Friday, December 16, 2011

Testing the Waters

I just got finished reading this post by The Lonely EMT and she raises some good points, as is her custom. I was going to leave her a comment with some other things of the same ilk which I have learned or developed over the years, but I realized it would get kind of long (for a comment anyway) so I am going to break my 'fast' and have my first EMS/Fire related post in a very long time here.
 Linda writes at length about things we volleys do to maitain a level of 'combat readiness' in order to answer the call and we all have some sort of 'system' we each use. Some systems don't work all that well, but they keep getting used anyway. I know one EMT who will not run a call unless she brushes her teeth, but this same EMT never grabs her wallet (with her credentials) when she runs out in the middle of the night.
 I have my 'things' that I always do or never ever do, as applicable. I do many of the quick response tricks that Linda mentions such as considering what I am doing at the moment and what I will have to do if the tones drop. I often make "Go/No-Go" decisions in advance. If it is at a time when most would expect me to respond (holiday weekend when they know I'm in town) and I need to take myself out of service, I usually call someone and make sure they know I'm unavailable for the next hour and get them to cover the initial response minutes. We (my crews) are in the habit of casually sharing our personal schedules, so that others know if we are in town, having a family party, or otherwise unavailable. If any of us have had a drink, it takes us out of the game, so we let others know that in advance.
 Then I have my 'habits".
 During snowstorms or heavy rainstorms I bring my tunrouts in the house and have them ready to don, so that I don't have to do it in the Engine bay or on a roadside. During the winter months I keep all the temperature sensitive EMS stuff like NPA lube, Oral Glucose, and a few other odds & ends in a small zip lock bag inside my EMS coat which hangs by the door in the house. That way they are all ready to go, and warm. Ditto my steth.
 I have one of those rechargeable LED drop lights that hangs on the book case next to my bed. For late night calls I turn that on and it does not disturb the wife when the pager goes off and I flip it on. I carry that light through the house so I don't need any other lights on and it gets me out to my truck safely. It gets REALLY dark here too, just like at Linda's place. Oh and I ALWAYS have a flashlight in my pants pocket, 24/7/365, as well as in every coat pocket, especially in winter.
 My pants are always laid on the floor next to the bed, my shirt is underneath the pants, and my fresh socks are laid out flat across the tops of my boots. I could always find them in the dark and get them on correctly before I had that drop light. (Ironically I did not get this habit from the fire service, I learned it from all my back country hiking and camping. You need to locate all your gear and operate it in the dark in case he weather blows up in the middle of the night, especially in the winter.)
 I always have at least one bottle of water in the truck that I can sip from to clear my mouth and help hydrate on the way to a call, especially in the middle of the night. In the summer I keep a six-pack in the back seat, and in the dead of winter I keep a bottle by the light switch of the door I leave the house from.
 Some folks sleep with their socks on. I have trouble with this even when it's really cold in the house, but if I KNOW we are going out that night, I will do it on rare occasions. Yes, there are indeed nights when I KNOW we are going out, mostly due to weather.
 I keep on open type satchel in my truck that was given to me as a business promo. It was useless for business, but great for the Fire work. It has two outside pockets that are perfectly sized for my hi-band and low-band portable radios. the main pocket holds my EMS hip pack that has the basics (B/P cuff, stop-clot, steth, a couple of 4x4's, some band-aids, shears, Pulse-Ox, Glasses, pad, pen, etc), a pair of work (mechanics) gloves, small camera, ERG book, a stretch hat, and yet another flashlight. The other pockets have similar odds and ends like a multi-tip screw driver, some extra pens, and things of that sort. I call this my 'officers bag' and it's nice because when I respond, I climb in the truck and can turn on the radios without removing them. When I get to the station, I grab my turnout bag and this thing, which sits on the floor next to the seat. Everything I need is in there and it has worked perfectly for me for several years now.
 I also keep an old scanner in my truck that is always on. This scanner has our EMS, Fire and police 911 frequencies ( check your state, federal, and local regulations on this one). For me this is a HUGE safety tool. While on the way I can hear what dispatch is getting and giving all the involved agencies. This can either speed up my response, slow down my response, or completely change the manner in which I respond. I have two Fire Houses (out of 3 in my department) that I can get apparatus from. The details of the call will often dictate which way I turn, and what I get. We all know that the "Rollover with entrapment and fire" can very often be reduced to a 'property damage only' call after the first cop arrives on scene and gives an update. I like to know whats going on. I am not going to risk my life for an overheated car that somebody driving by called in as a car fire with entrapment because he/she saws steam and people sitting in the car. Knowledge is power. Conversely, if the dispatch was for 'chest pains' and I hear an update form PD that includes "CPR in progress' then yes, I am going to step it up. The scanner allows me to make intelligent decisions and act in a safer manner, based on the risk.
 Let me finish up by pointing out something that Linda alluded to, but I'll be more blunt. You have to think about your responses and analyze what you have done in the past in order to find ways to do things better, faster, and safer in the future. For instance, I almost never answer a call in the middle of the night without peeing before I leave (I'm getting old and the bladder does not work like it used to). I have also conditioned myself that on a late night call when I can't seem to clear my head and wake the hell up, I drive intentionally slower, much slower in fact. Being groggy makes me a hazard to myself and others. There is no sense in getting there quickly only to find yourself confused. So I slow down and give my brain time to wake up.
 Although this doesn't apply to most folks, it will for some. I respond for some special type calls outside my district where I work with other teams like Swiftwater rescue or Wildland Search. Obviously in the warmer months my swiftwater gear bag is in the truck, but not the winter months. Likewise, I seldom have my wildland gear in the truck because I own a room full of equipment and the gear is all specific to seasons and other requirements. So seasonally I have a couple of specialty bags or backpacks already loaded and sitting in my den near the back door. One bag is configured with the most likely general use, the other bag has the additional stuff I might need in that season. When I get to the staging area I pull from one pack to tailor what I need in the other pack. This could be maps, clothing, sleeping bag, ice axes, snowshoes, crampons, stoves, food, climbing aids, and a whole bunch of other things. The point here is, all this gear is in packs, ready to throw in the truck and in clean, working order. When I get a call for the rare search, I don't have to spend a lot of time finding gear or risk forgetting a key item (like a flashlight or GPS unit). I also have EMS kits configured for all occasions. For back-country wok I have a small carefully packed kit that includes a lot of stuff I would NEVER have or use on the street like over the counter meds, moleskin, a suture kit and such like. I have a small EMS back pack configured for what I might need to assist a wild land firefighter.
 Lastly, for the 'once every two years' long running incidents where I know I will be living at the firehouse for several days I have yet another gym type bag that I keep in my bedroom closet. It has my spare EMS pants, a second pair of boots, and it ready to have my toilet kit and the other odds and ends thrown into it. We generally have warning for these events like floods and hurricanes, so I just keep it handy and ready to fill while I am doing my other storm prep work. It acts as a trigger or reminder that I should get that stuff together in a bag as part of my preparation.
 Thinking about what could (or will) happen, and preparing for it is the name of the game. So do yourself a favor and think about it a little more than you already have. I bet you come up with some time savers that also make you a better and safer responder.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Long Time Coming

Father forgive me, for I have sinned, it's been 2 months and a day since my last post....

Yeah, long time. I guess you all thought I was gone, and I guess I was. I was a-wandering out there looking for my soul, direction, and some other stuff. I buried myself in my music lessons trying to get away from the stuff we see. The PTSD had built up and I knew it was eating me up. I had nothing to write that was good or worthwhile. It was a dark place.
 No, I am not "back" and "healed". I am still working on that. Music therapy is helping (anybody wanna donate ticket money?) but I had my first really positive experience in a long time this week and I thought I might share it. It occurred to me that when we suffer a loss, a patient that does not survive, I mourn my shortcomings for anywhere between a day and a week, depending on the circumstances. But if we 'suffer' a win, I generally don't celebrate it for more than a day. That's not right.
 Several days ago we had a 'nasty'. 2 car MVA head-on, 110 MPH closing speed. As luck would have it, I wasa the 2nd EMS person in the car of the serious patient (the other driver RMA'd if you can believe). I took the head of a patient with a serious head injury, depressed skull fracture, snoring respirations, multiple lacerations, and very combative. Extrication was around 10 minutes (great crew), but we had difficulty getting her out because she was flailing. The flight medic was on scene in less than 10 minutes from dispatch of the original call because the were returning form a previous call. The first Trooper on scene was also a Paramedic and an RN. He got the main torso and assessment, while I took the head and did observations and support. Lots of blood in the car but no serious bleeds were evident when I got there.
 Once set up in the rig, we had 4 medics and 2 EMT's working the patient. It was like poetry even though none of us had much, if any time, working together before. We all held the same thought "This patient probably won't survive the flight to the trauma center".
 With all the critical calls I've done, this was my first 'squirter'. When the pressure in her head injury finally overcame the ability of the skin to hold it back, she blew a stream across the rig and shot a medic in the belly. I surprised myself because it didn't really mean much, I just moved my index finger over the hole and closed it off. We dressed it up when time allowed a few minutes later. It appeared she had a deviated trac and one medic placed his fingers to hold the trac in line while the other slid the tube in. Good hit on the first try. Good breath sounds, bilateral. The monitor showed good vitals considering and we all took 3 seconds to celebrate, as we kept working.
 This was also my first hot load. Normally the flight protocols call for shutting the bird down during the load operation, but in tis case the flight medic called the pilot while enroute and told him to 'wind it up and be ready to go" (this saves 2-4 minutes). So we loaded hot and had to maneuver the patient right past the tail rotor. Not a comfortable situation for me, having the handle end of the stretcher, but what the hell.
Off they went, and I collapsed on the tailboard of my rig, while the other guys started clean up. I was shot and began to sink into that depression that comes with the realization that even with all the effort and care, she probably won't make it.
 18 hours later there was a blurb on the local paper's web site about the accident and that she was in the trauma center in 'serious' condition". I was walking on air, she survived the night. "WOO HOO!" I thought. Then as the hours and days passed, pieces of information began to trickle back, either through medical channels, or the small town network, that she was conscious, knew her name, could wiggle her toes, etc. This gal is gonna make it, I thought. FINALLY, I get to work a bad one that doesn't turn out bad! This is, I kid you not, a first for me.
 Now I know, it's not about me, and the calls and jobs I am dealt, it is about the patient. However, I have gotten the feeling that if you are a patient in critical condition, you really don't want me showing up. It's my personal perception of a back cloud. I have never had a CPR save. I have been on some calls where I didn't expect the patient to survive and they made a full recovery, but this is the first time I have had a critical trauma patient survive. It's a very good feeling.
 About 0300 this morning we had an automatic alarm call that turned out to be false, but while on scene I ran into a friend of the family of this gal who gave me a update about the surgeries that had taken place in the past 12 hours. She said that the mother of this gal wanted to find out who had taken care of the girl's head during the incident, because the Doctors told her that this was probably what saved her life.
 I don't know what the physiology of the trauma is for this gal, but I have to tell you that as far as C-spine precautions go, this was probably the worst job I have ever done at stabilization. She was flailing and thrashing all over. I actually had my left arm across her upper chest, and had wrapped her hair in the fingers of my right hand the try and control the head. I felt like I was trying to restrain a prisoner. I was not happy with my methods. It was nothing that they ever taught me in class, and I don't recommend it. The mental picture of doing this had me awake that entire night, I felt like a failure at treating this patient in a controlled and proper way. Hindsight tells me that I got lucky. Next time I have to do better.
 At any rate, it's nice to have a winner. From what I can see now, it appears this gal will recover with most functions in tact.  I don;'t think she'll be the same as she was before the accident, but she will be alive and functional, and that's a lot more than any of us who were there could expect. I'll take that as a "win".
 With all the ugly and negative stuff I have posted here, I thought it was only fair to take an evening out and share this piece of positive news. Probably there is nobody out there reading this anymore, but on the chance that one or two of you have stuck around, I put this up for you.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Still wandering

Well, I can see I've lost most of my readers and I can't say as I blame them. Not much happening here. I have been farily well wrapped up in getting through each day lately. I think the storm at the end of August was pretty much the straw on the camel's back. It snapped, as did I.
 Anything doing with the Fire and EMS service became a chore, rather than the calling it was prior to the big storm. Call it sensory and emotional overload, if you are looking for a diagnosis.
 I talked it through with the Lonely EMT last time we met, and now I'm just trying to work it out in my head.
 The last month I have buried my brain in music to try and get away. As mentioned in an earlier post, I took my sister up to Levon Helms place for a ramble and we had one of those life long experiences. Levon, Larry Campbell, and Amy Helm along with the rest of the band were just outstanding. I needed that more than I realized and will treasure it for a very long time. Folks come from all over for the Ramble, there was a couple from England on line in front of us, and others from down south and up north. The funny thing for me was with all these people traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to be in this small group of a hundred folks, I ran into a lot of old friends like the Undersherriff, the father of one of my Scouts from years ago, and a neighbor or two. My sister knew a lot of of folks there, including Amy Helm, who was a student in my Sister's school when she was teaching. Amy (Levon's daughter) is around 30ish now. So for me, it was the neighborhood party that Levon had envisioned. We were, in fact, in the studio that is part of his home, and it felt really good. The music that night was just 'cooking' in spite of the cold Levon was fighting off. He didn't sing much, but it didn't hold back on how much fun we had. OH, I will carry that for a very long time.
 But I've been off doing the graveyard shift at the paying job this week which is like being sent to Siberia. You don't have any contact with the day to day operations. Actually it's kind of nice. I had a good crew that worked on their own and I didn't have much to do. I even brought my banjo in one night to get in some practice time during the meal break. The hours did kick my ass with trying to adjust sleep and meals, but the week is over now and next week I'll be back to normal(?) hours. It gave me a break from the Department also, which was welcome. Any spare time I had was buried in practicing my banjo which I also needed.
 Today, when I got up around 1400 I was greeted by some emails with all the registration stuff for my complimentary admission to FDIC in 2012. I had been putting the Fire Service so far out of my head that I forgot Bobby Halton had given me this several months ago.
 I'm sitting on the fence as to whether I can come up with the money to pay for the trip, and frankly if it is even something I want to put the time into. I now realize how burned up I am. A year ago, hell even 4 months ago, I was fired up about FDIC. Now that I have a ticket in my hand I am having a hard time getting up the enthusiasm to even make arrangements.
 I have a lot more thinking to do.

Monday, September 26, 2011


 So in my last post you learned that I am 'dealing with issues' and looking for answers. I forgot to mention that I had a nice meet up with the Lonely EMT last weekend. She had a local 'errand' and we managed to hook up and spend some time sitting in the ready room at one of my stations and shooting the breeze. The conversation was good for me, and I think it helped her too. Similar Departments, with similar problems makes for an active exchange of ideas (or gripes). The conversation was so good that it got me to bed late, and her on the road home very late, but it all ended up well. I wound up running calls almost that entire night, EXCEPT for the time we were chatting. This I found to be fortuitous in no small manner. We ran 4 jobs that night which would normally bring one or perhaps two. It ended with a working cardiac arrest at 0530 before I went of to the paying job.
 But I digress from the original thought for this post. I have been 'jonsing' for a lesson from my banjo instructor. See now this is the problem when your instructor is a world renowned banjo player. Right now, my beloved teacher is driving to Nashville to spend the entire week at the IBMA Awards. This is cool and I accept that. But last week he was in France doing a workshop for several days, and before that he was in Owensboro Kentucky at Bill Monroe's 100th Birthday celebration.
 Now I need a lesson to move my obviously gifted skills onto the next level and my instructor is not available. I don't see how I can progress at this rate. I understand how the guy is popular and a fixture in the art form and has introduced influences into the genre that will continue through the next century, but sheesh, we are talking about my lessons here!
 I have been reduced to going onto You-Tube and looking for new things I can try. While knowledge is power, I am concerned that what I might pick up in the uncontrolled atmosphere of you-tube could contaminate what my BLF has taught me thus far.
 So I guess I'm sharing two things here. First if you are going to learn to play an instrument, be sure that your instructor lets you know when (or IF) he or she is available. Second, if you do get a world class instructor, be sure to check your patience at the door and take the lessons whenever they come and be happy about it.
 Now if you'll excuse me, I am going to go practice those rolls over and over and over and over again. Then I will do them so more.

Saturday, September 24, 2011


 The last month has been rough. Everybody is trying to recover form the storm, and as I've mentioned before, some never will. Last night I attended a party thrown by one of the small towns up the line for everybody who helped them during and after the storms, this included Fire, EMS, Police, Rangers, and civilians who stepped up to do the job. It was a nice evening to sit, chat and share a soft drink or a beer with the folks we work with all the time, except this time, there were no bodies involved. Lots of laughs, hugs, and a few tears of joy or relief.
 As for me, I've been trying to sort it all out and figure out where I fit in, or not, and where I should go from here. Lately, I have been coming home from work and throwing myself into my banjo. Not that I think all this practice is going to make me any better (it can't get worse), but because I find solace in just being with the instrument and making some sounds that please, sooth, and take me away from my thoughts. Plus, I can tell my teacher that I am "practicing EVERY night".
 But the truth is I have been leaning on music more and more lately for an outlet. I can't play worth a damn, but I am really beginning to get lost in the good music of others, those with a true gift and love of the art form.
 I am sure I have mentioned in an earlier post that I live in an area that is nearly unique for it's talent density. My banjo instructor is known and in demand worldwide and he live a couple of miles up the road. I could drop names here, but that's not the point. The point is I take for granted what I have available in my neighborhood.
 Well, lately I have stopped taking it for granted and started to seek out opportunities for good music and the experience that comes with it. Levon Helm lives in the next town over and has a party at his house every week or two. People come from all over to enjoy his music at the Ramble. You may know of Levon from his years in The Band, but since he nearly lost his voice, he has become a different man, at least in my eyes. In addition to his great music, Levon has always been a solid man and member of his community. Unpretentious, friendly, sincere, and a genuine person of value.
 I have known about Levon, his Ramble, and his contributions to the community for several years now. I have had the opportunity to attend the Ramble in the past and let it slide. I am thinking now it was pretty foolish on my part. I gratefully accepted a pair of tickets to his ramble next week.
 Here is a video Levon did a while back. While it might seem like any other video to promote one's music, let me point out that the farm used in this video is in fact a genuine farm located in my town, and the "Mr. Gill" who appears int eh video is in fact Jack Gill who is one of the largest corn producers in out state. A fine man, war hero, and upstanding member of the community in his own right.  The stories he relates are genuine, he is not an actor. The first song is shot, I believe in Levon's studio, the second one is shot at Snyder's Tavern, which is a place most folks would never stop at if they were driving by. It is located 'off the beaten path' and frequented by locals and sportsmen. These are real people and real places and real feelings expressed in this video. So although it is over 20 minutes, I invite you to enter with an open mind, perhaps an open beer and let yourself be transcended.

Only Halfway Home

Levon Helm | Myspace Music Videos

 So I write here about a nationally known person, but for me, he's a local dude that is continuously a man who is doing the right thing. I judge a man by what he does, not what his publicist says. I don't think Levon has a publicist, but I can tell you he is one hard working son of a gun, just look at his schedule. The funny thing is, sucessful as this guy is in his 'second career', he never turns anyone down. He has played at high school fundraisers, weddings, and family parties. He seems to play for love and for that I identify with him.
 Tell you a quick story about how I got these tickets: My Chief does all the landscaping work for Levon and he approached him about some tickets. As the Chief tells it: He said to Levon "I have this guy in my Department who is a big fan and he is always there for me when I need him"... Levon interrupted and said 'Sounds like my kind of guy, how many tickets would he like?'
I guess burying myself in music is better than a lot of alternatives. Right now I can't seem to get enough.

Saturday, September 10, 2011


 I've had a lot of bad jobs over the years that make me reconsider what I am doing here in the Fire and EMS Service. As I tell the newbies 'Some folks are just not cut out for this stuff, there is no shame in admitting that when it becomes apparent to you.' Perhaps it's time to listen to myself.
 This last storm took more out of me than I think I had to give. The total devastation of property, livelihoods, and infrastructure in every direction around us was more than I could handle.
 In previous posts I showed some of the videos to give an idea of what was going on, but the truth is, they don't even begin to give you an idea. Two weeks on and many folks are still getting power back and re-connecting with the world. I don't care what the media, the politicians, or the utilities might tell you, the fact is a lot of folks have been left on their own because they are cut off from any real hope. Fortunately, those folks are like most self-reliant Americans and have done what needs to be done to care for themselves and their neighbors up to and including rebuilding roads on their own.
 Last night was the first real night of actual rest I've had in 2 weeks. No I have not been out playing hero every day and wearing myself out. I have been trying to balance home, work, and Fire Service responsibilities without a hell of a lot of luck. Every night I lay in bed conflicted by what I WANT to do (be out there helping), and what I have to do (go to work and be a good boy). I work in a small city that had no real impact from the storm, but I live in the hills. The folks at work have no idea how serious the conditions are just 30 miles west of town, and they really don't care. Last night I took my wife out (who is depressed and exhausted from all the family stuff she has been juggling) and we had a couple of beers, listened to some good bluegrass, and enjoyed the company of good friends and family. We returned home relaxed and I managed to get in 10 hours of sleep. I don't do that unless I am really sick or really drunk, neither of which applied here. I had finally relaxed for just a few hours.
 I came down to my desk and thought I could finally get a good blog post off, but every time I began, I just couldn't start thinking about this stuff. We are two weeks along and many of the critical repair project are pretty much where they were two weeks ago. The rain we had on Wednesday erased much if not all of the work that had been done. You might have heard about the flooding in PA and Binghamton, NY, but not a word was said about how it delivered a second blow in our area. Mentally, this was like being kicked in the head while already laying on the ground after a heavy beating for us.
 Take a look at this Associated Press video which was shot on Monday night of the hurricane 8/29 I think, just a few hours after the water started dropping. These guys were tired, but had no idea it had only just begun and would go on for many days after and they would start all over in ten days. Yes, all the evacuation sirens in this area were sounding off at 0600 on Wednesday 9/7/11 all over again and the evacuations began again as water flowed down Main St. in 4 different mountain villages.

I think I am done handing this stuff. I got into this, and stayed in it, to help people, my neighbors, but I have learned that we are constricted by our leadership. In my county this is a severe handicap. Although our leadership is not corrupt as far as I know, they are simply bureaucrats whose first order of business is to keep their jobs. They showed no courage or leadership in my eyes during this event. In fact, my personal opinion is that they willfully abdicated responsibility and virtually abandoned their posts. Of course, their press releases, when they did come out, made them sound like miracle workers. It was all bull. The people and the small towns they were supposed to help,  were on their own. The County leadership was, and remains, a house of cards. Witness this:

The reporter in this video rode her mountain bike up the road the day it was opened for foot traffic, three days after the storm came through.
 I was speaking with a Chief in a mutual aid department where I went out to help last weekend and he said "Yeah it was a bit hairy that night and I was gonna give you a call along with some of your other guys to see if you could come out to help with the Swiftwater work when it dawned on me that we were cut off and you couldn't get here anyway." He didn't really know how many rescues they did through the first rain period, just going from job to job like they were cellar pumps.
 I'm disgusted and burned out. I am re-evaluating what I am doing with my life. I don't think I can deal with the bullshit anymore. It took me all day just to get up the energy to write this post, and the only thing that is getting me through it is having some good bluegrass playing in the background to keep my conscious mind occupied.
 I've suspected for a while that I may have some of that PTSD stuff that they say builds up over time. I think this last event just pushed me over the edge. I have all the symptoms, short temper, mood swings, inability to concentrate, depression, the need to be alone, etc.. It's possible that I need a change of scenery. It's also possible that I'm done.

Monday, September 5, 2011

I'm Tired

I'd like to say "WE are Tired" but I can only speak for myself. This past week had has plenty of work for everyone from linemen to EMT's. We've all been putting in more than any of us thought we could, especially the trained volunteers. The storm damage in my district was bad, but not terrible. I don't consider being without electric for 6 or 7 days a big deal. Tiresome yes, but just an inconvenience. The districts just up the line in our regular mutual aid areas saw almost total devastation. Main connecting roads through the mountains have been cut in half, isolating parts of the county. The statistics show it best, stating that this type of flooding should only occur once every 100 to 500 years. It was the worst natural disaster to hit our County in recorded history.
 So why am I tired? Well, it's not so much the 'why', but the 'what' that is wearing me out.
I am tired of politicians getting in front of every camera available to tell the voting public how hard they are working, when they can't supply us with the materials or resources to do what needs to be done.

 I am tired of these same politicians that can't use their 'on air' time to get critical information to the general public about what is going on, how they can help, and what is needed.

 I am tired of hearing people come into shelters telling us how rough they have it because they don't have hot water, electric, or cable TV. The sit at the shelter and whine when they could be helping a neighbor who has REAL problems clean out the mud from their home.

 I am tired of news crews sticking cameras in my face looking for a story while I am just trying to do my job.

I am tired of getting 7 good clean hours of sleep, only to wake up exhausted from my dreams.

I am tired of driving my engine over roads that may give out from under it at any time.

I am tired of the tourists that don't understand simple signs that say "LOCAL TRAFFIC ONLY" or "ROAD CLOSED".

I am tired of tourists that feel it is more important for them to get good pictures of ruined homes and livelihoods than it is to get the hell out of our way and let us do our job.

 I am tired of seeing my brothers and sisters in the service working 20 hour days and not having been home to take care of their families and damaged homes in over a week.

 I am also tired of seeing other 'brothers and sisters' who could easily give up some of their spare time to put in a 12 hour shift to let some others check their families and get some sleep, but instead turn a blind eye to the need.

 I am tired of road crews that drive around downed trees and lines because "this is not 'our road'".  Take 5 damned minutes and top the tree and open the road making it safer for EVERYONE.

 I am tired of walking around with a lump in my throat from seeing all the ruined lives and homes.

 I should also mention what lifts me up and gives me hope.
 I am encouraged by relief workers that know their job, work tirelessly and always manage a comforting smile and supporting words for those truly affected. (You can usually recognize these folks by the bags under their eyes and the tired expressions when they think nobody is looking.)

 I am Encouraged by the citizen volunteers that step and and offer to do any task and don't walk away when they realize it is hard work. They stay there, get the job done and move on to the next task. (You can recognize these people by the sweat stained shirts and the constant upbeat attitude and smile on their faces.)

 I am encouraged by the Civil Engineers and equipment operators who are faced with incredible challenges and are stepping up and making it happen, pulling off engineering marvels of reconstruction I would have never thought possible.

 I am encouraged by Volunteer Fire Chiefs and Officers that have stepped up and worked non-stop  for 8 days to do whatever could be done to organize communities and help their neighbors. Never turning a person in need away, and never losing patience, in spite of all the "help" they were getting from the politicians.

 I am thankful to Be'la Fleck and the Flecktones who could have understandably canceled their concert in the heart of the devastation and instead worked to make sure they could put on the show and turned it into a benefit for the victims. On top of that, they invited all the first responders and their families in for free. What a great night and welcome respite from the carnage. Be'la and the band came down on the floor after the performance and spent time sharing stories of their own losses in the Nashville earlier in the year, as well as listening to the stories of those affected here and now. They truly are a fine bunch of gentlemen and spoke with us like old friends.

 Here is a slideshow of the area showing some of the damage. The stuff further up the mountains doesn't appear here because those areas are still being opened up.

I spent a 12 hour shift out in the heart of these areas yesterday so that some of their crews could attend to their own families. This is the third '100 year flood event' those folks have seen in the last 5 years. Most came back to work as soon as they could, some never left the station. It was strange to pull in and report for duty when the first question they asked us was "what can we get for ya'? Did you eat yet?" Their hospitality was ingrained, I guess. We came out to help them and they were making sure we were comfortable and well fed. Just amazing.  Anyone who came into the station could not leave without being asked "Is there anything else we can do to help you?" Yeah. we worked hard doing cleanup from the previous days 'relief drops and public distributions", but they treated us like family. We helped distribute RED Cross supplies, give directions to Federal Workers, find sources for odd requests, and generally make ourselves useful. We put their station back into normal response mode before we left for the night. We came home very tired last night but feeling good about a hard day of meaningful work. I should have known it wasn't over, we were driving back to our station around 2100 and were flagged down by a LEO who inquired if we could assist with a cardiac emergency. We did the initial workup and treatment for a lineman in his truck that could barely remember what day and time he had come into work. An odd call in another district that brought together responders from 4 agencies, including an off duty State Trooper/RN/Paramedic who happened to be getting gas for his generator. One final example of people working together without boundaries.
 It's been a long eight days, but I've had it easy and God was good to me and mine. Many of the people I've talked to and worked with over this week will takes years to recover, some never will.

Friday, September 2, 2011

A tad overwhelmed here, sorry

Yeah, I haven't posted in a long time, sorry. The truth is I've been fading away from the blog as I contemplate some life changes. However the point of this post is to communicate, in a succinct manner what is going on here in the aftermath of the recent hurricane.
 We went on duty at 1900 on Saturday 8/27. Nothing much happened until our first call for service at 0200 on 8/28, which was followed by several calls for trees on wires. All little stuff. at around 0430 it began to get interesting and I took a crew and an Engine out for a survey. We drove for an hour creeping along at 15 MPH clearing the rotted dead trees from the roadways to keep them open. The last dead-rot we cleared was on my side of the truck and I got out to kick it apart and throw it into the culverts on the side of the road that had water moving at about 15 knots. In the middle of this I heard a CRACK, then a SNAP, then a bunch of TWANGS and instinctively hunkered down. When I looked up, a healthy 75 footer had come down and snapped the top off a power pole and brought all the wires down around me. I climbed back into the drivers seat to see my two crew mates all pie-eyed. I suggested it was now time to head back to the station. They didn't say a word, just nodded in unison. The return trip was not without event, but lets just say that the next 8 hours were 'challenging' and we did well.
 In short, we had dozens of homes invaded by trees, hundreds of power lines down, many dozens of roads closed, and when things calmed down, I am guessing we did over 200 cellar pumps.
 I am writing this on Friday evening as we have just gotten power back at my home after 6 plus days. I spent the first two days of the storm on duty, then took a day for my Father-in-laws funeral (by flashlight and candle light), which was planned before the storm hit. Only 11 of us could make it with all the roads closed.
 Nobody in our county died in the storm, which was a miracle, but many tried to get themselves killed which kept us busy. I heard no less than 15 water rescue calls for "2 people stranded in a vehicle with rising water", this after everybody had been told and warned to "STAY HOME". There were also two people who thought it would be a good idea to go tubing on one of the swollen rivers on Sunday afternoon. Two dive teams and over 35 rescuers were involved in tracking and getting them out. Personally, I thought they were TSTL (Too Stupid to Live) and they should have just let them go, Darwinism at it's best.
 One of our mutual aid departments had a rough time of it, and lost their new Engine and a chief's buggy when the road gave out under them:

 From a personal perspective (some have asked), After the funeral I turned my attention to family. My parents are in their 90's and not as sharp or self reliant as they used to be. My Mom is on home O2 and with no power, this was a problem. So I spent all my time shuttling O2 bottles for her and getting water for them to flush the toilet, food they could eat, etc. Their road was closed on one end by a bird's nest of trees and power lines, and on the other, 4 miles down, by water 2 feet deep over the road. It was a challenge.
 Our town came through pretty well. The folks up the line, not so much. There is total devastation in many towns up there, and I will be heading up tomorrow to lend a hand.
 I am toast, the emotional load of worrying about, and caring for my folks has drained me. The calls we ran, including a code at the height of the storm, got that adrenaline pumping and I am still trying to calm it down.
 Here is a video of our area done by some local residents. Obviously, you won't know the places that are significant to me, but I can tell you that the home my daughter lived in last year is one of the ones you will see water halfway up the walls, the post office is one I have stopped in, the firehouse that is flooded is the one I did funeral standby coverage at last weekend, and the market (which way never re-open because it has 1 foot of myd through the whole store) is one I have shopped in for 30 years. What you see in this video is only the tip of the iceberg for our area. We lost over a hundred homes, torn right off the foundations. The bridge that is shown in the beginning of this video is still missing. They don't know where it went. Normal water levels are about 20 feet below this bridge deck, you can see that the water was a bit higher during the storm.
 AT any rate, we are all alive, and will live to fight again.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I've been humbled

Mac Davis used to sing a song about how Hard it Is to Be Humble. I suppose we have all suffered from that condition at some point in our lives, and I have had my moments also. However, most of the time I would consider myself as a normal competent person and have gotten used to having a certain level of confidence in just about everything I do. Not cocky mind you, just confident.
 However, now that I have re-ignited my attempt to learn to play the 5 String Banjo, I have reached new lows in self confidence and esteem. Much like my first three attempts over the past 30 years, this one is just as rough. But this time I have a different attitude. I intend to stick with it and even if I come out only a little better than when I started, I will continue to work on it. This time I am not in a rush, and I accept that I have no skills going in with little hope of gaining any.
 It's gonna be different this time. For one thing, the frustration of tuning the damned thing is gone, thanks to the Intellitouch tuner life is much easier. I love this thing because I used to spend an hour trying to work with a pitch pipe to get it tuned, by the time I began the actual practice, I was frazzled. Now, tuning is a joy. I also remember the pain on the finger tips of my left hand in my attempts of the past, but this time I have none of that. It's probably due to my job in past years that always had me with a hundred micro-cuts on my finger tips making them quite sensitive, and the fine banjo strings would cut right through. Lastly, my attitude is different. It used to be that when my fingers didn't follow my desires I would get frustrated right away and push harder, getting even more frustrated. Now when I miss, I just do it again, and again, and again until it sounds better. (I'll let you know if it ever sounds better.)
 It also helps that we don't live in an apartment like we did for my early attempts. My wife quickly tires of my bumbling and has little sympathy. Now I can practice downstairs and not bother anyone. The dog doesn't much care for the banjo and always heads upstairs to be with Momma when I begin to 'play'.
 In all my life, the banjo is the only thing that I have tried and not be able to attain some level of competency with. It has squashed me at every attempt. I have been beaten and now think I understand the task, and will approach this on the banjo's terms instead of my own.
 If I were good at metaphors, I would say there is a life lesson buried in here somewhere. If I figure it out, I'll let you know.
 For now, I'm just gonna stick with a minimum of a half hour practice session everyday and see where it takes me. The goal now is to practice well, and I'm not looking any further.
 Let's see if this approach works.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Monday, August 1, 2011


 When I wrote the post about Grey Fox I mentioned that I had spent some time with my Bluegrass Legend Friend (heretofore referred to as my 'BLF') and that I had a funny story to tell. Well, let me work my way up to it.
 First, by way of background, let me explain that we live in a area that is just loaded with celebrities, mostly in the music field, but also from the stage, movies and television. It is not what you might expect. All of these folks come here to be away from the limelight and get some private quiet time. They are very low-key. You don't see any kind of celebrity galas or things like that. They buy a small (or large) house way back off the road and keep to themselves. Some build recording, writing, art, or dance studios to allow them to work in peace. As the years go by and they settle in and realize that they will be left alone, many of them are out and about in the community and are treated as normal neighbors. There are 6 world class recording studios within a 15 minute drive of my house and you would not recognize ANY of them if you drove up to them.
 My daughter works in a local place that designs and builds custom kitchens and bathrooms and she has a lot of these folks as clients. It's no big deal and most times she doesn't even realize that she is dealing with somebody special until it comes time to sign some papers.
 So it came as little surprise to me that when my daughter was to be married, they had selected a band of local guys which included my BLF. When I found out he would be playing, I literally teared up because I had no idea he played with these guys and at the time had little idea how much he had worked with my son-in-law. Turns out, they were good friends. At the wedding I was a google eyed idiot for a good part of it. I finally went up to my BLF and thanked him repeatedly for playing, told him how I had followed his career over the last 40 years, and thanked him for his lifelong contributions to the art. He blushed and in turn thanked ME for the privilege of playing at this particular wedding. He talked about how he watched the kids grow up and was so pleased to be able to share the day with us. Imagine that.
 Still, as humble and nice as this guy was, I continued to be awestruck. I kept thinking about all the places this guy has played around the world and all the names he has played with, not to mention his changes to the way bluegrass is played and enjoyed. I did not want to push my luck and be a pest, but I did want to learn more about this man. I waited a year, until Grey Fox came around and stopped by his campsite to offer a hand with chores, or a ride to dinner, or whatever else excuse I could think of that sounded plausable. I left it at that.
 This year I dropped him a note on face book and offered to lend him a hand setting up his camp. When I saw him on the first night he clearly remembered my name and face. he smiled, stuck out his hand an thanked me for offering to help. 'Wow" I thought, "He actually read my Facebook note and made the connection!" At this point I realized that his polite and gentle, friendly manner were not 'his public persona', it was the way he truly is. I began to relax and joke around with him a bit.
 Briefly, my BLF started his career in the early 60's in the northeast US. He made some fortuitous connections in Nashville and wound up playing with Bill Monroe for a while. I mention this name only because there are so many folks that played with Bill Monroe, that it doesn't help you focus in on who my friend is. Bill had a lot of good players circle through his band, but he didn't really pay them enough to live on, and many moved on to their own careers or started their own bands. Ricky Skaggs is an example of one of those folks. After the Bluegrass Boys, my buddy played with a lot of folks, did several books and records, played in MANY studio recording sessions, and started a business making a banjo device of his own design, which is how he supports himself today, along with doing banjo camps and clinics around the world, playing gigs with a local band, and the occasional appearance with some of the big commercial names.
 I told you all that so I could tell you this:
 I am not a name dropper that thinks association with famous people somehow makes me an important person. By now you have realized that I am trying hard to keep my BLF's privacy intact. Consequently, the fact that I am in the company of somebody well known has not really been something I have thought about in relation to the people around us who do not know this particular person.
 So we were up at the festival and had finished getting my BLF's camp squared away and decided to go get some pizza before the stand closed. We were seated at a picnic table with some folks we didn't know, it was my BLF, my daughter, and myself. I asked him about an album cover he had been tagged in on Facebook. I confessed that I had never heard of the band, nor did I see his face on the cover anywhere. When I mentioned 'album cover' I noticed that the folks at the other end of the table turned to look at us. My BLF started to laugh. "Well", he said, "That was in the late 60's or early 70's and I did a lot of studio work in those days. Some years I would have tracks on over a hundred different albums. I seldom knew or remembered who I was laying down the tracks for. I went in, got the music, listened to the tapes, and played my parts. Then I collected my check and left, usually forgetting about it before I got out the door." Now I noticed that the folks at the end of the table are staring at my friend and trying to figure out 'who the hell is this guy!?' He's kind of dirty and sweaty like the rest of us, wearing a worn out t-shirt and old jeans. It would be very hard to match him up to one of his OWN album covers, and in this environment, he was almost invisible.
 We finished our pizza, got up and left. The folks that were still at the table had to be racking their brains, but I doubt they ever figured it out, unless they made the connection when they saw him playing at the various venues in the coming days, still in a worn out t-shirt and jeans. I have to admit, it was great fun for me.
 Since the festival has ended I have gotten to see my BLF once again and we've had a nice chat about non-music related stuff. The repairs to his ancestral home in another state, which he now owns and other issues in life. I am beginning to lose my awestruck state of mind and sense that I have found a fine gentleman to be friends with. Each time I see him now, he seems genuinely happy to see me.
Another one of life's blessings that has dropped into my lap.
 Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Saturday, July 30, 2011

There's a bend coming up in the Road, I can FEEL it.

Perhaps it might be a fork, but I feel that change is about to enter my life and I'll have some small choices to make.
 Over my half century plus on this earth I have been able to do quite a few different things because I develop an interest, do some study, and apply myself. Somewhere between 5 and 10 years into a particular 'hobby' I get bored or have learned everything I want to about the subject and I 'find' something else.
 I sense that time is coming around again. I know the signs. This time it could cover several activities that I am currently involved in.
 First, this blog has seen it's readership and posting activity drop in the past few months. I realize that reading about my personal life is not very fulfilling for the readers and I have less and less Fire & EMS stuff to post. I can see I am losing the fire in my belly on that score. There have been a lot of frustrations involved in my participation lately and my activity is dropping off. It may be time to consider how much of my time and yours is being consumed by this blog and wonder if there isn't something better we both could be doing. I do not make any sort of contribution to the community that would be missed.
 Second, my paying job has some changes in store. We have a new boss starting in a couple of weeks. You may recall that I put in for that job. However there were some politics at work and the internal candidates never really had a shot at the job from the beginning. They never followed through with the selection plan and hired the outside guy they liked in the first place. I am bummed about that because I was told by a couple of the interviewers that I scored very well and would have been their choice. To make it a bitter pill, we are hearing lots of stories about the guy they hired from some who have worked with him previously that he is a hardass and does some irrational things to piss people off. He is all about power, they say. This ain't gonna wash in our environment and will take a lot of work to correct.  Having been in this business for 40 years and having broken in new bosses for 35 years, I don't really have the energy to play games with another jerk. I am hoping the stories are false or biased and the guy turns out to be OK. None the less, I am stressing over how this guy turns out because I am directly in the line of fire. The JOB is going to be demanding a lot more of my time for the next 6-8 months while we learn to work with the FNG.

 Third, and possibly most significant, I have realized that I have spent a long life working hard and spending every free minute volunteering my time in other venues. This has taken me away from wife and kids a bit too much. They have always been supportive of course, but it's time I changed that. I ain't gettin' no younger. My kids are all growed up and I don't have as much opportunity to be with them. I'm thinking it's about time I rearranged my priorities and made it my job to do some fun stuff with them more often, even on a regular basis. This week, with all the stress at work and gross disappointment when I found out that I was screwed over once again and probably for the last opportunity I will have in my career, I looked for some distraction and found it in music. We went out on Wednesday night, met with some old friends and listened to my son-in-law play with a band he frequents. On Thursday night we went 5 minutes up the road to a joint I have been meaning to go to for over 5 years and listened to my Bluegrass Legend friend play with his band. As luck would have it, they were short a fiddle player that night and asked my son-in-law to fill in. It was a double bonus. My wife got introduced my hero again and we had a nice chat during a break discussing upcoming gigs, etc. They're head lining at the end of the month at a new festival and I expect to be there either working or listening.
 I have also gotten my banjo repaired, re-strung, and tuned and have been trying to teach my fingers to behave in preparation for taking my first lesson. Those half hour practice sessions every night are painful, but they take my mind off the days troubles. I can sense this is good for me whether or not I actually learn to play.

 So I can feel a bend in the road coming up and I hope it's not a fork. We'll see what happens.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Grey Fox, In a Nutshell

 Well, first I have to apologize for not posting from the festival as I had hoped. The wireless connection did not work for the first day or so and by the time it got fixed, I was into full festival mode and didn't have much time available. I took only a few quick pictures, but this might give you and idea of the site size.
 What you see here is a shot from the main amphitheater looking out over the camping area. That large tent on the right is a shade tent so you can watch the main stage (off to the left) while staying out of the sun. The large tent in the middle is a food concession tent, and beyond is the camping area.
 Here's a shot of the main stage taken in the early morning before anybody is up and about:

Off on the left side you will see a large tent where they feed the staff and the entertainers. The Green Room is also over there on he left.
 First let me start out by saying that on this particular weekend I collected several memories that will last me into the nursing home phase of my life, and I don't say that flippantly, I had a sore jaw from smiling so hard for so long.
 As it goes with these things, it started off slow. At the initial briefing I could see we had an ample staff, many returning from last year and some new faces. Many were from the clinical side of the health care business and I knew that the tent would be well staffed, but I also knew we wouldn't have a lot who would easily go out roaming and looking for problems or patients, which is what I prefer to do. Clinical folks like to stay in the Clinic, EMS folks like to be out on post. My partner from last year was doing an overnight and we wouldn't be working together much this year, so I found a FNG and we walked around as I gave him a tour, explained what to look for (folks doing dumb stuff) and some of the tricks (you can sit in the VIP section while you are walking around) and how to scout for the good parties to return to after the duty period. He learned fast and when my daughter arrived I left him to his own desires. I was looking forward to spending some time with my little girl who was also volunteering this year with the drink stand crew. Since she's been married we haven't had much time together. Little did I know we would wind up just having a blast together.
 Medically speaking we saw just what I had predicted in a prior post. Each night we had one or two hopelessly drunk folks that required some attention because they were puking too much, dehydrated, or unable to ambulate. In one case we arranged a transport for an old gent that was incontinent after ingesting a lot of alcohol and THEN deciding to try some pot after 20 years of abstention.  He did some puking too. OK, a lot of puking, and all that stuff combined with his meds to wreak havoc with his system.
 My turn on the overnight looked to be quiet even though it was Saturday night (the last night to party) We had buttoned up the Medical tent and I was just settled into my chiar to doze when a guy came in all frantic stating that "We CAN'T wake her up, we don't know what's wrong, it looks REALLY BAD!" I poked my head out back and told the boss we had a worker. He came out an asked a few quick questions while I and my partner collected the bags and loaded the golf cart (the preferred mode of transport in dense population areas). The 4 of us got off in the cart and were moving as fast as we could follow directions, part the crowd, and see where we were going. I was riding backwards and was trying to don my gloves as we flew over the hillocks in the hayfield that was now home to about 6,000 people. We arrived and found our patient in a tent which was filled with a full sized air mattress. This was a new sensation for me, like working on a waterbed. The Boss went in first with my partner and realized all at once that a) this patient was critical, b) this patient was a friend of his, and c) we needed ALS right away. He crawled out and gave me the nod as we switched places, he went into ICS mode, calling security to get a rig on the road and giving a quick Sit Rep. My partner and I worked on the basics: Breathing adequate but shallow, pulse 126, b/p of 135/88, posturing, possibly post-dictal, jaw clenched HARD, blood residue on the cheek, possibly bit her tongue, and she had paticial hemorrhaging, which we took to indicate a possible brain bleed. All in all, things didn't look good. We could not get a med list from her drunken husband, but we knew that there was a list somewhere. What made us really concerned was that we were repeatedly assured that she had no been consuming and alcohol or drugs. She was very health conscious and did not drink. It took 2 of us to do a B/P, one to hold the arm straight and the other to take it. Her arms would fold right up when we let them go. ALS arrived, we extracted her on a long board and we loaded quickly.
 Turns out she had hyponatremia (look it up, you should KNOW this) and was in a coma. In her efforts to avoid dehydration, she had hydrated herself right into a seizure and coma. First time I have ever seen that. 48 hours on I got word that she had come out of the coma and was expected to make a full recovery with no neurological deficits.
 After I went 'off duty' at 0700 we were headed back down the hill form breakfast when a call came over the radio for a male, unconscious, at the main gate. We were already mobile, so we took the call. He had had a seizure and was incontinent to bladder and bowel. He was embarrassed and denied any LOC, but the witnesses said that he was out for a full minute. He had a lump on his head where he hit the side mirror on his car (and broke it clean off) but wanted to RMA (AMA). It took us a half hour to convince him to go in, but we finally succeeded,
 All in all a fantastic weekend with wonderful music and people. I got to have dinner one night with a Bluegrass legend (look for a future post on this, funny story) and build on our friendship. I had some priceless time hanging out with my little girl and my son-in-law, and I witnessed some events that I will remember for a long time. As a bonus (as if I needed one), my Bluegrass legend friend has offered to take me on as a personal challenge to teach me how to play the 5 string. He offered me 4 or 5 hours of his time and promises he will have me playing the darned thing before he is done with me. Now I LOVE this man and have listened to his music since I was a kid. There are thousands of people around the world who would give anything to have just one hour with this guy. I fully understand what has been offered me. But on the other hand I realize that after 32 years of varying attempts, I couldn't carry a tune with a wheelbarrow. I told him as much, but he seemed resolved. I also told him that if I were the one to break him and he failed, I would feel terrible. He seems unconcerned and has high hopes. I warned him. My daughter tells me that my son-in-law kind of set this whole thing up because he wants me to play with him. She says I'd be a fool to let it go by. Smart girl. OK, I'll play along. Even if I come out as the same idiot as I went in, I will still have spent a few more hours with someone who changed the course of Bluegrass music and I both admire and am amazed by.
 Here's a shot of Bill giving a workshop on Friday. He does one on Saturday also and a stint on the Master's Stage as well. Bill is around 73 and it still amazes me to see him light up when he sits down and begins to share what he has learned. 

 I returned home from the festival, took a shower and got a 4 hour nap (having only an hour of sleep in the past 36 hours. I was on duty with my Squad on Sunday night and hoped for a light night. The EMS Gods were against me. I went to bed at 2300 for the night and the pager went off at 0000. We had a fire on the mountain that kept us out until 0530. Normally fires are easy duty for EMS, but I was assigned as the EMT to stay with the crew on the fire. We had 800 feet of near vertical climb to get to the seat of the fire. It was so steep that we went up on hands and knees, clawing all the way. You could not stand, nor could you sit. you would either slide or fall down. Three quarters of the way up. when I got to a point that I could keep an ear on the crew, I dug in. Somebody needed to hold onto the hose to keep it from sliding back down the mountain. I dug out a seat belay and settled in for about three hours and helping relief folks climb up the hose line, watching fire progression (below us, above us, and to the west of us).
 When we finished up, I had enough time to grab a shower before heading into the paying job, where by the way, I was a little useless during the day. Somehow I figured out that I had gone 60 something hours with only 5 hours sleep.
 So now you have an idea of why I haven't posted in a week. Aren't you sorry you asked? I should have been working on my pick rolls tonight, but instead I thought I should get this one up for you. Also, for Linda, I got your message and I understand how life changes direction. We'll get it together, just a little further down the road. Right now I just need some recovery time. Oh BOY do I need to recover.
Be Safe, B Sharp,

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grey Fox, the 4 day duty crew

 So let me give you a little background on this Bluegrass Festival and why I am back for another year. I am not very good at counting heads, but I believe the gate for this event is about 10,000 people, for 4 days. Most folks come and camp right here at the site, which was, just two weeks ago, a working hay field. The last cutting was done just last week, before they cut the roads and laid out the site. There are a LOT of people and campsites. They come in all manner of vehicles, from cars to campers, to buses, and they set up some weird stuff in the interest of having a good time. Some have been making this trip for 20 years. There are lots of kids running around, it's family time for many. It's drinking and picking time for others. You can find some photos here to give you the flavor.
 The Festival (music) starts on Thursday, but the gate opens on Wednesday morning at 0700 sharp. There is a line to get in. I would love to go up early, but can't get the vacation time. EMS Staff are required to report by Wednesday evening (we have a briefing at 1900) and the shift assignments are roughed out. Each volunteer is required to give 4 hours a day to earn their keep, but many of us work more because it's easy work and we are having a good time. In my case, I mostly do a walking patrol with a partner to keep an eye on the folks in the camping areas, the 4 other stages, or the Main Stage. With an assignment like that what difference does it make if I am on duty or off, that's what I would do anyway, walk around. Plus, while I am on duty, nothing is off limits except the Green Room. Backstage, VIP seating, and every place else is open to us.
 What we receive in return for our highly skilled and professional services (I know you're wondering) is a full pass for the weekend which includes camping and normal access when we are not working, as well as 3 square (and incredibly good) meals each day we are there. I have never been treated better as a Volunteer than I have at Grey Fox......never.
 So how busy can we expect to be? Not much, considering the demographics. We call ourselves "The Stinky Foot Patrol" because mostly what we get are foot injuries from folks who are not used to walking on a freshly cut hayfield. We get folks who have the wrong shoes, or old shoes, or no shoes. We get folks who arrived with an open foot wound and now it's become really ugly because they are walking around in sandals. We get a LOT of 'foot stuff'. Fortunately, we have on our staff a number of kind and caring RN's who easily and compassionately clean, dry, treat, and dress all these wounds. They offer advice to get the patients through the rest of the weekend. We give a lot of advice to people on how to enjoy the weekend and take care of their own medical issues at the same time. We also get the occasional 'true emergency' like anaphalaxis, diabetic issues, and the rare chest pains. Mostly, it's feet, dehydration, and sunburn. But the people are very nice and appreciate the help, so it's all good. The work is fun if nothing else. We average about 7 people transported during the 4 days. Al transports are handled by local EMS, which we work well with.
 Our staff is composed of EMT's, Ski Patrollers (OEC), a couple of CFR's, several RN's, a PA or two, a few Paramedics, and other odd medical disciplines. Of course, many of the folks carry multiple credentials like Wilderness First Aid, Wilderness EMT, OR Nurses, and we even have an EMT who is a Dentist. It's a neat crew. The RN's like doing the wound care but back off when an emergent case comes in because they don't have the tools, facilities, and drugs they are used to having. On the other hand, the EMT's shy away from the wound care and foot washing, preferring to work on 'something with a little more meat'. Infection control is not something EMT's deal with very often. So we have a very nice symbiotic staff that works well. In addition, we come from all over the northeast, so we don't see each other more than once a year. We enjoy getting to know each other and share tricks and techniques.
 So that's a little about how things layout her. Now lets see what the weekend brings.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I'm Thinking

Yeah, I know, it's scarey.

 So when I read TOTWTYTR latest post tonight titled "A Real EMS Post!" I thought 'Hey Great, I miss those because they're always good'. Then I relaized that I haven't written one myself in quite a while.
 I should do something about that, I thought.
 But nothing much has happened and there are few (OK, NONE) burning issues on my mind. In short, nobody has pissed me off lately. Pity.
 But then I remembered "Hey, I am about to take off on my favorite EMS duty cycle of the year, why not write about that?"
 So tomorrow, when I leave the paying job and head up into the hills, I will try to keep YOU, both of my readers in mind. I'll bring the laptop and see if I can't manage a post or two from the biggest Bluegrass festival in the great Northeast.
 Of course, if you are coming to Grey Fox (you probably are on the road as I write this) please do drop by the medical tent and ask for the handsome EMT with the long mustache. Most likely I will be walking foot patrol because that's what I like best, but I will have at least one of the overnights. So look for me.
 I have no idea how it will come out, but it will give some sort of Festival EMS perspective that might be interesting.

 Let's see what develops.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The rest of the Story

 Well, you've waited long enough, here are the details missing from the previous post. But first, I neglected to mention that this patient had nothing between him and the Lord except a pair of boxer shorts. No Shoes, no shirt, (no service) nothing.
 Turns out our hapless patient made a phone call at about 0300 from the residence where he was staying. At 0330 he was found in the living room of a house about 2 houses down. The homeowner asked the patinet to 'please leave', which he did. At 0350 he returned to the same house, whereupon the owner threatened to have him arrested. Fearing the threat, the patient took off in haste, apparently into the woods and stumbled around for a while and somehow lacerated his leg.
 Bleeding profusely, he looked for another place to get help and found a house which was unoccupied. He broke in and soaked several handfuls of paper towels with blood trying to stop the bleeding. He tried laying down (on the Judges bed) to see if that would help. Apparently, it did not, as he left several very large puddles of blood on the bed which soaked into the mattress and had still not congealed several hours later.
 He then left the house and began walking up hill, down the middle of the driving lane in the opposite direction he had started from. After a half mile, the blood trail wanders around for quite a bit, then heads back down the road, this time mostly along the double yellow line until he passes the house he broke into (the second one) by a few hundred feet. At this point he is running out of juice and he sits on the side of the road in the cool tall grass. Someone driving to work sees him at 0500. He was found by a woman out taking her two small grandchildren for a morning walk at 0800.
 Two counts of Criminal Trespass and one count of Burglary has him being held for bail in the County Lockup.
 Now the thing that surprises me is that if you find somebody in your house, without your permission in the wee hours TWICE in the same night would you not call the police?! I believe I would have (right after my hearing came back from the shot I fired). I would also like to think that if I saw a mostly naked person sitting in the grass at 0500, I would most likely call a cop for assistance. But that's just me. Some folks might see it differently.
 You just can't make this stuff up.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Did you ever .... ?

Did you ever have one of those calls where you found yourself saying "I can't wait to hear the rest of this story!"
 Sure you have, and we had one today. No I don't know the rest of the deal yet, but I'll share it when I find out, you will have to wait, just like me.

  We were banged out for a 'adult' male, severe laceration to the leg. According to my GPS, I was 30 minutes from the scene because I was returning from dropping my wife at the airport and I knew there was no way I would be of any help unless it turned into something more. So all I could do was follow the city fellar down the two lane at 45 MPH and listen to the chatter on the radio.
 Follow-up information during response included that it was a 40 Y/O Male with a severe laceration to the right lower leg. He was found on the side of the road by a passer-by. HMMM, I'm thinking, "Must be a cyclist, we have lots of those on the holiday weekends, we live in a paradise for bikers." Then I heard the LEO on scene ask his back-up unit to continue in and that the scene was secure for EMS to come on in, he also confirmed the previous medical information and added that the bleeding was controlled. "What? 'Scene secure'? They didn't mention the scene was NOT secure with the dispatch or to stage away at any point. What the hell is going on?"
 So I arrive on-scene after the ambulance has carted the patient off to the hospital and my guys are just getting ready to leave.  The young Lt. brings me up to date "Wow, major lac 12 inches long and down to the bone, bleeding pretty good. No, he wasn't on a bike or any vehicle of any kind. He had four different stories that all ended with 'but I don't really remember', and the police are following his blood trail up the road now." I smiled and had 'that thought' I mentioned at the top of the post.
 Turns out we wound up having about 5 or 6 LEOs doing the 'investigation thing' and we lent them a hand by closing the road to preserve evidence and the scene, which turned out be to nearly a half mile of blood trail that included the inside of one home the patient had apparently broken into and bled all over the place. Apparently the homeoners were away for the holiday, at least I hope they were.
 It gets better: the home our patient choose to do his B&E on was a prominent local figure of the Judicial persuasion. He's gonna be ticked when he returns, and this patient may very well wind up in his Court.
 The patient was found not knowing where he was or how he got there. He said he was from Baton Rouge, which is around 1,000 miles from here. He was staying at a house down the road and remembers A) Going out for a walk, or B) Going to buy a bottle of wine (5 mile round trip), or C) Being dropped off. He either was, or was NOT in a vehicle at any time. He either was, or was NOT partying with friends. He either was out for a couple of hours, or all night. But whatever it was, he doesn't remember.
 I'm not real good at assessing blood loss when the trail is a half mile long, but I figure that this guy lost a fair amount since we had little trouble following it on a road that was still wet from the previous night's rain. We also had little trouble finding where it started (in the middle of the driving lane), without the aid of a dog or a CSI team.
 I can't WAIT to hear the rest of this story!
 And the Holiday weekend isn't even over yet! We still haven't done our 'Drunk stumbles into the campfire' call, or the 'Deck fire secondary to a barbeque experiment' job.  Last night it continued to rain as it had all day, so today should be the big day for us. More blog fodder, if nothing else.
Be Safe, Be Sharp, and Please Don't be Stupid,

An Explaination of Sorts

Not that I really owe anybody and explanation, but I thought one was in order because my posting has fallen off as of late. Yeah, I noticed it too.
 I mentioned a couple of posts back that I applied for my Boss's job when he moved on. I confess that I threw my hat in the ring at the last minute for what might be considered some poor reasons. I did not apply at first because the list of requirements included a BA, which I lack and they preferred a Master's Degree, which ain't gonna happen at this stage in my life. What I do have is 38 years experience doing this sort of work. When I found out that 3 others who also lack major parts of the requirements also threw their hats in, I followed suit. At the time, I thought "What the Hell?" I also thought that I wanted to be on the 'inside' of this show, and not on the outside as one of the interview committee, which I had been asked to join.
 I mentioned earlier that I thought they were just giving us the courtesy of an interview and would cast us aside citing the fact that we missed a 'Major Requirement'.  Today, as I write this, I'm not so sure. They flew an independent HR guy halfway across the country to give the first round of interviews as an unbiased pair of ears. That part went as expected, but then they changed the game and we were all interviewed by the internal team which is made up of people we work with. These interviews were a lot rougher because these people know us and we can't 'skate the truth', we have to be honest, and in some cases explain decisions we have made in the past that didn't work out so well.
 They have a tough job making a selection, and the final two or three will board a plane and go across the country to interview with the Division President. Did I mention that this is a Staff Level Manager's position? Actually this position is responsible for around 70 production level folks and has about a half dozen supervisors reporting to it. There is also a union contract to negotiate every few years as well as $40 million in annual production to get out the door on time. So I think it's fair to say that a lot rides on this guy's head.
 So this is why I haven't written much lately. I have been getting the impression that I might have a (slight) chance of getting this job. My interviewers have made some comments that indicate I surprised them. They haven't taken anybody out of the running yet, and we have some heavy hitters applying from the outside with the shiny MBA's falling out of their front pockets. Still, I have been struck by the idea that I 'might' just have a chance, which never occurred to me before. My grapevine works pretty well, and I know that a few guys didn't do so well in the interviews. That's no surprise to any of us. However, my grapevine, in this case includes one of the interviewers and he is understandably not telling me details of any importance, just things that I had already guessed and we already knew would happen. It would be unprofessional for me to ask, or him to offer, anything that would betray the trust he holds.  I'll just have to wait like the rest of the group.
 This has had me thinking all night, every night. Can I do this job? What will be my first mistake? How will I handle this [major problem] or that [major problem]? How do I get through the interview with the President, who I have only met once, in a hallway, as we walked? How will I stand up against 'the other guy' who has the college, the $800 suit, the fancy shoes, and all the current catch phrases?
 I admit, I don't work in those circles, but I have been advising people in those circles for a long time now. In many cases I have snatched them back from the brink of a catastrophic decision based on their college education, no doubt, many, many times.
 I am a trench guy. I run the job like we run fires. Find out EXACTLY what is going on from the people that are doing the work. Meetings take too long. Get off your ass and go SEE what the problem is. That's me and that's how I get things done faster than anybody I know. I would really love to have a shot at this job and show them how a working man can run a company based on what he has learned over many years of actually 'making stuff' instead of reading about how it is done and having meetings to discuss it.
 The other consideration is that none of us wants to break in a new Boss. That takes an awful lot of effort and we have too much work to do.
 Knowing my Company as I do, I think it's gonna be another 4-5 weeks before we see anything close to a decision. I've had 3 interviews so far, and with folks taking vacations, I suspect things will slow down now. I am anxious to get this over with because I am not the only one that has had to pick up the slack left by not having a Boss. We're all trying to make things happen but it takes a lot more effort and time when you have to go and search for a Staff member to give approvals.
 Just give me the damned job and I'll show you how it's supposed to be done.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Still Catching up .... Apparently

Well, once again I have been remiss in my duty to keep you all entertained with some sort of offering. More on the reason for my distraction in the next post, but first I did promise to tell you about my meeting with The Lonely EMT and her daughter.
 I'll dispense with any explanations about how it can be that two 'anonymous bloggers' actually find each other and have a meet up, let's all just accept that a method was found to make it happen and we arranged a meeting while I was on the road for business. It is no small irony that we selected the State Fire Academy as a meeting place. "Neutral territory", you might think, but in fact, it was directly on my route (honest!) and not a long drive for Hilinda. I needed to stop at the bookstore there anyway and we thought we might crash the palce for lunch.
 Well, lunch was not gonna happen. There was a State Propane Response Conference in session as well as an Electrical Fire Cause and Determination class. Neither Hillinda nor myself can ever recall seeing so many folks in the Dining Hall and there was no way they were gonna 'squeeze' us in. Actually that worked out ok, because my traveling partner and I had to get to an extra stop on our trip and I had precious little time to visit. I promised my partner just a 30 minute stop, but I think it went longer.
 I walked into the bookstore and although I had never met Hillinda, I picked her out almost as fast as she picked me out. I think she was just a second faster actually. We fell right into an easy conversation as she finished her chat with the manager of the bookstore who she has known a long while.
 We found a quiet spot in the un-used lounge and grabbed a table before it began to fill with the overflow from the dining hall. You would think we've known each other for a while, and we talked about all the same things that vollies in the Fire and EMS services talk about. Call volume, bad jobs, Agency issues, and other stuff.
 We also talked about a newly found thing we have in common of enjoying volunteering at large summer music festivals. We are working on arrangements to work together in 2012 at my favorite venue, and she has invited me to join her at hers.
 Funny how you never expect some of the connections you create when you venture into something new. I never expected that my blogging, as poor as it is, would lead me to meet new, interesting and stimulating people. I expected to just spend my time at the keyboard. Just goes to show you, you never know.
 Thanks Hillinda and Sara, for driving over and spending some time. I really enjoyed the visit, even more than you might guess.
 Be safe, Be Sharp,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Catching up

 No matter where you go.......there you are.
Just got home from 3 days on the road for business (the paying job). I had to go visit 3 vendors (machine shops that make parts for us), which actually was supposed to be 2 vendors, but we made an executive decision and added the third while we were on the road because it made good sense at the time.
 Usually I like to do these trips myself, but this time I was accompanied by a gal from our purchasing Department, as she had business issues to discuss with the two vendors we headed out to see. I have to admit I really wasn't super happy to have a traveling partner. Not that there is the slightest thing wrong with this gal. We work together and get along great at work as far as I know. She is a huge help to me in getting my job done.
 However, we all have funny habits and needs and when you are traveling and spending your entire day together, those little habits can quickly become annoying. It takes a certain amount of consideration to keep from annoying your traveling partner. It you travel together long enough, by the end of the trip, most folks are ready to kill each other.
 Many people I have traveled with have habits that drive me nuts. Not packing properly and having multiple bags for a short trip (the accepted practice is an overnight bag and a briefcase or small backpack), not having your luggage properly prepared for air travel (not having the liquids ready to display), forgetting basic items which require a side trip to some store or other, or being late to get going in the morning requiring everyone else to wait and begin the day behind schedule, are all things which drive me nuts. I have endured much worse from some traveling partners.
 I have never traveled with Sally, so I was concerned that I might have some habits, or do some things to make her uncomfortable, and of course, that she might also.
 My fears were eased in the first 20 minutes of the drive, and got even less as the first day wore on. As we were driving I commented that I might need to make a quick stop to have a smoke, as I didn't allow myself one before we left. She just said "Oh, you can smoke while we drive, my husband does that and I don't mind at all as long as your window is cracked open". I smiled and thought "Life just got easier".
 The first days drive, about 4 hours went by easily and we checked into the hotel. She was ready, as promised when our vendor picked us up for dinner. We all had a lovely evening eating and chatting and were in our rooms by 9:30 to check emails from the office and answer the important ones. (Then I read blogs for a couple of hours.) The next morning I met her in the lobby for breakfast, she was 15 minutes early, I was really pleased. Over breakfast, I let her know that after we finished up with this vendor and were on our way to the next one I would like to make a quick stop at the State Fire Academy so that I could meet a blogger friend and pick some stuff up at the bookstore. It was exactly on our route, there was no detour required. She was fine with that.
 We completed our business at vendor #1 and headed North. I called The Lonely EMT and she was just leaving to meet us at the Academy. Our 20 minute visit went almost an hour and Sally sat out in the car working on emails and entering purchase orders. She said she really needed to get it done and couldn't do it while we were driving. She was very gracious and I let her know I appreciated it.
 We finished up that day squeezing in the new vendor prospect and arriving at the last vendor too late to meet with them, but we did join one of their reps for dinner. We finished up our business the next day and got on the road home by 1:00 pm. It was a 5 hour drive through heavy driving rain. I was wiped out when I finally walked in the door. I would have loved to have a beer or two and go to bed, but my loving wife just said "dinner's on the table, eat, then change, we have to be 'there' by 7:30". I did as I was told and we went down to the local micro-brewery to hear my son-in-law play for a while. It was worth it, he debuted a Vocal piece he has been working on for a while (Vincent 52). He has never sung in public before, so this was really neat, he broke another personal barrier. It was great and I'm so glad I didn't miss it.
 However, I still had to get into work early today and work on the pile that developed while I was gone and I also had a job interview scheduled at 9:45am which I only learned about last night at 7PM. (I applied for my boss's job when he moved on.) They've flown in a guy to interview the 4 of us that applied and although I think they have already decided none of the 'internal candidates' will get the job and it will go to somebody from the 'outside', I still needed to give it a shot. After 38 years in this business, I think it's time for me to make an impact. The interview went fine and there was only one question asked that I had a much better answer for an hour after the interview ended. Over the years of my experience, this was one of the best interviewers I have met. But, again, I think my chances are between slim and none because of the politics and preconceived notions.
 But, I digress. The trip went fine and I look forward to making another trip with Sally. She was truly a working partner and that hasn't happened to me in a long time. I made a point of telling her Boss just that. It turns out that she has had similar experiences to mine and enjoyed the actual amount of work we accomplished. Turns out that neither of us enjoy the wine and dine crap, the dinners, or the drinking. We are not looking to 'make friends' or 'bond' with our vendors, we just want to build a solid working relationship and that usually happens in the conference room, not the barroom. It also turns out that both Sally and I have a lot of experience in 'carrying' our traveling partners that are poorly prepared for a road trip.
 Next post I'll tell you about my visit with the Lonely EMT and her lovely daughter.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Saturday, June 18, 2011


 Direct from the "You can't make this stuff up" department, I just heard this dispatch a few minutes ago for the next county north of us:

"Podunk Rescue, respond for a 21 year old female with a Q-tip stuck in her right ear. 2123 Birch Lane, in the village of Smallville. Airway is patent, breathing and pulse normal, no chest pains.  Repeating: Podunk Rescue, your response is needed at 2123 Birch Lane in Smallville for a 21 year old female with a Q-tip lodged in her right ear. Suggested ALPHA response, dispatcher 23, 1709."

Several things went through my warped mind all at once. First of all, if I were the typical 21 year old female, would I call an ambulance because I was dumb enough to get a Q-tip stuck in my ear?
 The second thing that struck me was that the dispatcher was placing emphasis on the fact that the foreign object was lodged in the RIGHT ear. I wonder if he was concerned that the crew might arrive and not notice that the cue-tip was in the RIGHT ear, or perhaps they would arrive and say, 'nope this gal has a Q-tip in her left ear, must be the wrong patient', or as a third possibility they might not catch the Q-tip in the ear at all during their assessment.
 A few minutes later I thought "HEY, what if it's not a Q-tip, but rather it's a CUE-TIP (like in pool Cue)? Now that might be hard to miss on an assessment. 
 This county uses a coded response mode with Alpha being the least critical and Echo being the most critical.

No matter how hard you might try, you just can't make this stuff up.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Keeping Score

 The Instructor stood in front of his class at the conclusion of the first successful CPR training for each of these new students. As he got them quieted down he surveyed these new faces going out into the world as newly ordained 'lay rescuers'. Most were between 20 and 30 years old, but some were forty and one was in her sixties. All were civilians.
 "Newbies", he thought, but then he chastised himself for thinking that. "These are just folks trying to be prepared to help somebody else out when they need it most". His thoughts were his own and he congratulated himself on getting a new batch of people out there. This is why he teaches, after all, to possibly save a life through the actions of others.
 "OK Folks" he spoke up "lets quiet down. Before I let you help me carry all this 'stuff' out to my truck I want to congratulate you on doing a fine job. Everybody passed and did it well. You are all in good shape. Just remember if you are ever faced with any of the situations we discussed today, just stay calm and follow your training. I KNOW you are going to do great. Are there any final questions?"
 A hand shot up from the cute 20 something with the long brown hair. "You told us that you have done CPR many times, how many people have you saved?" "Well," he looked at the floor then looked back up, "I've, check that, I have had a few patients that have been lucky and come through it OK as far as I know."
 "Hey, wait a minute", it was the smart ass kid in the corner that was cracking jokes all through the class. The Instructor had just about had enough of this kid. "Your job is saving lives, are you telling us that you don't KNOW how many people you've saved? You don't keep track of something like that? You're weird dude!"
 "Yeah" the Instructor said, "I guess I am a little weird. The truth is, I have no idea how many saves I've had a hand in. First of all we don't get good feedback after we bring them to the hospital , and many times I have no idea how it ended for a lot of patients. You probably won't understand this, but we do the best we can for every patient and hope for the best. I only keep track of the others."
 The kid in the corner didn't get it yet, "what others?"
 "Ah Shit" he thought, "I said that out loud didn't I?"
 The instructor looked the kid in the eye, waited for a second, then said in a firm voice "The others that didn't make it, I know that number, it's 37. He went on, "I didn't want to tell you that because you might get discouraged, but every person that is trained and 'out there' will increase the chances that CPR will be started sooner and increase that patients chances. You can make a difference. That's the point. Don't focus on what might go wrong, work toward what might go right." He looked around the class and studied the faces.
 "Damn" he thought "I went and scared them. Time for damage control."
 "Look, I know this all sounds pretty heavy, and in a way it is, but you have to realize that all you can do is what you can do. If you TRY to help, and do the right thing, then you are not responsible for what happens if it doesn't go the way you want. You did more than many people could or even would have done. You should be proud of that. It takes a damned lot of courage to walk in this room like you did 6 hours ago, and take this class, then walk out prepared to do something that will seem a little unnatural at first. My work doesn't allow me to 'pick' who I want to try to save and who I don't. When I get the call I go, and do everything I can within my training and leave the decisions to a higher power. After a while, you learn that you can't think about it too much because the outcome is not really in your hands anyway. Your 'job' is to do 10 minutes of good quality CPR and I know you can do that."
 He did another 'face survey' and could see the wheels turning in almost every head. "If anyone wants to hang out a little after we clean up, I'll be happy to stay and finish that pot of coffee with you. Just understand this, you are not expected to be 'heroes', but you might be looked at that way if you ever need to do this because you might be the only one who knows what to do. Doing the right thing is not always easy, but it is why you are here, and why I am here. I thank you for showing me the courage you have, and I wish you all the best of luck. Anyone want to help me load the truck?"
 The smart ass kid in the corner jumped up and grabbed two big bags of CPR dummies.

Be Safe,