Saturday, January 27, 2007

Nestle Quick

A true story of a call downtown told to me from a friend of mine. His story, of course, was much better.

The Denver Police finally wrangled this evil, sweaty, eluding, metho-felon in his cutoff jeans. Why he was running or what he was doing, I don't exactly know. All I do know is that he was evil. Used car salesman evil. He was one of those guys that made you check to see if your wallet was still there after unfortunately encountering him. The kind of guy you wanted to walk away from backwards, facing him, and like the Terminator, always scanning the room for the closest emergency exit.

As he sat steaming up the windows in the back of the cramped police car, he continued to glow in sweat. Not because he was in the back of a police car, but because of the meth screaming through his brittle veins. The cops aren't stupid. They didn't know exactly what was going on with him, but they realized that since he was carrying on a conversation with the graffitied Plexiglas in the back, a very intense conversation at that, that they should call the paramedics. And on a side note, how does that Plexiglas become graffitied? Aren't they always in handcuffs?

Screaming around the corner and skidding to a stop, the medics arrived. One seasoned medic that has been worked in this system for many years, the medic that makes your ten hour day feel like two. And one, although seasoned as well, that has never been introduced to the dark side of this urban city. One that doesn't realize that even grandma will lie to you and can pull a knife out her crochet bag and try to stab you with it.

They approach the all white police car that has just successfully sought an opportunity to serve. In the back, debating like a prom king trying to get his date out of her dress, he sat soaked in his own sweat. Meth rotting his teeth as he sat there screaming into the cloudy night sky. My friend begins talking to him and the metho-crazed felon answers, but completely inappropriately. I imagine something like this.

"What's your name?" the question is posed.

They finally get him out of the cramped police car and shuffle him to the ambulance bed where his wrists are velcroed to the handrails, being as that he is still under arrest and a threat to their safety. The clear, kitchen-sized zip-lock bag of felonious evidence is placed on his lap, below his quivering knees. In that bag are the usual suspects. Lighters -a lot of them, combs -always more than one and always apparently never used, and crumpled receipts from the local mom and pop liquor store for the numerous bottles of Night Train and grape Mad Dog 50/50. And finally, somewhere in that clear little suitcase of crime scene goodness, is his sealed bottle of much anticipated Nestle Quick.

In his maze of mumbled language a question is posed, "Can I have my Nestle Quick?"

The answer, self-evident to all, is a silent no. The ambulance gears clank into D and the rear wheels slip on the ice as they leave the scene for the local county hospital.

The cogs begin to turn, the wheels spin and the police-evading-metho-felon begins to silently become angry. No chocolate milk? How could someone not allow him to enjoy his recently acquired fresh bottle of chocolate milk? In a fit of fury that would make the Hulk proud, the crazed addict in need of more than meth. violently rips the restraints off the bed. Crazed, he stares at the medic and with no words threatens the safety the man in the white shirt holds dear. The ambulance already at a stop and the other medic rushing back to help, the rear doors of the ambulance bust open and he flees with the fury of a trapped animal.

A chase ensues and finally the men in blue's K-9 apprehend the patient / escapee / felon in the back of some unknowing citizen's snow-packed yard. He's cuffed and escorted back to the ambulance where the medic is awaiting in the back.

As the metho-felon forfeits all his dignity and silently bows in defeat, he asks one question.

"Can I have my Nestle Quick now?"

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

No More playing in the Playground alone.

A Day in the Life of an Ambulance Driver (I have no idea what I'm doing and the fact that the words are blue is amazing in itself) is a paramedic blog that I've recently started reading, and enjoying. I was asked to do this:

"share five off the wall, strange, unusual or just little-known facts about yourself. Then you "tag" five other bloggers who are supposed to do the same thing."

Since I like these stories to be about my life as a paramedic, I'll share five things about myself at work. And one that’s completely irrelevant.

1) The only call I almost ever cried on was when a beautiful Husky pup was hit on the highway. I immobilized its spine and put it on a backboard. I started an IV and seriously debated calling the hospital for an order of fentanyl. But, I know there's got to be some federal law forbidding giving narcotics to animals, so I just petted it on the side of the highway until animal control arrived.

2) I have peed on the scene of an Emergency call. "Ma'am, I'm really sorry, and this is going to sound weird, but may I use you're bathroom?"

3) I've been scared for my life on a call. Really scared. Guns out of police holsters scared. (That story is to come).

4) I don't like driving "lights and sirens".

5) I have a trained seeing-eye-dog with cataracts.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

For Noah.

My brother regularly reads my blog. And that's half the reason I started doing this, so my family could hear stories about what I do and the things and people I see and meet. He enjoys the stories, but said it was a little sad. I agree. These stories are inspired by things and people I see at work. Good or bad, pretty or ugly, happy or sad, they follow me home like a loyal Labrador retriever. They follow me to my cold basement where I sit cuddled next to my small space heater and pen these intricate, philosophical stories of life.

This is for you, Noah.

Every paramedic waits for that one, big, life-altering call. The one where when you get sent everyone else turns green with envy. The one that makes you smile and makes them frown. The one call that makes Bob Kendrick from News Channel 9 camp outside the Paramedic Division to get that up-close, life-inspiring interview (or Linda Cavanaugh if you live in Oklahoma).

I came pretty close to one of those calls the other day.

It was at the Diamond Cabaret. Even if you're not from Denver, you probably have an idea of what type of joint this is just by the name. The Diamond Cabaret, gentlemen’s club of Denver. The Diamond, where stars are born, dreams are crushed, marriages a ruined, and wallets are left shamelessly voided of all dollar bills.

You may have thought it would have been rescuing babies from burning buildings. Or saving city officials from the clutches of the eternal, cold darkness of death. Or feats of valiant heroism by saving families in distress.

Nope. That's not what simmers in the thoughts of the bored paramedic sitting cramped in that idling ambulance in 7-11. Those aren't the calls, exciting as they may be, that'll put a grin on that paramedic's face.

It's the Strip Club call.

It was Friday night. It was summer. And it was time for me to join the ranks of paramedics that have run Strip Club Calls. We entered the building, radios blaring and flashlights cutting paths through the round tables. Everyone looked our direction, briefly, and then went about their business. The stripper in the shower, playing with the soap bubbles, waved hello. It was official; I was now among the few that have run a Strip Club call.

Hang Dopamine, check. Vent a chest, check. Run a strip club call, check.

We were escorted to the locker room. Here, on the floor, the patient rested. She was wearing, or not wearing -depending on how you look at it- her "uniform". Bambi, Cheyenne, Candy, and Lexus all counted their dollar bills as Van Halen rocked in the other room. Her friend, she looked like a Trixie to me, frantically chattered on the cell phone, being as this was an emergency and she felt the need to inform everyone in their inner circle. The fire guys stood around smiling. My partner stood beside me, although he was nowhere near me. And I did my best to talk to the patient as more ladies filtered in.

We were in the Lions Den. We had passed security and made it to the heart of the club. We were deemed safe, and not a threat. And because of this, Roxanne, Essence, and Jasmine all disrobed and walked around in high heels and lipstick continuing to do what it was that they normally did. The locker room "mom" stood in the corner smiling. At one point she looked at us all, all 8 of us, and asked if we were enjoying ourselves.

With a squint in my eye and a crooked smile on my face I looked at fire and said, "We're good here." Meaning, they could leave. They looked at me and smiled, "OK". They didn't leave.

We loaded up the patient. I asked if she needed anything, more specifically, clothes. And she said no. We were ready to go. I nudged my partner and awoke him from his comatose state. He flinched and quickly pretended to act important. Still frantic, her friend, her roommate, and her dancing coworker asked if she could go. "Of course you can go", I said.

She folded her one-dollar bills and squeezed them into her small, glittering purse. Her stiletto heels clicked as she shuffled around the room. Sierra, Houston, and Amber all kissed her goodbye and wished them luck. Porsche winked and blew me a kiss. She was next on the main stage.

"Ma'am", I said. "If you want to come with us we need to leave now. This could be an emergency and we may be wasting valuable time". I said that without laughing and suppressing every urge to smile or giggle.

"Do I have time to change?" She was wearing her favorite black dancing bra and some lacey skirt-thing.
"Well" I said, "You can try, but we may have to leave quickly".

She grabbed her bag-a-ones and followed us out the ambulance.

Off we went to the ED. One ambulance, two paramedics, and two half-dressed strippers.

This story may not make you laugh, but I know it'll put a smile on your face.

Like I said before. You can't make this stuff up!

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Electrical Tape

I don't like electrical tape.

It signifies something that puts a lump in my throat. It's my flag at half-mast, it's a horse drawn carriage down a blocked off street, it's 21 rifle shots in the air or a military fly-by. It's pressed uniforms and funny looking hats. It's something that turns my stomach. It means someone in our profession has passed away. That someone has died.

Typically, we veil our insignia with carefully cut peices of black electrical tape. Badges, police and fire, are striped with it. Patches, like ours, are striped diagonally from one side to another. It's on every uniform on every employee. And it is a constant reminder of the extreme saddness some loved one is enduring.

It's a constant reminder that I need to say I love you more. That I need to hold a hand, or go on a walk, or just take a moment and look at the stars, smell the grass, or stare at the mountains.

It's a constant reminder that there are more important things in life. That the bills will get paid and the car will get fixed. That the price of gas, the miles on my car, and the speed of my computer are truly insignificant.

It's a constant reminder that there are things I want to do. That going camping, or skiing, or on that vacation, isn't that difficult.

It's a constant reminder of all my excuses, all my fears, and all my hopes and dreams.

It's a constant reminder of family, friends, memories, and goals.

It reminds me that I'm mortal.

And as enlightening as all that may seem, I don't like the fact that today I had to mask my patch with another stripe of black electrical tape.

Friday, January 5, 2007

The luckiest unlucky man.

I met the luckiest unlucky man on Earth. He had won the lottery, twice. Was a millionaire, twice.

And had shot himself in the head, once.

Upstairs, in the house with furnishings from the '70's, six loud bangs were heard. They sounded like gunshots, and resonated off the wallpapered walls bouncing into the reading room where the elderly parents did crosswords. Frightened, the mother dialed the three digits on their rotary phone. 9, click, click, click, 1, click, click, click, 1 click, click, click. The father, scared that his deepest fears may have just come true, opened the basement door and carefully negotiated each step to his son's bedroom. He screamed as the mother relayed their address to the 911 operator.

I arrive the same time the fire department does. I'm still relatively new at this point in my career and haven't seen a lot of suicide attempts, especially by gun. Enroute, muffled by the screaming sirens and 911-operator traffic, we were told that he was still breathing. Not for long, I thought. A shot to the head can't sustain life.

The elderly father greets us at the door. His eyes floating in tears. His wife sits on the guest couch as the father leads us thought the living room, into the kitchen, and the directs the way to the basement with a crooked, pointed finger. "Down those stairs" he said.

All six of us, plus the 2 cops that just arrived on scene, crunch down so as to not bump our heads on the low ceiling. Our footsteps crash each rung as we slowly walk down the stairs. Not knowing what is around the corner, we carefully peer around the dimly lit room looking for anyone that might want to hurt us.

There, on the bed, was a fully clothed man. Jacket and shoes on, he rested on a bloody comforter with his hands at his side. The sulpher from the gunshots still smoked in the air. The imaginary sound of the blast penetrated my thoughts.

"Where's the gun?" I asked, not necessarily hoping to locate it, but to warn the firemen there was possibly a locked and loaded firearm in the near vicinity,

"My father has it."

I stutter. The firemen flinch and two back up. My partner, like a cold gust of wind, disappears up the stairs. I am left speechless.

Clots of blood the size of pancakes crown the patient in the bed. Grayish clumps of matter the size of jellybeans are strewn on the headboard and embedded in the pillow. Meditation rocks, with inspirational sayings like "Trust" and "Love" and "Peace" are scattered on the floor. "Hope" is wedged firmly in his tight grasp. I begin to talk.

Like that uncomfortable silence on a first date, I ask,
"What's your name?"
"Where do you hurt?" "
"Why did you do this?"

He answers each question. Quietly, and succinctly.

His father, now downstairs but out of the line of sight, states he heard 6 shots. I see one in the head. Penetrating above his right ear and exiting with an explosion at the base of his skull. One of six. I remove the bloody comforter and look for more. His right arm is tense, as if every muscle is flexing simultaneously. His right leg is shattered. From his hip to his knee.

The CSI in me begins to piece the puzzle together. The gun was in his right hand; he put it to his temple, pulled the trigger and blew two holes in his head with one shot. His arm fell to his side, and as the neurons misfired in his traumatized brain, his right hand flinched uncontrollably, causing him to shoot himself 5 more times in the leg, fracturing his femur and blowing his kneecap off.

We load him up and he continues to play a role in his medical care. Do this! He does it. Do that! He does it. He begins to cry and I tell him it'll all be alright. Even though I didn't believe it.

On the way to the ED he has an episode like I've never seen before, and probably never will. He is communicating with me, although his words make no sense. He looks at me as though I'm from a foreign country. I'm sure he asks, in his own language, "do you understand me?" I don't.

We make it to the hospital where he lives for another month. And where I learn that this unlucky, lucky man's luck had run out.