's farm kitchen. I have no idea how old it is, but I can guess, and it works sweet once you have the heat right.
 Then, I did a little bouncing around checking web sites I only look at every month or two and found that Greyfox has uploaded all the photos and video from last summer's 4 day Bluegrass festival. The videos are here and there are 3 pages of them. The Kathy Mattea videos are great. I was standing in the VIP seating at the edge of the stage when she did "18 Wheels" and I'm sorry they didn't include her sweet intro on the video. What a great weekend. I will be back as an EMS volunteer next year, but it was great to look at all the photos and videos. If your planning a trip to the northeast in July, you might want to consider this in your plans.
My very favorite was not on the main stage, but in the Master's tent, and if you are like me and love 5 String Banjo Music, this is a treat.

 Not exactly 'holiday music', but fine and sweet to my ears anyway.
One reason this is so special is that the group is led off by Bill Keith. If you don't know him, Bill used to play with Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys (and if you don't know Bill Monroe, then you probably haven't read this far anyway). Bill is the inventor of the Scruggs tuner and he still has a business making these tuners. I am blessed to count Bill as a personal friend. Although we don't hang together, I see Bill from time to time, my son-in-law plays with him on occasion, they are close friends, and he played (gratis) at my daughter's wedding last year. Not only is he a fine person, he is one of the best 5 string players in the world and he teaches all around the world.
 So one day into the holiday vacation and it looks like I am beginning to decompress. I am not on duty tonight and will spend the evening with family at my Sister's house. We've run 4 calls in the last 16 hours and they were all easy. Life is good.
 Please do enjoy the Holiday season in whatever way works for you, on the job or off.
 Ok, That's me "being happy'. Lets see how long it lasts.
 And here's that Kathy Mattea video just for good measure...

Ain't she a sweetheart?

Random Thoughts

Just home from a 3:30am call and it's not worth going back to bed with all the stuff I have to do today. The brain is not working well enough to write something witty. So you get to hear how my head works when it is groggy:
Really bummed about the 2 brothers we lost in Chicago this week. 2 Families facing the roughest holiday season of their lives. 2 fine men lost. All for an empty structure that should have been razed years ago. I hope they hang the building owner. No amount of safety training could have avoided this tragedy. What it would have taken was the City Engineers sharing their database with the fire service.
Slowest early morning in the E/D I can remember in a long time. Nurses with their feet up on the desk, quiet hallways. Really weird. Must have been odd for the staff also. As I was doing my paperwork one of the RN's shot me with a saline flush syringe. They were getting silly and wanting the shift to end. Just weird.
I wonder what the old man we took in this morning is going to do with his day today when he gets out? A nice man in a neat, but small rambling little house that is tucked off the road in a wooded area. He's all alone and appears to be surviving OK with a lifetime of possessions neatly surrounding him. I wish him well.
Can't wait to see what Captain Willie's helper looks like tonight.
I'm hoping to get through the next tens days without any serious calls. Last year we had 2 outright saves during the holiday week. I can do without the drama.
Seven more days as an EMS Captain and I can't wait for my 'demotion' to Fire Lt. It will be like a vacation compared to running the EMS crew. They sucked the life out of me and it's time to re-charge.
I am really glad that the fire alarm at the mansion up on the mountain was a false trip last night. No real access for trucks, cold than a well digger, and dangerous work for everybody. That would be a nasty job that would have gone all night.
 I actually counted and it turns out there are 74 blogs I check and read regularly. I think that may be too many, but I can't drop any of them. I am pathetic.
I hope all of you reading this have a safe, happy, and comfortable holiday season this year, whether you are on the job or off. Be careful. Keep a sense of humor and try to enjoy the moment, whatever that moment might be.
 Be Safe,

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

News to me!

I learned something today, just an hour ago, as a matter of precision. I was leaving work (the office) with a co-worker and the Boss caught me. "Hey, you got a minute? Do you have somewhere you have to be?" "No. I'm good, last night I had an early meeting, tonight, no rush." "Good" He said and motioned me into his office and closed the door as he wished my co-worker a nice evening. 'Ah shoot" I thought, this is gonna be another rush project he needs done first thing in the morning. There have been a lot of these 'emergencies' lately and they are wearing me out. My job description never said 'Freakin' Magician', but that's what I've been lately.
 Sure enough he had a problem he wanted to interject me into because I have an 'open mind' and can find the best solution for everybody. He told me all about it and we kicked some ideas around so I could figure out what he really wanted to accomplish. Sometimes this is the hardest part, so I ask all these questions up front. It makes it easier on both of us.
 When he finished, we slipped into lighter subjects and somehow I heard myself saying "Well, I just want to go home, have dinner and a beer and go to bed. I didn't sleep hardly at all last night and I don't know why." He looked at me and I could see that he was gonna jump right into the "That Fire Department stuff is sucking you dry" speech, but he didn't... exactly. "You know", he leaned back in his chair, "I know you love that emergency responder stuff because you thrive on helping people. I have a feeling that perhaps it's all the politics and bullshit that goes along with it that keeps you up at night. I know you don't get bothered at all by the screaming and the fires, and the blood, and the carnage. So maybe you should step back and look at why you do this stuff, and perhaps re-orient your goals?"
 I had a dumb look on my face for a couple of seconds, then I assured him that it had nothing to do with the Fire Department, and I truly had no idea what kept me awake most of last night. I also reassured him that I was stepping away from the politics and human issues by giving up my Captain's spot in 2 weeks. Life will get much easier for me and I can re-charge a bit in my new Fire Line Officer's job. Still he urged me to 'think about it.'
 I headed out and how words were echoing in my head about how the 'bad stuff' doesn't bother me. That's the third time somebody has said that to me and I always think 'how the hell would you know?'
 The first time was the day I went to work at 7am after being at my first fatal fire all night. It was double fatal, a mother and her 8 year old child. The child was one that my daughter baby-sat. It was probably the roughest job I have ever had, and no, you will probably never see the story up here. I should not have gone to work that day. I was a wreck. I made the further mistake of telling my boss what had happened and that I would be 'laying low' that day. (This is a different boss at a different job, it was years ago.) He said, "Hey, if your going to do this 'fire stuff' you need to learn how to shrug this stuff off. You can't let it affect you. It's other people getting hurt, not you. It's no big deal." At the time I felt like decking him right there but instead just shrugged and got to work. Idiot.
 The second time somebody said that, it was a semi-close friend and I asked him why he thought that I should not be bothered by the 'bad stuff'. He said "Well, you guys have the training, you understand all this stuff, you are in control, and you see it all the time. I guess after a while you guys just get immune to it." I explained to him that we are not immune but we do have coping mechanisms we have developed. However, once in a while we all take one that gets to us. Sometimes they come in bunches.
 Now that I have heard this 3 times I have begun to realize that people do, in fact, think we are immune. This explains why people take us for granted. They think it's easy for us and it never bothers us.
That was news to me.
 Take a look at this video. This fella is me all over including how he responded to an emergency at his paying job.
 No Boss, we are not immune.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

This just makes me ANGRY!

Very Angry indeed. I usually don't comment on the stuff that shows up on the other blogs and draws a lot of comments from other bloggers, but his one got me going and I see too few postings expressing the outrage I feel.
 In case you missed it last week, got to this post on Statter and check out the video report about a Firefighter in Grafton, VT..
 Have we forgotten why we are here and why we exist?!
 Have we forgotten why we train and practice?!
 I expect the media to be uneducated, ill-informed talking heads (sorry Dave, present company excepted) but this Firefighter's Chief REALLY dropped the ball.
 Basically he took the 'Well, what he did was wrong, but he got lucky and it all turned out okay. We'll let it slide this time' type of approach. He tried to make it clear to the public that Firefighters are not supposed to do what they believe is right unless they have all the tools, toys, and people available.
 Let me make my personal opinion clear here: THAT IS BULLSHIT! THIS GUY IS A HERO AS FEW OF US CAN CLAIM. HE MADE A DECISION TO RISK HIS LIFE TO SAVE ANOTHER. END OF DISCUSSION. It was his life, he made the choice, and yes, he got lucky. If he didn't get lucky, and he perished, my opinion would not change.
 Now don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting we should all throw our lives to the wind on poor decisions, in untenable conditions. What I am strongly trying to remind everyone is that we need to do a proper risk assessment, run all the variables through our heads, weigh it against our knowledge and training, and do what we believe we can do. We need to be thinking well. I wrote a little about my thoughts on this last year.
 Were I in that man's boots, I hope I would have had the courage to do the same and not have heard a little voice in my head saying "oh, that is dangerous, you know you shouldn't do that, wait for the trucks and your PPE to arrive." The victim would have certainly succumbed by then.
 Nobody expects a Firefighter to lay down his life for others. That decision lays strictly with the individual. There is no shame when he or she decides not to, and there also should be no shame when he or she decides it is worth the risk. Neither should there be any punishment either way.
 Because I am not a fast thinker, I have given this a lot of thought over the years in the event that I am ever confronted with this difficult decision. I have concluded that it is entirely my decision and my problem. If I suffer the consequences of an unfavorable result, so be it. I need to do what I can do. That's just me. Your mileage may vary.
 I have had numerous experiences on the training ground where I have held the shoulder of a student's coat while approaching and coaching him/her through a live propane drill (you know, the one with the 15 foot flames shooting everywhere and you are using the fog pattern hose lines to push the flames back so the valve can be shut off?) and felt those students shaking. On one such drill I had a student bail out on the nozzle and almost get somebody hurt. I have been in burn buildings and had students try to rip off their masks and get out under heavy smoke and fire. I have pulled several out that have panicked. I understand that not everybody can do this, and I'm OK with that. I prefer that we find it in training, and not on the job.
 I have seen the look of fear in some eyes when we are at a working fire and I say "OK boys and girls, let's get packed up, we're going to work." We all know that this job isn't for everybody and it takes something a little special.
 So when someone has the confidence and courage to do the right thing, it just burns my ass that the media and even his leadership would second guess him and try to downplay his courage as "breaking the rules".
 That is just bullshit and that's all I'm going to say about it. If you don't agree with me, that's fine, just say so in the comments.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Is it just me?

After a year, I'm still trying to get a handle on this blog thing.
 Reading and writing blogs are two different things. Writing takes a certain mindset and dedication which I observe to be running all over the map from regular posters, to the occasional, and in some cases the rare poster. I think I get them all. Everybody is busy and has real lives. This means the posting comes second. Some only post when they have carefully constructed what they want to say with the research they need to back it up. Others write what comes to their mind at the moment. And there are still more who land somewhere in between all of these.
 I follow about 50 blogs, give or take, and every week I add another one or two. Many I skip through with no new posts, some post daily and keep me busy reading. But recently a trend became clear to me.
 Have you ever noticed when someone writes a post about a horrific job, the loss of a co-worker, or a terrible personal situation, their blog goes dormant for a period?
 In many ways I think this is what makes me feel close to those writers I read regularly. I could put a reference in here, but I think you are probably already running down a list in your head. If you aren't, just go out and take a look around. You don't have to read between the lines, just read.
 Every time I read a post that comes from the heart, I immediately identify with a similar experience in my life and feel for the writer. Then I watch closely to see if there is another post coming in the following days. When the writer doesn't post I know they are either really hurting, or working on the 'issue'.
 I think most of my readers know how these issues go down and what they can take out of you. We've all had them.
 I'm just wondering how many of the readers out there notice this and feel something for those writers, or is it just me?

Sunday, December 19, 2010


Sometimes we do our best and it is not enough.

Sometimes we are left with a big, empty, hollow hole where our soul used to sit.

Sometimes we are willing to give all, but all just doesn't come close enough.

Sometimes we wish that we were more than what we are.

Sometimes we wish we could live up to our billing.

Sometimes it takes a long time before we feel whole again.

Sometimes we hurt so bad that we can't imagine the pain going away.

Sometimes the pain doesn't go away.

Sometimes it just sucks to be us.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

"He's in charge"

 That last post reminded me of this story.
 Back when I made the jump from CFR to EMT (many moons ago) I found myself doing clinical time in the E/D for the first time. I was intimidated, to say the least trying to find a friendly face that I could hook onto for the shift and follow around. I was desperate for somebody to give me something to do or ask me to help them. It was almost as if I wasn't there, they all ignored me. I was uncomfortable.
 After about an hour of me trying to do something, one of the Techs felt sorry for me and had me doing regular rotations of vitals or checking on patients for nothing in particular. I didn't feel very useful, but at least I felt like I was doing something to fill the hours.
 Then an ambulance thankfully came in and dropped a patient. I was to help get this one 'set up', but wound up calming the family and explaining to them what was going on and why. After the initial assessment, blood draws, interview, etc. the patient was left alone to await test results and all the data collection. I stayed in the room talking to him, retaking manual vitals, and calming his wife. He was on a backboard (sorry: Trauma patient, fell down three steps on his back porch and struck his head on a concrete planter) and had a collar on. He was complaining about the collar. I checked it out and found it was the wrong size and had been put on wrong. Part of it was sticking up into the fleshy part medial to the mandible. It LOOKED painful. I told him I would see about getting it corrected. I went to see his RN and explained the problem. "Can't touch him until Doctor checks him out." He said without even looking up at me. "Yes, I understand, but this is just wrong and the guy is in pain needlessly. Can't you talk to the Doc?" I asked. "Nope, the Doc will see him in a little while, when he is ready."
 A little while came and went. I checked on my patient several times. It was really getting to him, and now his wife was getting agitated and threatened to take it off herself. I explained why that would be a bad idea and said I would be right back.
 The Doctor was sitting at the Nurse's station and not doing anything in particular. I sized him up. He looked like the scary type that grew a booming voice when he got pissed. I didn't like my odds, but I thought about the patient and screwed up my courage. Me, just a piss-ant EMT wanna-be, suggesting what the Doc should be doing. This isn't going to go well, but I felt I had no choice.
 "Um, excuse me, Doctor?" He looked up, annoyed that I had interrupted his conversation with the attractive Nurse. "Yes?" Oh man, this was a bad idea. "Um, well, the patient in 14 has an extrication collar on that is the wrong size and it is placed improperly. I wouldn't bother you but it is causing him a lot of discomfort and he is threatening to take it off." "Could you take a look at it, and maybe we could fix it?"
 Oh, the look of disgust on this Doctor's face made me want to just leave and never come back. But he got up and lumbered over to the room.
 "You see Doctor, here where the collar is stabbing him under the chin and he has all the irritation? That's not right. The collar is too small, it should not hurt him like this." The patient chimed in and helped me out a bit, confirming in clear words the distress he was feeling. Of course, when the Doctor went into the room, he was followed by the E/D Tech and the RN, who I believe were just there to see me get my ass reamed out.
 The Doc looked things over, nodded, and turned to the Tech and said "Go get me another one of these, the correct size". The Tech took off and came back a few minutes later with a box which he handed to the Doc. The Doc opened it up and found a nice soft, cushy cervical collar. He looked at the collar, looked at the Tech, then threw the collar across the room. "That's not what I asked for! I want one of these!" and he pointed at the collar on the patients neck. "But Doctor" the Tech protested, "We don't have those, only EMS uses them." The Doc didn't care, "Just get me one that fits, FIND one!"
 Yeah I guessed right, this Doc had a temper. "It's OK Doc, I got this." I said and left the room. I went over to where the E/D staff dumps all the EMS gear when they take it off of patients. I grabbed a stifneck and cleaned it. When I turned to return with it, I found that they had all followed me out to see where I was going. "Here you go Doc" and I handed it to him. The parade headed back into the patients room.
 The Doc took charge "OK, here's how this is gonna go: I'll take his head, you (pointing at the Tech) are going to remove this collar, and he (pointing at ME!) is going to teach us all the proper way to put one of these on. He's in charge. Everybody got that?" He looked at me and in an easy going tone said "now you just give us a little coaching and explain what you are doing, what you are looking for, and why, OK?" "Yeah Doc, this is really easy, first let me show you how to set the size on these collars...."
 So in less than a minute, we had it done, the patient was grateful and more comfortable, and I felt useful. I was also a little embarrassed, but I broke the ice with the floor staff and the evening went along a little more quickly.
 Sometime in the middle of the night I found myself slumped in a hallway chair taking a 5 minute break, and the Doc was slumped in the chair next to me doing the same. "Thank you Doctor" I said. "FOR WHAT?" he said in a snotty voice. I looked up to see him smiling sideways at me. "For taking the time to listen." He leaned back so he could look at me. "Let me tell you something. Never ever be shy about speaking up for your patient. If something isn't right, SAY something. Most Doctors are self-important assholes. We just don't like to admit it. Sometimes you need to remind us that there is a patient in need. That's what you did earlier, and if I ever stop listening to people who point those things out, then that's the day I retire. Good luck with whatever you do, kid." We both went back to work.
 I miss that Doc. Everybody though he was an ass except me and a couple of Nurses.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Doctors are poeple too! Who'd have thought?

 Actually I always knew they were people, I just never thought of them that way. As a child I had it beat into me was taught that "whatever the Doctor said, is exactly what we are going to do". Respect for the Doctor was a given, a baseline, it was understood.  You never questioned it. Of course, it also helped that I had a fantastic Doctor who I had the deepest respect for from my earliest memory, mostly because he was kind, thoughtful, gentle, and spoke to me nicely then listened to what I had to say.
 Of course, when I came into EMS, it was not quite the same and I began to fear most Doctors because now I had a place in 'the pecking order' which put me right around the bottom. Most Doctors looked and spoke to me with disdain, if they noticed me at all. If I needed to speak up for the patient, it was hard to get my points across. Most E/D Docs I came into contact with did not care to hear what I had to say. They would do their own assessment, thank you very much.
 But, the Doc is the Doc, and he's the boss. Like they say "What do you call a person that graduated at the top of his/her class in Medical School?" "A Doctor." "What do you call a person that graduated at the bottom of his/her class in Medical School?" " A Proctologist Doctor also."
 For the last year we've had an entire new group of Doctors running the E/D around here, and they are all from out of the area, and all youngish. I have yet to meet one who isn't either stressed out, nasty, or re-thinking his/her career choice. Mostly, I just talk to Nurses suffering from the Doctor's good humor, which is bad enough.
 But the other night I brought in a patient that was a cantankerous old gal that I knew was gonna give them a hard time. "They threw me out of there the last time, y'know!? Those bastards just want my money, and I ain't got enough to make them happy."
"Now Mrs. Smith, I find it hard to believe  that they THREW you out. Are you sure that's what happened?" I asked. "Yup, they did, they took my money, or sent me a bill, and threw me out without even fixing my problem. Just a bunch of bloodsuckers."
 "Well Mrs. Smith, I tell you what, why don't you try beating 'them' at their own game? How about if we take you in there and you try being just as sweet as pie. Be really nice. That way they will feel like helping you and they will come to check on you instead of spending time with the patients that give them a hard time?"
 "Hey, yeah, that's not a bad idea. I'll beat them at their own game. They won't know what hit them."
 I smiled and thought, 'hey, I'm getting good at this.'
 So we rolled into the E/D and placed her on her bed. I gave my typical turnover to the RN as the Doctor walked in. He started asking the patient questions and I shut up, like I always do. But then he stumbled on the question about her meds, that fact that she lived alone, and he asked her how he could know that she was taking all her meds properly and on time. She had held a pleasant demeanor for almost 3 whole minutes, but this was too much. She looked at him as her eyes narrowed and I could see it coming. She stared right into the Doc's eyes and said "DO I look like some stupid, old, feeble minded, half batty, half dead woman? DO I look like an IDIOT?! Do you really think that I'm so stupid..." The Doc is starting to work up an answer and I can see he's getting ready to come right back at her. I reached over and touched his arm as I began to speak.
 "Now Mrs. Smith, remember our chat in the ambulance?" I gave her a stage wink and went on "Now the Doctor and Nurses here have to ask you all these questions because they just met you. They don't know you as well as I do. They want to make sure they don't miss anything, and I'm sure you wouldn't want them to miss anything either, would you?"
 She looked down at her lap, like a 5 year old little girl. "No, you're right. I'm sorry, that was rude of me. " I nodded to the Nurse across the bed, turned to nod at the Doc and take my leave, when I realized the Doc's was smiling at me. "If you don't need me Doc, I'll get this paperwork done."
 I sat in the EMS room finishing the sheets and as I was getting up to go, the Doc came in. "Hey, that was pretty good. Do you think you could teach my Nurses how you did that? She's sitting in there as sweet as pie. One of the other nurses told me she was here last week and they couldn't get her moved on fast enough. NICE Job, really." "Sorry I cut you off  Doc, I'm sure you could have handled her fine, but I thought I would try one more time and I think it stuck." "So far, so good. Thanks again for your help, you paramedics surprise me sometimes." "Sorry Doc, I'm not a Medic, just an EMT." "Really?!" he said, "You mean you're a volunteer?" "Well Doc, not all EMT's are volunteers, but in this case, yeah, I'm just a volunteer. I do this 'for fun'." "Well I'll be damned, I learn something everyday. I'm gonna have to make a point of getting to know you guys a little better. Nice job." "G'night Doc."
 That's the first meanigfull exchange I've had with and E/D doc in over a year. Who'd have thought?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

New Digs

 No I'm not moving to another blog site (why do you keep thinking that?). I am 'back' at my desk. This hasn't happened for me in a several years and I've never written for this blog from this desk. I am hoping the return to the desk will bring an improvement in my offerings here, as well as a change in my outlook on life.
 I know, you're thinking 'big deal', and I don't blame you. A desk is a desk, right? Well, not exactly. Let me tell you about my desk.
 When we moved into this house, the desk was here. It's not a desk in the traditional manner like you might purchase in a store. It is a custom built desk. Nothing fancy, just a 2x4 frame with a Formica laminated top and back-shelf, but it is 9  feet long. For my initial purposes, it was perfect. I moved it and removed the cabinets that hung overhead. I spent about 5 years building the perfect ham shack. That's right, I was an avid (my wife says "rabid") ham operator, specifically interested in radio contesting. I collected and built all the equipment I felt I needed or could afford to be competitive in a world-wide sport. I also competed, practiced, and improved at this desk. I spent many hundreds of hours 'working' stations all over the world. On a big contest weekend I would 'work' over a thousand other stations around the world. Sometimes I would open my station up and we would do multi-operator contest from this desk. I even had a guest operator from across the country work at this desk during a major contest. We had great fun, were usually exhausted, and finished well in the rankings. The big contests ran from 7pm local time on Friday night to 7pm local on Sunday night. Straight through, non-stop. I usually needed somewhere around 4-6 hours sleep to make it through the entire period, and this was always my downfall that kept me off the 'podium'. That plus the limit of my equipment (finances). Still it was quite impressive in it's day, particularly if you looked at all the antenna hardware in the yard. I have one 70 foot tower with 5 different antennas on it, 4 different wire antennas strung in the trees, and a beverage antenna that ran about 1/2 mile through the woods for receiving on 80 and 160 meters. I had several lucky contests were I would score in the top ten for north America and top 25 worldwide.  It's a great hobby and I hope to get back to it someday.
 Sometime in the middle of my ham career, I began working on the family genealogy and that soon became a passion for me. For ten years I collected data and information and formed that data in a 350 page book. From this desk I corresponded with relatives from around the world, wrote a few genealogy pieces that were published in newsletters, and spent countless hours printing copies of the book. I coordinated family reunions both here and overseas and prepared for, then reduced the data form all my research travel. My daily routine would see me down here at 4:30 in the morning to get a little work done before going to work, than after dinner I would come back down and work for several more hours. All from this same desk. I did some good work I am told, and I also look forward to getting back into that someday.
 This was also he desk that I ran my Scout Troop from for 10 years. Letters, meeting plans, advancement record keeping, Trek and event planning, all took place here.
 This desk went into dis-use when I began to fade away from the radio stuff. I got burned out on the genealogy too, too much emotion. Then, the kicker was that my computer, a state of the art Windows 2000 engineering work station, got a virus I could not clear. It killed me. I moved over to the wife's desk across the den and started 'sharing a machine'. Then hers died and I got her a new one, but we never replaced mine. Not until this past spring, when I bought this nifty little laptop.
 With the laptop, I'm not chained to any desk and the wife got hers back. I moved to the couch in the living room. I kind of liked being able to do my internet stuff while watching TV with her in the evenings. We could chat more and stay in touch, but her taste in TV shows just does not match mine. Not at all. Not in any way.
 In the meantime, the desk, my desk, became a collector of all things household. When I came down to leave for work in the morning, I could not even find room to set down my coffee cup while I put my coat on. Pathetic. I am a slob. I admit it.
 Every morning I would look at the desk and think I should really get it cleaned up. But frankly the task was daunting. Finally, after watching my four thousandth home improvement show with the wife, I decided it was time to get started. And start I did, the next morning. That was 3 weeks ago, and I have bee putting in about 6 hours per weekend working on 'the pile'. Today I have reached the point where I have a clean area on half the desk to put my laptop and plug it in.
 There is a lot more to go. I'm clearing up well over 20 years of artifacts. I have a lot of electronics to deal with and I am really not sure if I am ready to pull my ham gear off the desk yet. Maybe I'll just trim it down. Then I have pieces of family history that in some cases goes back over a hundred years or more. Tools, wires, supplies, EMS stuff, Fire stuff, it all will have to find a new home. I'll chip away at it in due course making headway every week. I do have to admit, it's good to be back. This was a "man cave" many years before they coined the phrase. I have a 'fridge just 5 feet away, a bathroom 6 feet away, my plaques, certificates, awards, maps, and family photos adorn all the walls. The weight bench is across the room (currently serving as another bookshelf). I have a cable TV down here. I have a 12 foot long bookshelf three shelves high that holds books I have collected from two continents. History, how-to, reference, volumes I've written, text books from classes I've taken, it's all up there. This is my 'place'.
 So why am I forcing this long post on my readers? Well, the fact is that I expect some of my writing skill to return along with my return to 'the desk'. I have always done my best thinking here. The stuff I have written thus far from the couch upstairs has been, well, not as good as I think I can, or should, deliver.
 Stay tuned and lets all see if the new digs help me generate some better content.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Exposures (part 2, Conclusion)

 If you haven't read part 1 first, it should be found directly below this one, or you can read it HERE. I won't give a re-cap, go read the first post before picking it up here.
 So my Exposure Control Officer (ECO) is on the phone with the Hospital where we have just sent, 20 minutes prior, the source patient of my potential exposure. The Chief and myself are standing next to him as he talks on the phone.
ECO: Hi this is Charlie, I am the ECO at Smallville Fire Rescue. I need to report a possible exposure from a patient that is currently in your E/D. We brought her in from a PIAA a little while ago. We would like to know if the patient has anything that should concern the responder who got a shot of blood and spit in his eyes from this patient.
 Now we can't hear the other side of the conversation, so just bear with me here.
He listens a bit.
ECO: No, I'm sorry that won't work, can I speak to the Charge Nurse please?
He listens.
ECO: That's not how this works. I don't want her medical records, I just want to know that she's negative for communicable diseases, and if not, how we can protect our man here.
He listens.
ECO: Sorry, but that is unacceptable. OK, I'll have to take this up the ladder. We'll be in touch.
He hangs up.
 We look at him, he looks at us. "She said "no". "No?" I asked, "What does that mean? Does it mean she's clean and I'm ok?"
 "No" Said the ECO," it means they won't give us the information. They say it's confidential."
 I waste no time in throwing myself into a tirade. The Chief calmly says "Give me that phone and dial the number again."
 CHIEF: Hi, This is Chief Jones of Smallville Fire. One of my members had an exposure tonight and we are trying to find out if he has anything to worry about. My ECO just called and was told that the information was confidential. I'm sure that was an error, the law allows....
He got cut off in mid sentence and is listening.
CHIEF: Uh huh, Well, that's just not gonna fly. Could I please speak with the attending Physician? Yes, I will wait as long as I need to.
 CHIEF: Yes! hello Doctor. I know you're really busy so I'll be direct. Could you just let us know what you get back on the blood tests from that PIAA patient so that my man here can stop worrying, or get treatment for his exposure?
CHIEF: Yes sir, I understand, but there must be a way the we can...
 CHIEF: But how can anyone expect us to work this way? Surely there must be a way to....
CHIEF: OK Doc, thanks. We'll try that.
 Hangs up.
 "Well, apparently the law was changed and they can no longer give that information out. They are afraid of getting sued.  We are going to have to find a work around. In the meantime, the Doc says you "probably" don't have anything to worry about."
""PROBABLY!?"  "What the HELL is that supposed to mean!" I ask politely.
 My ECO is livid "WHAT! This is bullshit!" "I'll get on the phone tomorrow and call the administrator, we'll get this fixed."

So the days worked on into weeks and nothing came back through official channels. I continued to worry, but
other things filled my mind as time went on. After 3 weeks I ran into and assitant Chief in the deli. We chatted for a bit and as we parted he said "Hey, you DID get the word on that exposure thing right?" I informed him that I had indeed not heard anything and was still concerned about it. He walked over to lower his voice and said "hey, you're good man, she was clean, I got the info from  nurse friend at the Hospital." I was furious. "You might have given me  a phone call with that little tidbit, y'know." "Yeah" He said, "sorry, well see ya round".
 So this is how we handle exposures in the 21st century in small town in my State.
 In the years since, the laws have been 'fixed' and this should no longer occur, but we haven't had the opportunity to test the system.... yet.
 The next time you blow off the PPE, think about my experience and please reconsider.
Be Safe.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

On Exposures (part 1)

I'm learning some new things about myself as I write for this blog. Just the other night I realized that I am apparently suppressing some of the more difficult memories I have acquired on some of the uglier or more trying jobs. A couple of nights ago I read this post over on the TPN Taxi and it reminded me of an incident that I haven't thought about in quite a while.
 We were banged out for a PIAA (Personal Injury Auto Accident) during a class being held at the station on a cold winter evening. There was, as I recall, about a foot of snow on the ground, but the roads were clear and mostly dry. The accident itself was bizarre, having started 10 miles away in town, as a road rage incident in a parking lot (2 cars damaged) then continued up the main drag into our district where the offending driver took out two more cars along the roadway as she made her 'escape'. She finally lost it and wound up high on a snow bank, 50 feet from the road. The carnage was spread out over about 2 miles. Most of the injuries were minor, but the culprit wrecked her car pretty good, and her presentation as well as the vehicle damage caused us to take full spinal precautions during extrication and treatment. We had crews working at 3 different locations along this stretch. I wound up on the crew working the offending party.
 Somehow, she was in the passenger side of the vehicle, but I noted no seat belt use and the car had traversed a lot of rough ground after it left the road. The patient was very uncooperative, leading us to believe she was a little altered. She was hysterical in every sense of the word. Blubbering, crying, screaming, fidgeting, pushing our hands away, and arguing. She fought us at every turn. Her breathing was rapid and shallow and we knew we were going to have a tough time if we couldn't calm her down. A firefighter who knew her tried to get her to recognize and focus on him so he could explain what we were doing, He tried, but it didn't work, she blew him off and started thrashing again. I took a shot and changed places with the Firefighter. Because the car, on this side, was hanging on the bank, in order for me to get close to the patient, I had to be held up from the back. The rocker panel on the passenger side was about 4 feet off the ground at this point. So I have an Officer behind and below me pushing on my back with both hands to keep me up there and I am holding onto the door as I try to work with this girl.
 "Mary, look, you've been in an accident. We are here to help you, but you need to work with us. The more you fight, the more you can get hurt.; Mary LOOK at ME! Focus on my face. I need you to breath just like I do and calm down. Everything is going to be OK. LOOK AT ME. Everybody is going to take good care of you but YOU have to calm down and let us help you." It started to work and she relaxed a little for just a few seconds, it gave me time to assess her facial injuries and figure out that the blood which covered her face was coming from superficial facial lacerations which were already beginning to stop flowing. Then it happened.
 She lost it and let out a burst of air with a cry and moan all at once. Blood, sweat, and saliva flew everywhere. I couldn't see for second or two. I turned to the Officer behind me and asked if I had blood on my face. "A little" he said, "Around the nose and eyes". "Great'!" I thought, "perfect aim".
 We finished the job and she fought us all the way, kicking at the back board, ripping off the collar, grabbing onto the door frame to stay in the car,  and generally making it dangerous for the rest of us. I wound up stepping into 2 feet of the coldest water I have ever felt as we carried her to the rig. After she was transported a zip lock bag full of pretty colored pills was discovered under the seat. We figured this is why she kept kicking and hooking her feet under the seat.
 As soon as she was in the rig, I beat feet and headed for the nearest washroom at a convenience store 2 miles away. I washed up, ran by the house and got dry clothes on, and went back to the station to finish class and report my exposure as per protocol to the exposure control Officer. We put the report in writing and called the hospital per procedure to report it and request a blood test. This is where it gets weird.
(To be concluded tomorrow in Part 2)

Monday, December 13, 2010

On being Faceless

This being my one hundred and first post, I thought I would get something off my chest that has been sitting there for a while.
Anonymity, more specifically, MY anonymity and why I choose to present myself this way.
Over the past several years I have heard many decry the dreaded "faceless bloggers who HIDE behind their anonymity". Every time I hear this, I shudder, but remarkably I hear it quite often from some pretty well respected people, particularly the Doctors and EMS experts that appear on several of the pod casts. I find it hard to believe that those who are so well educated and respected maintain such a narrow point of view.
I understand that in the professional world you need to put your name, face, and reputation behind your work and your words. I get that. Believe me, I would love to go toe to toe with these guys, but I can't because I am anonymous, and therefore do not matter. I am persona non grata. I would give anything to change that, but I can't.
My Department has forbidden ANY and ALL internet activities on the (dreaded and dangerous) Internet that can be associated in any way to the department. Whether you mention the department or not, does not matter, if you put your name on it then it can be traced back to the Department and is therefore prohibited.
We are in a rural area, and everybody knows almost everybody. Your name and face carries the associations you maintain. In addition, our members are forbidden from writing or speaking with the media and in many cases public officials. There have been a lot of cases over the years where loose cannons have done a lot of accidental damage to the agencies.
Obviously I don't agree with the policy and would love to see something more responsible put forward, but try as I might, it's not going to happen. So here I sit, the faceless Captain.
The truth is, I would love to have my name on my work. I would love to be able to participate in some of the pod casts as another voice, but I really can't. Many months ago, one of the fire pod casts was doing a call in on a subject that I have some interest and opinions on. I was chatting away on the chat screen with comments and the host asked if I would call in and participate. I wanted so much to fill in what I felt the conversation lacked, that I called in. I used my rank and first name as an identifier. I also gave my state and a description of the type of services we have here. After the show ended I realized that my comments would be easily identified by anybody who knows me and heard the session. Instead of feeling good about making my points, I had a feeling of dread that I might get 'caught'.
I watch the activity stats on this blog pretty closely. As yet, nobody within 100 miles of my District has found my blog. That doesn't say much for the folks around here and their thirst for knowledge, but it keeps me safe. I also have a very low readership compared to folks like Justin, Marc, Chris, Mick, and those super bloggers. I like it that way.
I want all those people out there who think I am hiding because I am not willing to put my name behind what I write to know that they are wrong. Nothing would make me happier then to take credit for what I do. Coming out would allow me to write about things that matter. I am a Fire Instructor. Don't you think I would like to be able to use my credibility to make my points? Don't you think I would like to be able to put some work up here on the blog and then use it as references during my classes? "Yes, if you want to read more about this, go look at my post from last week." Don't you think I'd like to attend one of these meet-ups that take place? Being anonymous does not mean I can write whatever I want without repercussions. I still parse all material as if I were delivering it locally in a class. It just means that I can't put my reputation behind what I say. In the event that I actually present an idea worth discussion or something of real value, it will have to pass through without proper credit being given to the true writer.
So all I'm asking is that those who think we are 'hiding' would realize that in many cases we are 'trapped', or 'locked' in this closet.
Anybody who wants to disagree with me, correct me, or debate my postings is welcome to do so in the comments section or via email. I welcome the input with an open mind. I wish I could show you who you are talking to, but I can't. That's just the way it is.
Stay safe.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Best and the Worst in people, all in the same day

 I am home sick today fighting off an upper respiratory infection and instead of doing what I should be, resting and preparing for a class I have to teach tonight, I am really goofing off and writing this post.
 Too bad for you.

In my orientation training, I often tell the new folks that they need to be prepared for the way people will react to our presence on scenes. Some appreciate us, some don't. Some realize our jobs can be difficult at times, some don't. Some will do whatever they are asked, some will fight you tooth and nail and try to find ways to make things difficult and even dangerous for everyone on scene. Some will be having the worst day of their lives while others, in spite of the hardship, will find a bright spot to focus on. This past weekend, we had such a day where we saw both sides.

 It was our annual 'Santa Run' where the Department teams up with the big Jolly Elf and brings him all around town on the Engine to check on all the little girls and boys and make sure he has their wishes down correctly on his list. We generally run a small truck or Ambulance out front, Santa on the pump deck of the Engine in the middle, and a Rescue or Tanker at the rear to provide a blocker. None of our roads are straight around here and we need to keep the scene safe for Santa and his helpers (one or two Firefighters). Our District is big enough that we could never do it in a single day with just one crew, so we have three out covering the various sections.

 I like this detail because it tells me a lot about our first due area. Where the vacant houses are, which roads are in bad shape, new roads, new homes, where the small children live, where folks have built new ponds (draft sites), etc. It's also neat because if you work with Santa, you get to meet some neat little kids and the whole crew gets a real recharge out of it. Some folks even drop a donation or two in the candy cane bucket Santa carries. One year we returned for a warm-up break at the Station and found that one family had made a large thermos jug of hot chocolate for us and left a sizable check with a lovely thank you note for all the times we had helped them out over the past year, as well as for bringing Santa by to see their little girl.
 So that was our 'feel good' part of the day.
 In the evening, one of the Companies was having their annual Holiday get together at a local restaurant and as a Captain I was invited along with my Wife, to join them. Everyone had just arrived and the Chief was buying the first round of drinks, while the food was being brought out, as we stood at the bar passing the drinks back and delivering them to tables everybody's cell phones starting beeping with text messages. I had my wife's drink in one hand, and my beer in the other, so I hurried over to the table after sipping off the top of my beer to keep from spilling it, put them down, and reached for my phone just as the pager went off.
 The Chief immediately stood on a chair and said, "If you've already been drinking, I shouldn't need to tell you to stay here", then we all listened to the dispatch, there wee a LOT of tones coming through, always a bad sign.
 Structure fire. "Damn!" I thought as I looked at that golden, local brewed, jewel in my glass. It called to me, but I looked at my wife, shrugged my shoulders and grabbed my coat. "I'll be back soon." It looked like a scene out of the old days, 30 Firefighters empty the bar in thirty seconds when the alarm goes off.
 We arrived with all apparatus to find a worker, fortunately it was not a home, but a large shed that contained the homeowner's small workshop. It was burning hot enough to melt the siding off the house 25 feet away. We went to work and knocked it down quickly, cooled the house and checked the inside for damage or extension. The house was fine except for the siding damage. The shed was a total loss, it had some gas, yard tools, chainsaws, mowers, and other usual household goods in it as well as all the homeowner's tools. We had a little excitement when the mag wheels stored within got hit with some water and flared up, but other than that it was controlled in 5 minutes, and cleaned up in an hour.
 The downside was looking at the homeowner's faces as we worked. I didn't take a front line hand in this one, preferring to let some of the new guys get their hands dirty. I stood in the back and looked for problems or offered a bit of direction here and there. This gave me time to see the effect the situation was having on the owners. They've had a tough year. I was here a few times to handle medical calls that involved the PD and now they had lost the tools that supported the family. The wife looked heartbroken, and the husband was busy consoling his wife and telling her that things would work out somehow. I walked over and checked to make sure that they were OK and hadn't gotten hurt when the fire broke out. Then I gave the husband a pat on the back, and the Wife a hug. These were old friends and ten years ago we spent a lot of time together, when the kids were younger. Scouts, soccer games, school, etc. We'd see them all the time. It was tough to see them hurting like this. Still, I trotted out the same old line "Look, you guys are OK, your house is OK, nobody got hurt, and all the tools can be replaced. Focus on the important part." It might have made them feel a little better, but it didn't help me much. I know it's gonna take them a while to get back on par.
 "Look", I said, "you need me, you call me, Right?" The husband looked at me as his wife reached out and touched the arm of my coat. "Yeah" he said, "You always seem to be around when we get into trouble, Thanks."
I went off to help pack the truck.
 From one end of the spectrum to the other in under 12 hours.
(By the way, when I returned to the restaurant, my beer was still where I had left it, but I could swear SOMEBODY had taken a few more sips from it. I eyed everybody in the room with suspicion.)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sorry, this one just struck me.

As if we don't hear this tune enough during the week closing in on Christmas, now we get to hear it with a different set of lyrics. None the less, the first time I heard it, it did tickle me. Now by the 500th time, I have a feeling it won't be quite so amusing.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

New Kid on the Block

Hey, go over and check out the new kid. I feel comfortable calling him "kid" because he's half my age, but he writes twice as well. I LIKE this guy a lot and I look forward to reading his stuff. Matt The Medic also has a guest post over on Sam's blog.
 Matt, welcome to the circus. Enjoy the ride. Write well, write often.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

On paying Attention

 The tones dropped and I pulled myself from the desk chair and headed for the truck in the driveway. As I grabbed the door handle, the address was given as 2 houses down, "possible stroke". I thought for a second about walking over but decided to take the truck so I had all my gear if I needed it.
 So I drove down, left my truck in front of the house, leaving the driveway open, and the blue light flashing to mark the location for the incoming crews. We would have a BLS first response truck with ALS backup on automatic dispatch as is pre-plan for a stroke call.
 I walked up to the front door and greeted the wife "Hi Mary, whats going on today?" Mary was calm, but concerned "I don't know, he is definitely not himself, he's wobbly, has slurred speech, and I think he may have had a small stroke." She went on "be gentle when you approach him, he's acting real strangely."
 I've known Bill for around 20 years. He's my neighbor and although we don't spend  lot of time together, we have been friendly and share a common hobby. In years past we would share the occasional evening or two. He's watched all the kids grow up in the neighborhood and could always be counted on to set them straight when their parents weren't around to do it. I liked Bill and he, I think, liked me. Lately his health has deteriorated and he has been losing the battle with his diabetes and the related effects. I know Bill can be a rough guy with strangers. He tends to have a harsh tone about him and can sometimes appear nasty. But if you know him, then you also know that he is just a teddy bear and can usually be disarmed by a good laugh and a sincere smile. He does not suffer the insincere well at all, and you really do not want to get him pissed off.
 I walked into the bedroom where Bill was laying on the bed with his lowers legs hanging off to the side. He half sat up when I walked in and looked me over... hard. "Who the F--k are you and what are you doing in my house!?"  "Bill, it's me, UU, don't you remember me?"
 "No, why are you here, what do you want? Never mind, just get out!"
 "Bill, we're here because Mary called us and she is worried about you. She says you are not well and she wanted us to see if we could help you. Do you mind if I ask you some questions about how you are feeling?"
 Bill looked over to his wife who was now standing in the doorway, then back at me, then back at her, and I could see him softening just a bit. "Well, ok, but make it quick."
 While our conversation is going on I instinctively scanned the room for any hints of other things going on. Med bottles, liquor bottles, bloody tissues, what ever might clue me into other issues. It's a habit I have, and in the course of my survey, my eyes fell on a handgun laying on the dresser just two steps from where the patient was. It appeared to be a .38 police special, Detective model, 2" barrel, Smith and Wesson, I think. From the angle it was laying at, I could see the bullet noses peaking out of the front of the cylinder. I knew in his working days as a long haul trucker Bill had always carried a small .38 in a waist band holster. He was big on personal protection.
 The gun didn't bother me, but it's proximity to an altered patient did give me some concern. It was in reach and I could easily have picked it up, but I knew this would most likely set Bill off. So I stepped in between Bill and his gun as I casually moved in to start my assessment. I asked him the usual stuff about when he ate last, what he ate, whether he had any pain, etc. I also asked when he last checked his Glucose level. (It turned out that this put us on the right track.) Shortly the medic came in and I waited until he stepped up next to me before I gave him all my info. Then I said, "if you're OK here, I'll go out and get the guys moving on a stair chair and gurney, OK?" The medic nodded. I knew George well, he had been a fill-in instructor in my CFR class years ago and I have worked many job s with him. I liked him because he was always consistent and predictable, and you always knew what you could do to help him. He never made assumptions and always went beyond the first treatable condition to make sure there wasn't anything else. He was good.
 So I stood up, and backed up slightly and waited for George to ask Bill his first question. When Bill began to answer, I turned to Mary and quietly asked her if she could take the weapon out of the room as I casually nodded toward the pistol. She looked at me, then at the gun, realized I was providing a visual shield for her to pick it up, so she gently took it, turned and stepped out of the room as she gave me that "Ooops, sorry!" expression.
 We packed up Bill, got a sugar count (25), and got him in the ALS rig for some dextrose and a quick trip to the E/D. All was well and he was back home that night.
 Two days later I ran into George at the auto repair shop in town where he was getting his car fixed. After the usual "hellos" I asked him how Bill treated him on the way into the hospital. "Man that guy is one mean, tough cuss!" "Once we got his sugar up, he wanted us to stop the rig and let him out on the side of the road". I told him a little of Bill's history, his long haul trucking job, they years he spent as a Professional Bull Rider on the National circuit, and how he really was a nice, sweet old guy. "By the way, I was really impressed on how you didn't make a big deal about the loaded hand gun in the room. A lot of Medics would have freaked out over that. You were very cool."
 George's mouth dropped "Loaded hand gun!?" "Why didn't you say something?"
 I was taken aback. "George, you didn't see it? You didn't scan the room like you taught me? Didn't you always say 'Observe the environment just the same way you observe the patient'?" I explained that saying something out loud would have created a situation that we didn't need. I knew the patient could not get access to the weapon as long as I stood in position, and he couldn't see it either. We got it out of the room before the patient was moved and eliminated the risk.
 I couldn't resist, I read just a little of the riot act to George about "complacency" and "sloppy work that might get him hurt someday". He could see I was enjoying it, and he knew he deserved it, so he let me go on without protest. When I finished, he simply looked at his shoes and said "Thanks for the wake-up call, I guess I was getting a little sloppy."
 We both learned something from that job. George was reminded of his own lesson, and I had it hammered into my head that you never make assumptions, even if it's familiar surroundings.
 "Scene safety", we hear that and repeat it a million times, but how often do we really practice it?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Time for a CHANGE!

I know what you are thinking, but no, I am not moving my blog to another site. In spite of the problems with blogger, I have no intention of doing all the work required to make a move when I see no benefit for you or me in the effort.
 No, I am talking real change here. Something to get me a little more on the Fire side, and less on the EMS side. after serving my years as EMS Captain, I chose not to run for the position this year. My Squad needs a change in leadership to keep things fresh. They are a great crew and they deserve the best. I am not it, never was. I did bring in some skills, organization,  and direction that the Squad needed badly, but I've done my tasks and it is time to move on. They have worn me out and it's time for a new face.
 I too need to back away and shake this constant feeling of being toasted. My plan was to take a year off from leadership, longer if that's what the membership wanted. It was not to be. I was asked, and accepted, to run for a fire lieutenant's position. Wouldn't you know it, the damn fools elected me. Now I just need to see if I get assigned to my home company, or have to travel across town for every call.
 I am actually looking forward to the change. It will be so much easier. I expect to be working under a Captain who has been my duty night driver for 2 years now. We make a good team. I'll have primary responsibility for one Engine, just one.  No Ambulances. no supply closet to keep full, no oxygen cascades, no bitchy EMT's whining about not having the latest doo-dad, and no State DOH paperwork to keep filling out every time I turn around.. Just an Engine and it's tools, that's all. Run some good drills once in a while, and train the new guys.
 I can feel the cloud lifting already and can't wait until the first of the year.
 The Fire side has always appealed to me more. I think those on the Fire side will understnad when I say it is simpler to deal with. It is Fire, a chemical reation which is usually quite predictable. Firefighters, male or female, are simpler folk. 'Get the call, do the job, clean it up and ready it for the next time, go home.' They (at least my guys) speak directly to the point and don't beat around the bush. If they think I'm being and asshole, they will tel me so. I like that, it's refreshing. I am a bit tired of talking about 'feelings' and how I 'upset' you. So many times in the last few years I have bitten the end off my toungue to keep from saying "Look, just DO YOUR JOB!".
 Yeah, in a few months I'll be bitching about something or other, but for now, I'm looking forward to doing something new and different. I'm also hoping that some folks will finally realize that I am a Firefighter that also does the EMS stuff, not the other way around.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Things heard on the job

Thanks to the Burned Out Medic for triggering another thought stream in my head. Here are some things I've heard on the job, in random order. Many of these I would prefer to never hear again.
OK folks, as soon as we move Charlie onto the backboard, I'd like to get a little extra help in locating his hand. It's got to be around here somewhere.
 Chief, I think we're going to need a lot more tankers.
RESPONDER #1: OK, it's your call, how do you want to get this guy out?
RESPONDER #2: What are the options?
RESPONDER #1: By Boat, 15 to 30 minutes; By chopper 20 minutes, plus rigging time; By foot, 40 minutes; or by Six-Wheeler and chainsaw, which is enroute now, about 20 minutes.
RESPONDER #2: Let's go with the Six-Wheeler, can we get TWO chainsaws working?
RESPONDER #1: Could you move your left foot?
RESPONDER #2: Why? I'm working here.
RESPONDER #1: You're standing on another body.
RESPONDER #2: Cripes! How many people were in this car?
Chief, have we had any luck identifying the green liquid coming out of this building? It's been and hour since we've been working this fire and it's still flowing out. Some of the crews are getting nauseous.
We can't do the recovery until the investigators get in there and map everything out.
RESPONDER #1: Wow, that's a lot of blood, what do you make it to be, about a liter?
RESPONDER #2: I think it's closer to 2 liters at this point. Ready? One, Two, THREE.......
DISPATCH TO CAR ONE: Chief, we just got in touch with the property owner, he  advises us that there is an unknown quantity of explosives stored in that building.
 RESPONDER : He fell from up THERE? And yet he's conscious?
MAN, That's a BIG hornet's nest!
LINE OFFICER: Ma'am, we're volunteers, just here to help you. We got the water out of your basement, but we aren't qualified to restart your furnace.
DISTRAUGHT TAXPAYER: Yes, you CAN. Now finish the job!
LINE OFFICER: Ma'am, you need to call your Oil company. Your furnace was under 2 feet of water and it will need a lot of work.
LINE OFFICER: Ma'am, at this hour of the morning, and after doing 8 basement pumps, You can HAVE my job.
What do you mean, you can't find the driver? SOMEBODY rolled this truck over!
Hey, doesn't that chimney look like it's leaning away from the house?
FIRST DUE OFFICER TO DISPATCH: We've got at least 7 patients, but we're not done counting yet. Please give me at least 2 more ALS units and a 2nd alarm for EMT's to the scene.
STOP! I think I feel a pulse! Yeah, look at the monitor!
Hey man, you don't look so good.
TAXPAYER: Did you really NEED to bring all these trucks and people?
CHIEF: Yes sir, we do.
 I love this job!
I hate this job!
 Wow, I never thought you could actually crack a fire helmet like that!
DISTRAUGHT TAXPAYER: I want to talk to your Chief!
CHIEF: Ma'am, I AM the Chief.
DISTRAUGHT TAXPAYER: Not YOU, I mean the BIG Chief, let me talk to him.
CHIEF: Ma'am, I may not be very tall, but I am the biggest Chief we have and I am STILL not going to let you back into that house.
Man, you got enough sheet rock on your helmet to build a wall!
I HATE it when my gloves freeze solid.

One thing I've learned on this job is that you will never live long enough to hear it all, or see it all.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Marking Time

Well, it was a year ago today that my first post went up on this blog. With a break of 5 months or so early on, I didn't hold a very consistent pattern. Since May I've hung in there fairly well though. This is about my 95th post since the first one, so on average, I suppose that's not too bad.
 I went back through many of the early posts looking for something I could throw back up as a sort of 'walk down memory lane' I didn't find anything I thought would be worth a second viewing. I guess value (or lack thereof) is in the mind of the reader. From my perspective, all my posts have a one shot value, if that. Your mileage may vary.
 For my own part, I am re-thinking the whole blog thing. There were two simple goals:
1) to provide a personal outlet to relieve some pent up stress., and
2) to impart some information of value to my readers.
 I knew that each post would be one or the other, and seldom both. In reading some old posts, I see a few that have neither purpose served. There are so many GOOD blogs out there to read, that I wonder why anybody would read mine. Perhaps they (you) keep coming back hoping it will get better? I do know, from looking at the stats, that there are a few dedicated folks who come back every time I have a new post, and there are a few who spend quite a bit of time reading through many of my writings for over an hour at a clip. I thank you for that. I'll keep this thing plugging along for those that are regular readers until I figure out how to write a little better. I know that some of 'my regulars' are fellow bloggers whose writings I truly enjoy, and in some cases admire. I also know there are a few regulars who do not have a blog that I am aware of and I don't see any comments from them except for lots of entries in the stat files.
 I do want to hang in there a while to see how this whole 'blog thing' develops. Years ago I was an active participant in several of the EMS forums. When they began to degenerate into a nasty group of critical, unhappy, and in some cases, nasty people, I faded away. So far, the blogosphere has not done that and we have all managed to stay polite. However I do notice some fraying around the edges. Several of the principals on particular blogs who have large readerships have lately taken to aiming some sharp criticism and half hearted, yet very pointed jesting at each other. It's only a matter of time before one of them gets offended and lashes out. I can feel it coming. Stand by for the show, I can see it coming as clearly as I saw some of the non-anonymous bloggers get taken down by the Company they worked for. Too often in our society, smaller minds prevail.
 I will say that this past year of blogging has been interesting in many ways. Having folks read my offerings from all around the world and just about every continent is gratifying, to say the least. Having them come back again is nothing short of amazing to me. Iraq, Thailand, UK, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Turkey, and Japan are just a few of the countries I have seen in the log. (And there is somebody in Knoxville, Tn who is spending a lot of time reading things here lately. hmmm,) I am still amazed by the listing from Antarctica, that just blew me away. I used to chat with a few of the radio operators down there in my Ham days that would 'winter over'. I know a little about life down there and am amazed that somebody managed to find me. I have almost as many 'regulars' in Canada as I have in the US. I have always regarded our neighbors to the north as the most civilized of the North Americans, so it's nice to see them come read and comment.
 So, all in all, I can say it's been worth the time I've put into this. I can only hope it has been worth your time to read it all. In the coming year I hope to work on my personal relationships with a few of the bloggers I can identify with. If I were a 'career guy' I could easily do this by attending some of the many conferences that all the lucky ones get to go to and meet each other. For me, that doesn't work because of work constraints, vacation time, and finances. I'll keep looking for another way. Perhaps a Skype session or two. That's a new medium for me which I have just begun to explore.
 So if you'll keep reading, I'll keep writing. Lets see if I can do better in 'year two'.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks

It's Thanksgiving morning and already I am thankful. I managed to sleep through the entire night. I also managed to go to bed early last night after realizing that I was just too tired to sit in front of the tube. So we managed to get the first appliance fire of the holiday weekend out of the way early last evening and it only interrupted my dinner, which I happily wolfed down in it's luke-warm state after putting the engine back to bed and completeing the paperwork.
 I also managed to sleep a little late, hoping that might improve my state of mind for the day. When I finally got up, I was greeted by a half dozen or more fresh blog posts from those who also had an apparent light evening last night and could put up a holiday offering. This was a nice treat.
 Today, as the Turkey cooks, we'll get ready for the big family thing over at the folks house. We "the kids" are cooking parts of the dinner and trucking it over to the folks house to re-assemble and serve. This allows us to cook at home with our own stuff and not mess up my Mom's kitchen too much. It also saves on the cleanup required. The trick is transporting all this freshly cooked food in a safe and effective manner. Last time, at Easter, doing the same deal, we were banged out for a working structure fire as I was halfway between my home and the Folks. I pulled in the driveway took everything out and laid it on the driveway for my nephew to bring in the house, then took off to play firefighter. I don't wanna do that again.
 This time I'm hoping for a boring day. I am on the 6-6 overnight tonight because everyone else claims to need 'family time'. This will mark the 6th year straight that I have covered Thanksgiving night in some capacity. We get the usual calls, aided by alcohol in many cases. A couple of years back we did an FDGB* with a head lac in a 50-something male. I arrived to find the Chief was holding personnel out of the scene and controlling who went in, which I took as strange and put on my 'scene safety goggles'. The job was routine with a transport for further exam, we handled it BLS. Later I asked the Chief about all the scene control nonsense. It was then that I found out I was in the home of a very famous Rock Band that had assembled the entire band with families for a Special Thanksgiving. The Chief wanted to respect their privacy. I guess their secret was safe with me as I had no idea who they were but do remember hearing some of their songs on the radio over the years. It was a really nice house though with a 25 foot long banquet table set out like something in a magazine. Apparently, we arrived just as they were about to sit for dinner.
 Let's see what we get this year. I'm hoping for nothing so we can keep everybody in quarters or at home with their families.
 I'm also wishing the same for all the readers out there, but when the tones drop, remember to be extra careful because of the motoring public on the roads who may not be paying attention.

(*FDGB = Fall Down, Go Boom)

Monday, November 22, 2010


 We all know that the average life span of an EMS worker is 5 years. It's a tough job. Unlike many, I knew this going in. I figured, like most probably do, that I was not average and would be able to handle it. In one way, I was correct, but I never saw the other side of it coming.
 This evening when I returned home from my paying job I received an email which included a resignation from a member of 28 years. I read it twice. I had (have) no idea what to do about it. I am numb to her pain that drove her to quit. I can't handle anymore of the politics and bullshit.
 I can handle the bullshit calls, being called out at 3am for a toothache ("it really hurts a LOT"), the off-hours jobs that come in bunches like being banged out at 3 am for 3 days in a row, the stacked up calls that have us responding from the hospital after dropping off one patient, just to go grab another. I can handle the disrupted family events that I leave in haste to tend to a fire or EMS call. I can handle all of that stuff, but the leadership stuff has just fried me.
 I decided last year to 'not run' for the Captain's job anymore, but I was asked by too many folks to do another year. As there were no good candidates, I decided to do one more year for the 'good of the company'. That was the wrong reason and I know that now. The company has done fine, but I have had to fight with myself to do a proper job all year now. I need some time off and have for longer than I realized.
 Like everybody else in this job, I have had my ups and downs. We all should realize they are temporary. You get the bad call that you can't shake for a while, you get the ugly personal attack or conflict. That happens and time usually helps you work things out. However, over time, things can build up, and I think that is what is happening to me. I have a fair amount of stress at my paying job, and when I get phone calls at work regarding EMS business, it adds to the stress, especially if I explain to the caller that I am in a meeting and can't talk, but will call them back when I'm free. They get pissy, and I get pissed off. They expect me to be available, and I expect a little respect. Some resentment lingers.
 I realize today that I have been fighting off a deep seated and lingering deppresion for a while now, probably 6 months. I don't exercise like I used to, don't have much of an appetite, but my weight stays a bit too high for a tall skinny guy. I sit on the couch way too much for a guy that used to always be 'into something', and worst of all I have to force myself to get up and do the things that need to get done. I am generally disgusted with myself.
 The only thing that gets me moving is when the tones drop. Even then, I make my way to the job or the station and do what needs to be done, but there is very little 'hitch in my giddy-up'. (For readers in other parts of the globe, that means I don't show much enthusiasm.) I'm concerned that if I slip further, I might actually become a liability to myself and others because I am not alert and thinking.
 Every day I say to myself that this will be the day I head into the weight room and get back to work. But at the end of the day nothing has changed.
 I know I will get through this because I have done it before. It just takes time to work through it. Once I turn over the Captain's badge, I know a huge weight will lift from my shoulders. I also know that I can't blame all my 'issues' on the Department and I have to work on some of the other aspects of my life.
 Still, I can't help but wonder how much easier it would be for everyone if people would just treat each other with respect. This job is tough enough without all the bullshit that some folks feel compelled to generate.

(Postscript: I began this post over a week ago and it took 4 attempts over that week to come up with something I could put up here. Two days after I started it, the new subject came out for the Handover, go figger. I kept at it because I thought getting it out there might help me clear my head. Thanks for listening.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Peak of the Mountain

Hey, Y'all check his post out, it's a wonderful piece of writing representing a singular milestone in a Special person's life. I'll say no more.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

What are the chances?

It's four AM on the morning of another dark and drizzly weekday. As he crunches across the road through scattered broken glass, plastic, and crumpled auto parts, he watches the second ambulance carefully pick it's way out of the scene and onto the road to the hospital. He instinctively looks in the opposite direction to check for traffic that might intercept the ambulance, then he chuckles to himself.
 There is NOBODY on the road. This accident took place at a rural intersection of a backroad and the
'four-lane' which, although controlled by a traffic light, sees no traffic at this time of day. Which makes him  wonder: Why, at this hour of the day, were the conditions right for a high speed, two-car t-bone accident? Two people headed for the hospital on backboards with serious injuries and requiring some extrication work, for what?
 What could have put one driver in such a rush with NO other cars on the road except for a single delivery van? The night was dark and foggy but with good visibility and moving headlights would stand out like a bonfire.
 What are the chances of these two cars meeting at that precise instant? 45 minutes on scene cutting cars, clearing debris, packaging patients and in that whole time 4 vehicles came through. In another hour or two there would be a steady flow as people headed to work and school, but for now, there was nobody.
 What are the chances?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Yeah it IS Magic

Lt. Morse had a nice post up the other day called Magic and anyone who plays this game knows that what he says is an irrefutable truth. He writes of that moment on a serious call when it all comes together: the training, the teamwork, the timing, and the hundreds of hours of preparation for that moment in time. The politics, conflicts, and problems all fade from existence, and it is all about the patient and getting the job done. It is truly an exceptional experience that, to my mind, can not be replicated anywhere else except perhaps in the military.
 I've mentioned that I teach and we have just begun the season for our 'team'. For me, this is a big responsibility and I treat my students like a patient, in that I am providing a service that must be accomplished properly and effectively. I hold myself to a higher standard than I can usually attain. Each session I find something I could have done better, made clearer, or presented in a better manner. I know the members of the class are pretty smart and get what I am telling them. They all have varying levels of experience, many of which exceed mine. I also realize that I have precious little time to deliver the message and have to do it well to keep their interest, make their time well spent, and hopefully impart some new knowledge.
 As I said, I am rarely satisfied with my performance because I stumble over a sentence or thought somewhere during the session. I always ask the other instructors for their criticisms, and during the break I also ask some of the students what they thought of the session. It makes me better and more importantly it makes the class better for the next batch of students.
 The other night I gave a class on a subject which one of the other instructors has done for years, yet I had never done. During the session I kept glancing over at 'the boss', our lead instructor and a fellow that I have been trying to emulate for years. He has that smooth natural delivery with a sense of humor that I can never master. He always has the class chuckling and he always gets his message across. What I saw on his face didn't tell me that I was doing very good. I kept pushing a little harder and eventually got through it. When I finished, I felt I had done very well on the subject matter and could not think of any goofs that I made. 'The Boss' came over and I asked him what he thought. "You slammed that one out of the park, added some stuff I never thought of. We should get you to do that one more often." Then he added a couple of thoughts on refinements, but it was the first time I saw him smile in surprise. Kind of like Magic for me.