Monday, March 26, 2007

Man, I love this job.

The lights slice through the dark night sky, the dispatcher on the radio sharply informs us to "wait for cover". The diesel engine grumbles as the automatic transmission struggles to keep up with the constant pressure on the gas peddle. As we cross over the large eight-lane highway on a small two-lane bridge, my partner turns all the switches on that transform our ambulance into a moving firecracker.

I reach up and turn the interior light off. My seatbelt constantly applying pressure to my chest as we skid left and swerve right. My feet, cramped in the foot well, ache from sitting for hours. I slide my elbow off the windowsill and push the small black button that cautiously rolls the window up. The sirens are echoing off the small, white houses sitting atop the hill that overlooks the highway. I straighten my back, sit up in my seat, slid my other hand down to the radio and gingerly turn up the volume.

The wailing changes from long, drawn out screams to sharp, quick blasts. The sounds reverberate off the artful metal accents of the new, contemporary lofts in the old, beat-up neighborhood. Although I've done this a thousand times before, my senses became sharper and my pupils dilate.

Then, like a harmonizing tenor in a church choir, more sirens approach in the darkness. I don't know where they are coming from and they confuse my senses. I struggle, like a fighter pilot in a dogfight, to look out all our windows and determine their avenue of approach.

We break through a triangle intersection and charge up hill, black smoke from the diesel polluting the mile high air. The new sirens assault our ambulance and are right on top of us. I glance in the side view mirror and my eyes squint as the flashing high beams of the police cruiser illuminate the rectangular mirror. He's going where we are going, and we both are racing down this dark, residential street to someone who has a weapon.

The dips in the road bottom the heavy ambulance out as we try and maintain our speed. The police cruiser, chasing us in the dark exhaust fumes, rides close to our bumper. I can almost make out the face of the officer.

We pull over, slightly, and allow the quicker and more maneuverable cruiser to pass. It's engine screams like a banshee as the transmission drops a gear and it rockets past us. Quickly, the red taillights and yellow flashing lights on the roof disappear into the distance. We try and keep up, but are just to heavy and slow. The large dips in the road seem to launch the cruiser into the night as he speeds away.

He shuts his lights and siren off and skids around a corner like a ballplayer sliding into home plate. We do the same. The fire engine awaits at an intersection, its occupants still fighting to stay awake.

The cruiser's driver gets out and we pull up behind him. He pulls his large mag light out from his seat and approaches me. Together, we begin walking the block looking for the out-of-control, suicidal person. The ambulance, and my partner, creeps behind us as we walk.

Suddenly, the officer begins to sprint. His hand on his holstered weapon, he quickly accelerates from me. I begin running, my hand on my awkward radio slapping me on the thigh. My partner slams on the gas and makes the large ambulance lurch forward. The flashing ambulance box turns the corner, as I cut through the yard, and is abruptly slammed into park.

The officer tackles the suicidal person. My partner, like a ballerina, falls out of the freshly parked ambulance as I hurdle patches of grass and concrete. Together, we land on the crazed person and help the officer restrain this angry person with a sharp putty knife.

She screams, kicks, fights, and spits. The dispatcher on the police radio becomes worried that no one has answered her call and sends out an emergency tone. Officers from everywhere in the city scream into their radios saying they are on their way. More sirens, from every direction, again confuse my senses. Lights illuminate the trio fighting the person on the ground as the other officers and their cruisers come to a loud, screeching halt. Burning brakes waft into the air.

We restrain the patient and load her in the ambulance. Still screaming and spitting and fighting I start an IV. It's like trying to brush the teeth of a rabid dog, but I successfully get one in her hand. The chemical restraint is beginning to course through her blood stream after being poked in her deltoid. Benedryl in the IV quickly makes her drowsy and tired. She fights to stay awake, like the firefighters before, and her screams slowly turn into moans.

I sit back, feet on the pram and blood on my gloves, and take a breather. The lights above my head illuminate the inside to the ambulance as two paramedics sit back and one patient begins to doze off into a heavy sleep.

My partner smiles at me and removes his gloves.

I smile at him and think,

Man, I love this job.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Superman is just around the corner.


I have said, on more than one occasion, that if people saw the way we acted when we were alone in the ambulance that they would kick us out of their home and drive themselves to the ED. They would cringe in disbelief, slam the door, and call the police.

"Are those the two we saw in that ambulance?" one would ask.

'The one's making those weird noises and crying with laughter? Uhm, yeah, lock the door and call the cops," the other would respond.

When we come knocking on your front door, you see two emergency professionals dutifully dressed in white responding to manage an acute emergency. Bags, monitors, radios, badges, and fancy tools laced between belt loops represent authority and confidence. Both traits, regardless of how we act or look, we all posses.

But, when I step back from that front door, I see an enigma. I see what you see, but in a different light. In front of me, on the exterior, I see the confident intelligent paramedic you see. But, in the back of my head, I also see another person in an arsenal of characters that each of us have.

Sometimes I see the guy who but not 5 minutes ago was trying to make the funniest noise for the longest amount of time. The guy who was just belching Dr. Pepper and is later planning on having a Red Bull and donut-eating contest. The one singing Michael Jackson at the top of his lungs and bouncing in his seat. The one that was honking at hookers and blowing them kisses.

Or, sometimes standing in front of me, is the disheveled guy who looks like he just crawled out of a cave. Beard growth of 5 days, stained coffee teeth and hot breath reeking of spicy sausages. Shirttail bubbling out from under his belt and pen marks on his shirt. Once deep black boots fade now into a grayish white at the toes. Papers in his shirt pocket are reminiscent of the old college professor who could never remember what he needed to do next.

Or, standing next to me, might be the starchly-pressed, muscular man with his hair shaved down to the skin of his skull with tattoos crawling up his forearms and disappearing into his sleeve. He smells like diesel fumes and Copenhagen and his black biker boots look like Frankenstein's clogs. He's assertive and direct, but polite and honest.

This job is one big contrast. We sit for hours on end fighting the tediousness of boredom. We fight to stay awake. We unwind and are lulled into a false sense of relaxation and security. And we all share one common trait, an alter ego.

The alter ego that mutes other personalities and takes over. The one that gets done what needs to be done and does it efficiently and correctly. The one that is confident and quick and regardless if you like the decisions, or not, it does what it believes is beneficial to the patient. The part of us, regardless of how we look or smell, that takes over and does an outstanding job.

I'm sure Superman, when not reversing the polarity of the Earth, had a tendency to belch and fart. And Batman and Robin surely played graba** in the Bat Cave in between arresting cartoon felons. And I bet MacGyver, when not fashioning elaborate means for escape from items in his pocket, acted like a teenage girl when his favorite song came on the radio.

I applaud those eccentricities and am happy they are there. Because if they weren't, and we were all as serious as we needed to be all the time, we would be some boring, uptight, angry, burnt-out public servants.

So, regardless of what alter ego stands before you in your doorway, remember that resting beneath that facade is the superhero waiting to go to work.

If you see Clark Kent, Superman is just around the corner.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Warm and fuzzy.

Like the ebb and flow of the ocean, my apparent recent biorhythm of life has been on the sarcastic, grumpy side. It's time for something warm and fuzzy.

Speeding down the highway in their $4000 Buick Regal, of which they somehow owed $5000, the father recklessly sped as carefully as possible. It was afternoon, the sun was hovering over the snow-capped mountain range in the west, and his wife was squirming and breathing heavily in the red upholstered passenger seat next to him. It was two weeks early and it was coming, regardless if they were ready or not.

"It's coming! It's coming! We're not going to make it," she pleaded to her husband as they sped through the congestion.

"What do I do? What do I do? Oh, sh*t, I knew we should have left earlier." The husband’s brow beaded with sweat. Although scared and worried, a smile mysteriously appeared on his tan face.

The rays of the sun broke through the peaks of the mountains. Colors, indescribable, radiated from the peaks and were framed by the large, cotton-ball clouds hanging in the sky. And up ahead, in front of a semi, next to a woman in her SUV on her cell phone, and passing a broke down Ford Taurus on the side of the road cruised a police officer in a white patrol car. Hope was near.

Again, rolls were reversed and he speed up to catch up with the cruiser. Never in a million years did he foresee him speeding up to catch and pull over a police officer.

He weaved left, sped past the lady on the cell phone not paying any attention to her driving, punched the gas and made the Buick's engine knock as a cloud of dark smoke erupted from its chrome tailpipe. It lurched forward and he assumed he was speeding, his speedometer hasn't worked since the third day he owned the car. The broken down car's owner sat on the side of the highway, watching the world go by.

The light bar of the police cruiser was directly in front of him. He honked, but remembered the horn would only honk once regardless of how many times he pushed the large button in the steering wheel. Its remedy was normally to turn the car off and reset the unknown reason for why this happens. With his horn blown once, he began flashing his lights. At least those worked. He clicked from low beam to high beam, hoping to shoot the beams into the rearview mirror of the police cruiser.

Nothing. Why was it when he needed a police officer he couldn't arouse any suspicion, but other times when all he wanted to do was make it home quietly and safely, they were everywhere and noticed his every move.

He plodded forward and pulled up to the left of the police officer. He pointed his finger to the side of the road and gestured to pull over. Wow, he was pulling a cop over. He imagined the stories he would have to tell. The officer took note, saw the sweating, moaning mother in the passenger seat and added one plus one. He turned his lights on, blocked traffic, and made room for them to exit off the highway.

He approached the car and was greeted to, "It's coming. It's coming, NOW!"

The officer moved the mother to the back of the car and radioed for paramedics. His dispatcher advised they were on the way.

The dad, still with a big grin on his face, hopped out and climbed in the back seat with his wife.

"Don't push," said the officer.

Sirens from the ambulance where closing in from the distance.

"Don't push, the ambulance is almost here," the officer pleaded.

"I have to," she screamed.

And after one grunt, two cries broke the brief moment of silence. The mother, and the baby, cried as they looked at one another.

The officer grabbed the baby and wrapped it in a blanket. He gave it to dad and exited the back of the Buick. The ambulance arrived, the officer gestured where to park, and he got back in his car and left.

Sitting in the back seat was a new member to a family of three. A baby girl, swaddled in some blankets, crying in the back of a Buick had just started her life.

I looked at her briefly and thought, "Now, isn't that warm and fuzzy."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

And the nominees are...

The nominees for best actress in a drama are:

Mid-life crisis on a flower print comforter:

Starring the inconsolable aging woman writhing in pain in her bed in the one bedroom apartment on the extremely wrong side of town.

As she attempted to do her laundry, she was overcome with Satan’s wrath in the form of abdominal pain. Debilitated, she struggled to traverse the 600 sq. ft. apartment to collapse in bed and wait for paramedics, prayers swimming in her anxious mind, demons attempting to steal her soul before her very eyes.

She wrestled the sheets, half-dressed in a T-shirt and underwear, as the paramedics entered the apartment. Family had already been summoned and the nephew, clad in the light purple shirt, with dark purple pants, purple loafers, and purple socks escorted the way the room of despair.

Snot dangled from her nose as she clutched her stomach. Questions were asked but no responses were given, due to the extreme nature of the recurrent, undiagnosable, incurable disease she had been mysteriously afflicted with. Her stomach hurt and her true despair of why this was happening to her flowed as tears from her eyes.

But, the paramedic had been there before. And so had his partner, multiple times. The cards were placed on the table and her hand was called. She insisted she couldn't stand and walk, but then stood and walked. With the power of Jesus and prayers from the purple man, she transcended human suffering and walked with Jesus to the ambulance.

And...drug seeker dancing on the wood floor:

She was young, she was attractive, she was on her way up in this world and she was addicted to prescription meds.

She had timed everything out perfectly. The cards were falling into place and like a jewel thief cracking a safe, her plan was coming to fruition. The husband was due home soon, the son was fed and playing in the other room, and her story was straight.

She picked up the phone, dialed 911 and sobbed her painful story to the voice on the other end. Occasionally, writhing from the extreme abdominal pain she excused herself as she attempted to vomit. Nothing came up, but the noise was impeccable. She unlocked the door, opened it slightly, took a Valium -her last one from all her bottles and waited for the sirens in the distance.

The doors from the fire engine and ambulance closed and she prepared herself. Dropping to the wood floor she cuddled into fetal position and squirmed like a tortured prisoner. She coughed violently, attempting to produce any bile from her stomach. She wiggled painfully as she evaded all questions. Generalizing her answers, she screamed in pain when, from the corner of her eye, she noticed anyone paying any semblance of attention.

As if she were on a bed of hot coals, she was sternly instructed that she needed to stay on the bed. She was seat belted in and after realizing her game of charades was not working, crawled into her mental cocoon and feigned unconsciousness.

At arrival to the ED she summoned everything she had in a last attempt to show everyone how much pain she was in. The coughing and false dry heaving returned. Moans, and screams at every bump, announced her arrival. She fought the seatbelts and did acrobatics in the bed. She cried, screamed and suddenly passed out.

Report was given. And as her vitals were given, to include a heart rate of 60 beats per minute in this distraught woman, she pleaded for someone to give her something for the pain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Listen Up, Class.

I unknowingly allowed one comment to be published on a posting that offended another person/people. I apologize for allowing this to happen. Therefore, in the name of fairness, because the original post has been displayed for a while, I have allowed the retort to be published.

BUT, in the future I will begin moderating all comments posted more carefully. I don't intend to become the moderating God, because although my beliefs may differ from yours, I believe everyone has the right to voice their own opinion. If those opinions become too heated and personal insults begin to be exchanged, I will remove comments from both sides.

This site is NOT about hurting one another's feelings and starting wars with words. It is about seeing what I see and walking through my mental progression on how I deal with these 911 calls. It is intended for enjoying the philosophy that lives within each story. My stories, whether positive or negative, are writen in hopes that they make you sit back and think about your own life.

This blog was started to educate and entertain people and will not become a forum for bashing one another.

Monday, March 19, 2007

I helped an a**hole


Lying on the carpet, staring up onto the skylights of the ceiling, was a reasonably dressed man being tended to by a paramedic and a lovely, concerned wife. She was peaceful and calm; her hip glasses framed her aging face and allowed room for her botoxed cheeks to move when she smiled. She attempted to hold his hand but was rudely refused that courtesy. She stepped back, wished he wasn't always like this, and allowed us to step forward.

He wasn't old, but he wasn't in his twenties. He wasn't fat, but he had been in better shape in past years. He wasn't disheveled, but his dress signaled he, and his wife, had been traveling for the majority of the day.

He wasn't nice, and I don't know if he ever has been.

My partner approached and his wall went up. He flared his back, puffed his tail, and showed his teeth. The polite greeting from my partner was quickly rebutted with a snarl of the lip and anger in his voice. The twenty minutes the medic had spent gaining confidence with the angered man was lost. The hate inside of him swelled and he snapped at his wife and the paramedics.

He raised his leg and marked his territory as we continued with our job. We, with the firm assistance of his wife, talked him into going to the hospital. Every concession made, every polite gesture given, and every statement said was to keep the volcanic eruptions simmering in his soul from erupting. Nothing was good enough or quick enough to keep his demons at bay.

The fifty-something man with chest pain was loaded up and wheeled out. Anger radiating from him like the rays of the sun bouncing off hot pavement in the distance. I grabbed the front of the bed and wheeled him out to the ambulance, accidentally hitting each corner of each wall and each bump in the concrete path with fighter pilot accuracy.

He crossed his arms, closed his eyes, and feigned sleep. Not saying a word for the thirty-minute transport, he sat quietly screaming in his head. Why was he going? He didn't need to go! He told the paramedics he didn't need to go! The pot was beginning to boil over. Foamy hatred and anger slowly broke the seal and ran down the sides. Each bump of the ambulance made him angrier and angrier. Each bump, accidentally aimed for, and squarely hit, like that concentrated fighter pilot from above.

As I drove I realized his anger was seeping forward like a black fog. It tried to strangle me and made my eyes water. I sat there; aiming for bumps in the already battered highway road, and began hating him. I hated his brown loafers with no socks and his polo golf shirt. I hated his condescending attitude and his sense of entitlement. I hated the fact that I attempted to talk with him on a personal level and he answered like a robot. I hated his whiney affect and his stupid, little face. I hoped he was having a heart attack and I hoped it was the big one.

We unloaded him and gave him to the ED staff. As we exited, his first semblance of speech in thirty minutes broke his chapped lips.

"I didn't want to come. THEY made me. I don't need to be here and I want to go home," he spouted with an evil slur trying to intimidate the nurse.

I, briefly, thought about going back in there and telling him how I felt but decided to leave. His anger was encompassing and too strong to fight.

We left and continued our night. It took me all evening to break those constraints of madness that had lurked from him to the front of the ambulance. But with the help of my partner, I realized that it wasn't worth wasting my time on.

He was an a**hole and will always be an a**hole.

Someday, maybe, he'll realize that all that being an a**hole will get you is an angry death on the carpeted floor staring up at empty skylights.

Friday, March 16, 2007

I caught him stealing my T.V.

I unclasped the seatbelts on the the bed, unvelcroed his hands from the wrist restraints, folded the handrail down out of the way, and told him to move over onto the white hospital bed sitting to his right. He stopped his drunken ramblings, looked at me, and hopped from one bed to the other. Landing on his swollen, welted back, he screamed in pain. The raised red welts on his chest and back were swelling to the point where they may begin bleeding at any moment.

"I guess everyone's here that needs to be here?" I said, looking around the crowded, white tiled emergency room.

"This is so-and-so. He's a 20's male who has been drinking and smoking all day. Therefore, he's very uncooperative and the history of today's event has been more than difficult to determine."

He had gotten drunk and high throughout the day. After drinking beer, after chilled beer, in the parking lot of his favorite park with his favorite friends, he drunkenly floated away from the pack of drunk and disorderlies to go and make some money. All in hopes of returning to that graveled parking lot, littered with empty glass beer bottles and roaches from their marijuana blunts, to continue partying with his loyal brothers.

"Upon arrival we found him cornered in a yard being detained by neighbors until we, and the PD, arrived."

As he stumbled up the grassy hill of the park, his mind raced. He was having so much fun swapping stories of intimidation with his brothers, he was enjoying slamming 12 ounces of cold, watered down beer, and desperately didn't want this day to end. In all his impairment, he decided he needed to fill his empty wallet with some presidents so he could go buy some more beer. Maybe this time, Coronas. His friends would be impressed.

As he passed the Safeway he quickly thought how easy it would be to just steal it from them. But, he remembered his last attempt and how it ended up with him face down in an alley, choking on gravel, with a knee in the small of his back. He rubbed the still sore lumbar muscles of his tattooed back and decided there was another option.

His uncles house was around the corner. Maybe he could sneak in there and steal some cash. He stood up straight, pulled his jeans up to the bottom of his butt, and started walking in his new white sneakers to the house.

Inside, the uncle was sleeping. He, as soberly as he could, tried to sneak around the house. In his mind he was quiet as a mouse, in real life, the uncle had already been awoken to the bull in the china shop.

He couldn't find any money. Contrary to what he may have believed, it wasn't laying around the house in piles. He scanned the room looking for possible candidates. His eyes locked on the new television set in the corner and dollar signs tempted his senses like a cartoon carrot.

"Patient was caught stealing a television set from a family member. He was detained and assaulted with fists and feet. Patient was struck multiple times in the face, chest, back, and abdomen."

The uncle had awoken and confronted him. Television is arms, he attempted to run. He was quickly subdued and apprehended by family and neighbors.

Sick and tired of being easy prey for this rogue relative, they began to beat him up. Clinched fists struck his face, busting his lip and breaking teeth, causing watery, red blood to explode from the swollen lip like puss from a zit. Boot clad feet kicked him as hard as they could in the chest, back, and stomach. Years of being his victim were now culminating to a violent climax. The steel-toed boots crushed ribs and broke bones.

And blinded by the fury of their disrespectful family member, the uncle found a large, gray, plastic electrical cord on the ground. Rolling in the mud, shirt torn off, the target of his anger beaconed him like a flashing white light.

"Patient was then struck several times with a large electrical cord. Patient sustained multiple blows on his anterior and posterior thorax, creating the large, raised welts you see in front of you. Patient is hypersensitive to touch and has immense pain with palpation."

The electrical cord became an extension of his anger. It whistled in the air as it was raised above his head. He then, with all the force he could ever imagine, brought that cord down as hard and fast as he could. It slapped his nephew's skin, echoing into the night sky. The moans awoke the neighbors. Whip after whip, the uncle released all his anger. Welts instantly formed and were raised with blood. With the passion of a Roman soldier, the uncle repeatedly whipped his nephew until he could no longer raise the cord.

"Patient complains of anterior and posterior thorax pain, left lateral chest wall tenderness, and difficulty breathing."

As we arrived, before the police, he sat kneeling in the corner of the muddy yard like a scolded dog. He was screaming and talking chaotically. I approached, he stood, and I yelled that he sit back down. He complied.

The uncle approached, winded, and said, "I caught him stealing my TV."

I shined my light on the cowling person in the corner and immediately noticed his chest and back. As if he were an extra from the movie Roots, he stood, knees buckling, and began crying. He was in immense pain.

"Patient, and witnesses, deny loss of consciousness and have full recall of event. Patient otherwise atraumatic and has no other complaints. No allergies, no medicines, no medical history. Blood pressure 140/80, heart rate 92 radially and regular, and respiratory rate 26 with difficulty breathing."

"Any questions?"

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

I wish I were dead now.

We approach this 10-story apartment complex on the wrong side of town. I've never been here before, so I don't want to make any predetermined judgments, although my Spider-senses are going crazy.

We were sent on abdominal pain. So, on one end of the spectrum I foresee an elderly lady with a history of high blood pressure sitting in an antique chair clutching her stomach, keeling over onto her own lap, complaining of the worst pain imaginable. And on the other end of the pendulum, is the dollar store clad addict fidgeting uncontrollably in a sparsely furnitured apartment coming down off of a 3 day crack high.

Man, maybe I should get a red spandex outfit and sling webbing from my wrists, because my superheroic powers of premonition were right on target. Kind of like Robin Hood's arrow piercing the shank of his competitors arrow in the bulls eye.

The apartment manager buzzes us into the lobby, through the plexiglased front door. This door has more than the normal wear and tear and is tattooed with names of people and gangs. Bits of blood stain the handle.

As we enter, we are approached by the small woman whose life is a probable constant up-hill battle. Given every short stick in the bunch, she still continues to trudge up that unbelievable hill of defeat and sorrow. Her aged face sags as she speaks. Her Velcro shoes stick to the floor as she returns to the office, her movement fluttering the paper warning signs and notes of revocation of tenants that collage the tiled wall next to her office. One hangs faithfully at the elevator doors informing everyone who passes "This is a Drug free zone." The crack users and dealers ignore it as they wander the lobby in their drug-induced fogs.

She asks what room number and we vaguely answer. We don't like telling people exactly where we are going because it is none of their business. We say, "5-oh-something."

"Is it 505? Because someone was here and wanted to go to that room. But she's on restriction and I told him "No". He intimidated me and raised his fist to me," she mumbled.

"Why, yes, it is. Are there a lot of shady people in and out of that apartment?" I ask.

She, again, nods her head and then is distracted by the little girl playing in the corner of the lobby. Her playground, secured by Plexiglas and tile, is uncomfortably similar to the prison exercise yard for convicts. Just an hour a day they, and she, are allowed to get some "fresh" air and stretch their legs.

We enter the metal crate that will lift us to the fifth floor. Polished metal surrounds us as new graffiti is gradually being scratched into the walls. The old stuff has been buffed out by maintenance with a Black & Decker sander. We exit the box and are welcomed by a lime green wall, one window -the only one on the floor, shines sunlight from the east.

#505 is found, between #507 and #503, just across from #502. The keys are still dangling in the lock from when she last unlocked the door, probably living life in third person -watching herself and her every move from a drug-filled hallucination.

I knock forcefully and she answers, "Come in."

I turn the knob and slowly push the door open, both myself and my partner framing the metal door. We enter like SWAT and slowly advance to the living room.

"Is there anyone else in here?" I demand.

"No, there's nobody else f*cking here," she slurs. She sits in front of a full ashtray, smoke penetrates everything. The walls seem heavy with nicotine.

I scan the room while she rambles. On the table a shard of glass, tinted black by smoke. A pencil, its lead tip stained black. Lighters, fingernail cutters, small postage stamp sized squares of clear wrap with white residue dusting the corners, and empty beer bottles.

"There's no need to cuss, I understand everything you're saying," I interrupt as she tries to dull her hyperactive senses.

"What drugs have you done?" I ask.

"None," she mumbles.

"Let me ask again. What drugs have you done?"

"None."

"That's bullsh*t and we both know it. I'm standing in an apartment that looks like a drug den. The lady downstairs told us she believes you guys do drugs, I see drug paraphernalia everywhere, your pupils are dilated, your heart rate is tachycardiac, you can't sit still, your teeth are rotting, and you won't answer my questions."

I look around, don't like where I am, and tell her, "Get up, let's go. I don't feel safe here. I don't like being in a drug den."

She stands, tucking her stained men's golf shirt into her cotton warm-up pants and asks, "Where are my keys?"

"In the door," I respond, "but you probably don't remember because the last time you entered your apartment your were probably high as a kite."

She doesn't respond and follows us down the hall and out the building.

She climbs in the back of the ambulance; I close the doors, turn the lights on, and strap her in. My partner is learning that she will probably be kicked out because of the threatening episode with her crack-head friend.

I sit there, gloved hands across my lap, and pity her. "How can you live like this?"

Random tattoos on her body tell stories of previous years. Names, quotes, and symbols all permanently stain her skin. She begins to talk. She begins telling me how she had been up all night smoking crack and drinking vodka. She tells me how her "friends" had robbed her and taken her money and her bus pass. She tells me how difficult it was to get this apartment and I tell her how quickly she lost it.

She cries, no tears, and tells me her story. She tells me she has pancreatitus and that is what has upset her stomach. I knew that, my spider-senses on number 11. She tells me I can't get a line in her, I do, and we leave for the ED.

"Why do I live like this?" she asks.

"I don't know, why do you live like this?" I imitate.

Silence.

"You need to change some things. Because at this rate you'll be dead in five years," I tell her.

Silence.

"I wish I were dead now," she whispers.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Love.

What emotion is there that encompasses all others? The alpha emotion, the one that creates so many feelings ranging from laughter to sadness. The one emotion that influences personalities and urges us become someone we aren't, intimidates us into becoming someone we don't like, and at the same time make us want to be someone better.

That alpha emotion is love. What a powerful thing, and what an amazing rollercoaster ride to witness firsthand.

Of course I'm in love to my beautiful wife and she makes me smile just writing about her. And I've felt that fury knocking on my door, creeping up on me and challenging me to become someone I am not, better or worse, all because of my love for her. I have grandiose nightmares that Oscar-winning directors would dream of filming. The one's where the love of your life gets hurt, and the only thing left is renegade revenge.

But the other night, in a span of 20 minutes, I watched a son transition through every emotion known. Like the seven steps of denial, or the twelve steps in A.A., I watched him speed through every emotion in his vocabulary. Not even slowing down at the speed bumps.

We were told to wait for cover. Meaning, wait for the police because something was going on. Something, that the already preoccupied dispatcher felt might be concerning. But, when we arrived in the neighborhood, we saw the large fire truck sitting outside the address with it's light bar swiveling red, white, and blue lights. We pulled up to make sure they were O.K.

As we approached I saw a young man, with pants hanging around his thighs, nervously flinching cigarette ashes in the air. He paced with the cadence of a crack-head. Flinching to the right, stuttering to the left. He made a quick dash back inside the house as if he had heard a gunshot.

I looked at my partner and said, "That must be why we were told to wait for cover. He's high as a kite."

We opened the front door and entered through the lingering cloud of cigarette smoke dissipating in the air. I looked for the crack-head and heard him rummaging upstairs.

Blood was spattered everywhere. Bright, red blood soaked the toilet, the walls, the carpet, and the mirror as if someone had filled a balloon with it and tossed against the wall. An explosion of blood, all of which came from the mouth of the pale, sweaty man resting on the hallway door rationalizing in his head what had actually happened. He sat there, in denial, trying to tell himself that all that blood didn't come from him.

My partner tended to the patient and I strategically placed myself in the room to intercept the person I believed was on drugs. He came tearing into the room, almost knocking over a lamp, and quickly stopped in front of me.

Not looking at me, and wiping the tears from his swelling eyes with the cuff of his long sleeve T-shirt, he attempted to speak. Nothing came out but stutters and grumbles. He was too choked up to talk.

"That's his son," said a fire guy.

He then darted out of the room and disappeared from view. More noise was heard clunking in the other room.

We loaded the patient and took him out to the ambulance. I stayed with a fireman and waited for the distraught son. He came screaming down the stairs, frantically fumbled for his keys in his backpack and began to close and lock the door.

"Uhm, partner? I'm driving so it's probably best that you don't lock me in the house," I said.

His red, swollen eyes glanced up at me and he tried to get out of my way, accidentally knocking me into the wall in the process. I exited and he, again, fumbled for his keys as though trying to escape from a serial killer.

Outside, on the porch, I touched his shoulder and talked to him. "It's going to be alright. I know you are upset and that your are scared, but I promise you we will take excellent care of your father."

He nodded.

"If you are going to ride with us I need you to settle down. Take a couple of deep breaths, slow your thoughts down, and walk with me to the ambulance."

He inspired deeply and held it. Exhaling slowly, he finally looked up at me.

"If he were any sicker we wouldn't be hanging around," I said. "He's doing fine."

Again, with his sleeve he wiped his swollen eyes and tried to hide the fact that he was crying. Twenty year old don't cry, especially in front of paramedics.

Like a lost puppy, he indirectly made it to the front of the ambulance. I asked if he was O.K. and he signaled with a nod of his head "yes."

I went to the back of the ambulance to help my partner. As I began my work, the son jumped out of the ambulance and walked outside. "I'd better go check on him," I said to my partner.

I got outside and he was yelling at a neighbor. Not in a confrontational manner, but anger had already set in. His quiet vocabulary increased and became more profane.

I, again, walked him to the ambulance and told him, "Your dad is doing fine, I promise."

With that, he cried and laughed. One of those awkward cries where laughter sneaks in and makes it's presence known.

We left for the ED and I tried taking his mind of things. He quickly diverted the conversation back to the emergency at hand and we walked through what happened, step by step.

In the twenty minutes I spent with him I witnessed: confusion, grief, anger, embarrassment, laughter, joy, sorrow, fear, passion, indignation, kindness, and lastly love.

This son loved his father so much. And that powerful emotion of love, took him on the ride of his life.

The Cadillac.

It was dark and I was sitting in the passenger seat. Darker than normal, it seemed. Dark, as in you can't see twenty feet ahead of you and every sparkle in the night conjures up horrible, frightening thoughts in your racing mind.

We were in the city, but never have I been so close to downtown, yet so far away. We u-turned the large ambulance in the residential street and pulled up next to the curb. Out my passenger window was an illuminated portrait of downtown. The lights of the large towering buildings beaconed through the cold darkness surrounding me. And like a lighthouse on a rocky cliff, they warned me of imminent danger.

We sat there, my partner and I, watching movies off my portable DVD player. Our faces glowing with the images capturing our attention on the little screen. I tried to enjoy the movie, but the darkness suffocated me. My eyes twitched from the screen out the windows. My pupils dilated hoping to catch the evil lurking up on us in the camouflaged distance.

I don't normally get uneasy. I feel safe in my ambulance and I am confident if something goes horribly awry, that one of our radios will be able to beacon a distress signal that will send aide.

But this place, dark and chained, scared the cr*p out of me. It felt like another world. Trash littered the pot-holed street. Chain link fences rested on the ground where people had obviously climbed over them. The houses were small and surrounded by black, iron fences. The yards were small squares of dirt with patches of weeds misplaced throughout. A field on one side of the street was sprinkled with beer bottles, cigarette wrappers, fast food boxes, shoes, and drug paraphernalia. Cars were locked behind fences and dogs were on the prowl, looking for anyone attempting to invade their personal property.

The movie played and lights swept the intersection as cars turned down our block. They drove slow and menacingly. And this one Cadillac continually circled like a shark, prowling around us in the distance, always returning to where we sat. The horn barked at us as they drove past, telling us they didn't want us there.

It's red taillights, in the distance, stared at us like beady little devil eyes.

The Cadillac with no plates, the one with felonious occupants with nothing to loose in this world and a chip on their shoulder. The Cadillac that had someone that needed to prove something to somebody.

I looked to memorize the numbers on the plate, but it was absent. I thought, in case they decided to begin shooting at us with their new toys they probably traded for with stolen DVD players and drugs, that it would be nice to have when we had to call for police cover. It circled the block multiple times, leering at us because we were obviously somewhere we shouldn't be. And inside I pictured the teens trying to talk themselves into using those toys. The toys that penetrate metal, shatter glass, and kill paramedics.

The Cadillac drove past, went to the end of the block, and slowly and deliberately made another u-turn. It stopped in front of us and it's headlights shot into the ambulance cab. It lurched forward and crept slowly towards the ambulance. They turned the lights off and I got ready to call for help. Where the hell were we? It approached, my stomach sank and my spine shrank, and it passed.

Inside, I imagined the words, "DO IT, DO IT. "F*CKING SHOOT THEM" being shouted to the newly inducted gang member.

They passed, my partner and I looked at one another, and knew what one another was thinking. We started the engine, dropped the gears into D, and sped out of that black hole like children running from the boogieman.

Who knows who was inside that Cadillac, for all I know it could have been an elderly lady looking for her bridge club. But, at that moment in time, with all the nothingness surrounding me and darkness chilling me to the bone on that comfortable March evening I was scared to death.

And there's nothing wrong with that.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Intravenous.

The back doors slam shut, rattling the tinted and screened window in back. In front of me, an altered, bruised, bleeding patient struggling to stay alive. Memories of better times trace the patient's brain and ominously fall into that stereotyped category of seeing one's "life flash before your eyes". I rip off my bloody, blue gloves and throw them into the garbage. I try to slide my new pair on, over my sweaty palms, and struggle greatly. I adjust the tips of the fingers, look down at the patient, and tell myself to get to work.

We are five miles away from the trauma center and averaging 60 mph. I do the algebra in my head and come to 5 minutes. I have 5 minutes to stabilize this patient, prepare my story, clean my mess, and package him neatly so when we arrive into the ED everyone silently "oohs" and "ahhs" over the efficiency displayed in front of them.

I reach blindly behind my back and search for the blood pressure cuff. In the well, between the glove boxes and tourniquets, I find it cowering in the corner. I rip the Velcro, wrap it around the only good arm available, squeeze the black bulb like a teen playing a video game, and watch the needle apex at 200 mm/hg. Slowly, and as quietly as possible, I ease the little silver knob on the cuff to gradually release pressure. The patient's arm is raised by mine, so it floats in the air and won't absorb any indirect road vibration. My eyes squint on the needle as it falls counter clockwise and begins to twitch. Those twitches, hopefully, correspond with the faint thump of the exerted heart within. 70/20, seventy over twenty, if I heard it correctly. Again, 70/?, seventy over something. The huge bumps, the vibrating ambulance, the loud air horn, the sirens, my partner yelling at me, the dispatcher on the radio, the patient moaning, and my cell phone ringing in my pocket, all prevent me from hearing that last number.

Must be my wife, I'll have to call her back.

Slapping me in the brim of the hat, with each knot in the road, is the tubing to the I.V. It screams at me with each sway from the hook on the handrail attached to the ceiling. "Time is ticking -fast, and you need me -now," it silently fills my head.

To my right, on the bench seat, is my next goal. I duck forward to look through the small opening dividing the patient compartment and driver's compartment, and quickly try to recognize some landmarks. The surroundings screaming by look quite familiar. I plug this new variable into my algebraic equation and deduce I have 3 minutes.

I tourniquet the left arm of the patient. Wrapping the plastic tubing as tightly as I can around the upper portion of the bicep, ending it with a fancy little knot that allows me to "pop" the tourniquet open once I'm done preventing deoxygenated blood from returning to the heart.

I slide forward on the bench, check my gloves for any blood, and grab the cell phone attached to the metal wall. I push a series of buttons, push the green button, wait uncomfortably as the sirens remind me we are advancing quickly, and finally get a MD on the other end. Here's what I got, what I'm doing, and when we'll be there. I punch the red button on the bottom and the sling the phone forward, hoping that it lands anywhere near it's designated area.

I slide back down on the bench seat to where I was previously. I rip open a small square encasing an alcohol swab, pull it out, and as concentrically as possible, attempt to somewhat sterilize the filthy arm where I plan on poking the patient with a needle.

I've marked my bull’s-eye. I grab the 3 inch wrapped needle and rip the packing off, attempting to toss it into the trash and, like a feather floating in the wind, it lands not but a foot away from me.

I straighten the elbow, pull back the skin, see the bulge in the crook of the elbow, and stab. I push the 14-gauge needle through the tough outer layer of skin and advance it until a little chamber in the needle fills with blood, telling me that I am in a vein. I stop advancing the needle, move my forefinger onto the catheter tip, and like E.T., push my finger forward advancing the catheter into the blood-swelled vein. I hook up a device that allows me to draw bloods for the ED. A tiger top, because the top looks like a tiger, a blue one, a red one, and a few more that I can't remember the colors of.

I pop my safety lock on the tourniquet and blood rushes back into the circulatory system. The arm pinkens as everything returns to normal.

Again, I lean forward and determine where we are. 1 minute away.

I repeat the previous process on the other arm. This time, it takes me half as long.

I cover the semi-clad patient with a sheet as the siren changes from a steady wail to a whoop-whoop. We're pulling in. I grab the green oxygen cylinder and slide it between the patient's legs, attaching the vital end of the oxygenating mask to the outlet spewing out 15 liters of oxygen per minute.

Next, I follow the I.V. wires to the bags hanging from the handrail and lay them on the patient's lap as well. The doors pop open and my partner, as well as anyone else killing time in the ED ambulance bay, quickly unlatch the bed from the locking mechanism and pull him out the back, catching the wheels as they drop to the pavement. My patient is now taken from me and quickly wheeled into the ED. I follow, reciting the poetry in my head that is about to be yelled in a large room with a lot of people.

I enter the ED behind my patient, watching all the white coats scurry into the room like bugs under a white light. I attempt to wipe off the beads of sweat on my forehead, but quickly realize that my arm is just as sweaty as my head. I want desperately to fix my hat, clean the sweat, and tuck in my shirt for this emergent rendezvous, but can't because spots of blood stain my gloves.

I turn the corner into the large room and say,

"Is everyone here that needs to be here?"

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Red headed stepchild in a bathroom stall.


Time for a little moaning.

Ten hours a day, four days a week. Sixteen times a month, one hundred ninety-two days a year.

One hundred ninety-two days a year times ten hour shifts equals close to two thousand hours of me fighting the evil advances of claustrophobia. Two thousand hours of the soiled arm rest to my left closing in on me, poking me in the side of my chest. The steering wheel, tilted as forward as possible, always impeding my precious living space, starring at me like a bully on the playground.

The sunken, broken-springed chair reclines to a coach class comfortable 80 degrees and doesn't slide back to allow my aching legs to move about and circulate blood because the wall dividing us from the patient compartment bows it's chest at my every thought. Above my head, a speaker. Continually, CONTINUALLY, barking addresses and information. And as if all that's not bad enough, forty times an hour someone airs what time it is. Therefore, the dripping second hand off of Salvador Dali's clock always lingers in my thoughts and constantly reminds me how much longer my misery shall last.

My office is the size of a bathroom stall, with someone else in there, sitting right next to me.

Then, add the fact that we drive all over the city, all the time, in all the traffic, regardless of the time or weather. Go here, sit and try and get comfortable, and then move. Go from the far west side of town to the far east, all in rush hour traffic surrounded by angry, honking, tail-gaiting, hypertensive, future cardiac patients. Patients that will inevitably never say thank you.

But that isn't what bothers me, too terribly.

I sit there avoiding evil leers from the public that treat me like their red headed stepchild. "Christmas already? I guess you can sit at the table."

Harry Potter, C3P0, Cinderella, the maid of Diff'rent Strokes, Barry Gibbs' little brother, Robin (of Batman fame), Ashlee Simpson, any of Alec Baldwin's brothers, the second guy to step foot on the moon, and me!

We are allies in this world of hypocrites. We all have special talents, but until those talents are needed we are swept under the carpet, or locked in the shed, until summoned by one of those in need. "Did someone say those in neeeeed?" We are relegated to the underworld. We are told to keep our head down and our mouths shut until that one moment when we are needed. Then, we come out of hiding, do our deed without any acknowledgement or thank you, and then melt back into the memories of those we came to aide.

So remember. When you sneak up on to the side of my toilet stall office in your gold windbreaker and velvet workout pants, batting your blue eye-shadowed eyeballs, asking that I turn my ambulance off because it "bothers" you and you believe it causes excess pollution, that I'm that red headed stepchild that you will call upon to save your life. I'm the one you've stuffed under your stairwell because you're embarrassed of my special, "magical" powers.

And then, when I politely respond to you and apologize for trying to keep warm by running the ambulance because it's 20 degrees outside, don't continue to passive-aggressively push the subject.

"Yes, we do this all over the city."

"No, I'm not concerned about the environmental effects of the engine." And neither are you, you just use that political point to try and gain advantage.

"Yes, like I said, I'll be happy to move."

"No, there's no place we can sit and have coffee at this hour."

Unless you'd like to invite us in? Ohh, wait. We're one of the Baldwin’s you don't like.

I think next week I'll randomly appear at some office downtown. Passive-aggressively knock on one of the hollow doors to an office and treat you, like you treat me.

"Uhm, do you really need all those lights? I mean, what about the environment?"

"Can you close your window? Turn the air up? Would you move your desk, please? You can't sit there."

I'll hide in the corner and shout randomly, "It's 3:15. It's 3:18. It's 3:45. Time is, 4:00. It's 4:01."

"And, well, now that we're talking about it, I'd like you to move all your stuff into the closet and finish your business in there. Grab another employee, we need you to sit no further than 3 feet apart from one another for the rest of the week."

Then, once situated in that dark, cramped stockroom, I'll wait until you pull out your lunch, heat it up, and then say,

"Excuse me? You need to run across the street in the rain, into the lobby where the security guards are going to quiz you about what's going on, then up five flights of stairs. Then, find our contact and try to get the super-secret password from him. Bring him, and the password, against his will over here. And all the while, I need you to change his clothes and comb his hair."

Now you know what I feel like.

But remember. Cinderella got her prince, Harry Potter became a wizard, Ashlee Simpson's career...well, nevermind, and the second man that walked on the moon -he got to walk on the moon!

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Fishbowl.

We pulled into the 7-11 and eased the ambulance into the distant regions of the parking lot. Sitting next to a wall, in front of a dumpster, and beside an alley, we tried to blend the bright orange and white, boxy, ambulance into its surroundings. It was daytime, and not yet dark enough for us to find a secluded hiding place away from all of humanity. Plus, it was these hours of the day we enjoyed sitting there in our little office watching the characters of everyday life pass in front of us. 72" of windshield framed the frenetic characters dancing around us like a big-screen television. It was better than HD, it was real life.

But the tables were soon turned. The hunter quickly became the hunted. The voyeurs suddenly were the objects of desire.

I saw him across the street, in the crosswalk. He stood there pushing the round, silver button on the large light pole like a button on a joystick. He concentrated on the red, no-walk light as if he were an owl pearched in a tree searching for mice. He was determined to witness the colors change from red to green. It switched, he proclaimed something out loud, and contrary to all his previous actions, began to slowly mosey across the busy four-way intersection.

He was talking, a lot, to himself. Hands were moving and gestures were articulated as though he was in a high school debating contest. All this animation caught my eye and made me sit up from my scrunched position in the ambulance to study him further. He was prime people-watching material and both my partner, and myself, prepared ourselves for the show that was surely about to ensue.

Then suddenly, like a cat stalking a mouse, he quickly shifted his gaze and locked his radar on the ambulance.

"Ohh, shit," I said. "I think he's seen us."

He continued crossing the diagonal walk at his own ease. He had no intention of moving quickly now and, even though the light had already turned green, and the traffic to his right was beginning to push forward, he stutter-stepped his way to the sidewalk.

"Please, oh please don't come over here," I said.

And like sonar on a submarine, he changed his coordinates and zeroed in on the ambulance. He was now walking quickly. He had a mission, and it was orange and white with two paramedics in it.

He passed the gas pumps, lost his bearing and gradually swayed towards the front door of 7-11.

"Maybe he's just going to get something to drink?" asked my partner, already knowing the answer to his hypothetical question.

He regained his bearings and stomped each foot in front of one another and aimed his body at my window.

"Please go to your side, please go to your window," I mumbled, like a ventriloquist, to my partner without moving my lips.

Again, radar locked on to weakness, he approached my window. He gestured to me to roll it down and I complied.

He said nothing. He smiled, gave us a thumbs up, and fixed his pompadour blowing in the wind. He moved to the front of the ambulance and pointed at the light bar.

"What do you think he wants?" asked my partner.

"I don't know, you think he wants to see the lights?"

My partner reached his right hand along the black row of switches and like Jerry Lee Lewis on the piano, slid his hand from right to left. The lights clanked above us and he again smiled, said nothing, and gave us another thumbs up. He then pointed at the hood.

"What does he want now?" I asked.

"The siren?"

"Uhh, sure. Give him a little toot."

My partner slid his left foot from where it was resting and tapped the little button hidden on the floor well that sounds the airhorn.

One sharp blast like tug boat sounded and the voyeur jumped back, fixed his faltered pompadour again, and then he smiled and gave us another thumbs up.

He approached the ambulance. Looked at every light and touched the silver, indestructible, airhornes on the side of the hood. He went to the side door, slid open the tinted patient compartment window, pushed his nose into the screen and inhaled deeply.

"What's he doing? I can't see him," I squirmed.

"Uhh, he's sniffing the ambulance," my partner said.

He felt the orange stripe along the side as the walked around the back. He took in every detail of the ambulance. It was almost as if he where from outer space and had never seen such a thing. He continued his journey towards the driver's door, being sure to examine every light on the ambulance closely.

Again he got to my partner's window, gestured that he roll it down, and then with a big smile gave us a thumbs up. No words spoken, he walked off into the distance.

We sat there in our little fishbowl as he crossed the street and disappeared into the rush hour foot traffic.

I couldn't help but feel that now everyone that entered that parking lot was staring at us.

We were two fish swimming in a fishbowl for everyone to see.

Friday, March 2, 2007

As good as it gets.


The elevator lurched to a stop and the door slowly opened. My destination, the twentieth floor, had arrived very slowly -ding after ding until the number twenty was dimly illuminated on the yellowed number panel. The doors clanked and hesitantly opened to reveal that the elevator floor, for which I was standing on, was not even with my destined floor. I had to step up, out of the elevator, to securely plant my black boot on the worn, carpeted floor.

Like a scrolled map to a treasure, numbers with arrows pointed in various directions. 2100-2119, to the left. 2119-2300 to the right. I quickly did the math in my head, inserting the apartment number I had been given into the equation, and decided like a fifth grader which set of numbers it fell in-between. To the left.

The long hall seemed to get smaller in the distance. Like a maze in Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, I saw myself getting bigger, and the hall becoming smaller, as I strolled into the distance looking for the X on my map.

The front door of his apartment was already cracked, for he was expecting us. Through the crack created by the patient, I could see the kitchen counter tops and the rotting food imbedding itself into the Formica counter tops. I heard shuffling inside and someone speaking very softly. I knocked on the door politely, as the figure eclipsed my view of the kitchen, and began speaking.

"I can't void," he said looking down at the dirty carpet.

"I can't void," he reiterated.

He held his unbuttoned blue jeans with one hand and continuously tapped his finger and thumb together with his other, as if he were measuring time while conducting a symphony. His mustache had food from previous days, his shirt was buttoned awkwardly and as though he had dressed in the dark. He wore a belt, but it was interlaced sporadically through the loops. His slip-on New Balance house shoes were worn at the heels and it was obvious that many miles had rubbed certain areas more than others.

"I...I...I...can't...I can't...I can't void." He timed his speech as if sitting in front of a metronome. His finger's still kept the intrinsic beat in his chaotic mind.

"I wouldn't have called. But I think I need a catheter. Can you do that?"

"No sir," I responded, "I am unable to do that. But I would be more than happy to take you somewhere where they can."

He glanced up at me with his eyes without moving his head, then continued to scan the filthy carpet from left to right.

"Grab your things and we'll go," I said.

He shuffled some papers on the glass counter top. I saw discontinuance notices stacked atop overdue bills. He searched his mind for everything he might need and began collecting those items. He stuffed papers, prescriptions, pieces of food, and other small trinkets into the pockets of his black pea coat that was draped behind his back, on his elbows, like a shawl.

As he collected everything -picking it up, putting it down, then picking it up and putting it into his pocket, I looked around the his apartment.

A wood bookshelf stretching from floor to ceiling encompassed the dining room and living room. Books, thousands of books, were precisely placed on the shelving. The wide ones side-by-side and decreasing in size from the left to the right. Paperbacks lined one shelf, large books, another. Alphabetized, the American History books were his passports to another world. Where one saw a wall, he saw a window. Those books were his friends, and regardless of how many times he took one down, put it back, and took one down again to read, they never judged him.

Along the opposing walls, about eyelevel, were small little shelves displaying hours and hours of his tedious work. Small-scaled models of ancient arenas made from plastic where sitting prestigiously. I expected to see miniature Gladiators fighting one another in the precise re-creations.

And on the wall, in the hall were his degrees. Bachelors from California, Masters from Colorado, Doctorate from Florida. Idealogical dissertations sat stacked upon one another on an end table.

We exited his apartment and he tried to quell all the regular impulses he has when leaving his apartment. He closed, opened, closed, opened, and then locked the front door. His fingers had stopped the rhythm he was counting in his head, but his respirations increased methodically like a back-up singer in a band.

"Thank you for being nice to me," he whispered as he sat in the ambulance. "Have you ever seen As Good As It Gets, with Jack Nicholson?" he asked.

"Yes, I have. Kind of a sad movie." I responded as I seat belted him in.

"I didn't like it. It portrayed a negative image of people with O.C.D. That's what I have." His knee was know bouncing up and down like a jackhammer on the ambulance floor. "I have rituals that I need to do."

I asked if he didn't mind sharing them and he quickly became uncomfortable. I apologized, "I didn't mean to insult you," I said.

"That's okay. You've been very nice to me. Thank you. I can't void and I believe I need a catheter."

As we neared our destination he briefly looked up at me, still refusing to make eye contact, and said, "My biggest fear is that people will think I'm stupid. I don't want people to believe I'm stupid."

I looked at him, locked his eyes with mine and said, "Me too."

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Green Eyes.

Blue pants, white shirt, black shoes, red hair, and those green eyes. That was my third rider the other day.

She sat smiling in the back, in the Captain's chair, waiting, hoping, for our ambulance number to be called. It was her day off, and although she had better things to do, she wanted to spend ten hours in the back of an ambulance hoping to see what she had only heard of.

Seatbelt secured around her waist, she turned the chair forward and scrunched down so she could look out the front window as we screamed down the city streets. Her elbows on her knees, and her hands framing her smiling face, she sat in the back with anticipation. Her eyes blinked as they darted left, then right, while she took in the urban sprawl flying at her at 60 mph.

We arrived on scene. I talked in code on the radio and she repeated in the background. She unbuckled and crouched in the back as she opened the heavy side door. We both stepped out and met one another as we approached the curb. Her green eyes watching my every step.

She followed us in and carefully placed herself next to the door, per my instructions. "If anything goes wrong," I said, "Go to the ambulance and lock the doors."

"Who should I call?" she asked.

"911," I said seriously.

Like someone from another country she took in every detail. She looked at the house, the patient, the art on the wall, the television, and the dirty faces of the children running from room to room. She listened to every sound, smelled every smell, and emotionally attached herself to the misery presenting in front of us.

In the back of the ambulance she sat quietly, like a fly on the wall. Watching me and wondering what the patient was thinking. Occasionally, I would tell her what I thought was going on, not that she already didn't know, and she would smile at me and blink her emerald green eyes.

For ten hours we hustled around the city responding to 911 calls. What was, more often than not, miserable to me was exciting and fascinating to her. She had the excitement and wonderment that I once had. She had all the feelings that I so desperately wanted to return to me.

She saw the tragedy of everyday life. And with those green eyes reminded me that what I'm doing isn't futile. That I can still believe in things how I once did. I can believe, although as difficult as it sometimes may be, that I am actually making a difference and helping people.

Those green eyes turned my blue soul upside down.