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.