Sunday, July 22, 2007

This is only a job.

I slide my new black shoes onto my warm, damp feet. The cotton from my socks stick to my sweaty feet and makes it even more difficult to easily slide them into the steel-toed shoes. I'm already wearing my blue cargo pants and a blue, cotton tee. My black belt already interlaced between the small loops encircling my waistband and supporting two leather items; a holster for my flashlight and a mechanical metal and leather contraption created to hold my portable radio. That is all that is on my waist. I am no superhero with a hidden identity setting out to save the world from deranged villains. I am just a paramedic.

The hot sun is already unbearable this morning. It shines through the tinted window of my elevated rear lift gate, canopied open so as to protect me from the elements as I finish putting my uniform on. In the back, in a bag, are the tools needed to successfully manage my ten-hour shift. Tools only. Enhancers allowing me to more easily do my job. A stethoscope, tangled in a knot from my previous shift. A pager, allowing me to recall where we need to go and giving me pertinent billing information. And a little green book. My diary of drugs and drug names.

Finally, before putting on my white work uniform shirt, I secure over my thorax a bulletproof vest. Again, not because I am there to heroically protect a damsel in distress as a speeding bullet courses it's way towards it's objective, but because I am scared. Scared I may be the one who gets hurt. Scared that someone more powerful, much meaner, and with a lot less to loose might take out his life frustrations on me. I am just a paramedic. This is only a job.

I shut the gate and push the green button on my remote to lock the doors. The yellow lights flash and I turn to cross the street.

I walk into the moderately climate-controlled garage and swipe my badge. I clock-in. It's a blue-collar job guised by white shirts and bright lights. I am going to sweat, lift, poke, carry, and physically work my way through this ten hour, hourly-waged day. There is nothing intoxicating or mysterious about that.

Orange handles of trauma sheers are tucked in the waistbands of others. Trauma sheers not placed there for their physical purpose to later cut and expose, but for their mental support and reassurance. Their tactical belts securing their tactical BDU's full of tactical toys. Hundred dollar flashlights, the size of an index finger, originally created for gun-yielding SWAT members, are showcased around the waists next to the little black pouches, multiple pagers, cell phones and other trinkets not to be used for the remainder of the day.

I exit into the bright light of the sun's heat and quickly begin my day.

I'm sent to my destiny at the discretion of the dispatchers. I am just a bleep on the computer screen, a hypothetical tool on their arsenal around their waist.

Thoughout the day I encounter multiple paramedics with multiple agencies. Some wearing only T-shirts with stenciled white lettering, some in blue, button-up polyester shirts, and some more formally dressed with a badge on their breast.

All of them, though, tell misguided stories of mishap that float suffocatingly in the air. The feelings of the true hero that recently lay on their bed ignored. Memories of familial and patient respect are quickly treaded upon as the ego-stroking stories are swapped between staggering paramedics. One story always better, and one more unbelievable than the next. Like roosters in a pen, tail feathers plume wildly.

And all the while, the elderly one who called, and is slowly loosing his battle, sits quietly on the bed. Another notch on their belts and another story to exaggerate, he sits respectfully and honorably.

He has stories to tell, but doesn't. He remembers storming a beach, or jumping from a plane, or being shot, or working two jobs twelve hours a day, or standing in line for food, or having to walk -not ride. He, the quiet one before them, to me, is the truly better man, for he doesn't reminisce or tell tall fables, he just lives his life, honestly.

So, I am no hero. Don't call me a hero or even think that I may be. I am not better than you and my job does not elevate my standing in this world. I am no superhero and have no intention of being one. Just because I wear a uniform and drive around the city with flashing lights does not make me better, or truer, or more deserved than you. I whine and cry and am scared of things to come.

And although I may wear that white collared uniform that others stain with grandeur, I realize that it’s only a blue collared world we live in. And all the tall tales, large egos, and staggered gait doesn't change that fact.

I am better than no one.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thank You's are in order.

I've been nominated for a blog award.

And in this blog world, this is actually very suprising to me. I feel like the geeky kid in the corner of gym that was, suprisingly, asked to dance with the hottest cheerleader in the school. No one saw it coming, especially me.

So, thank you.

OH, by the way, I was asked to dance by Monkey Girl, at Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey Read it. It's good!

Here is what she said:

Rocky Mountain Medic. This is one of the best written blogs out there. He is an incredible writer, and I can literally picture whatever he's writing about. I wish he had time to write more, because I could read it all day. Some of the things that he writes give you goosebumps, some just make you think, some make you laugh. He's multi-purpose.

Below, is an explaination of the award.

"This award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy… of knowing them and being blessed by them.”
Here are the rules for this one:

1. Copy this post (meaning the rules).
2. Reflect on five bloggers and write a least a paragraph about each one.
3. Make sure you link this post so others can read it and the rules.
4. Go leave your chosen bloggers a comment and let them know they’ve been given the award.
5. Put the award icon on your site.

So here are my 5!

1) Random Acts of Reality.

It was this site that got me started. I had never been a big blog reader, but when I read about the life and times of this London-based EMS service, I was hooked. It's amazing that across that large pond of ours that the same type of experiences are occurring with someone else in my same profession. Differenct accent, same ole crap! Check him out here!

2) Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey.

Of course, even though she nominated me, this site is on my list of favorites. She is ABSOLUTELY hillarious. I love the wit and sarcasm and am jealous my tongue is not as sharp. I promise you, once you start reading, you won't stop. Musings of a Highly Trained Monkey

3) A day in the Life on an Ambulance Driver.

This guy is a great writer. It was the Englishman that got me started, it was the Ambulance Driver that kept me going. In the beginning, he supported me and the majority of my links and readers came from him. He tells wonderful stories and is sure to impress. Ambulance Driver

4) Mr. Hassle's Long Underpants.

A doc with his ear to the gorund. Great stories. I love going to his site. Plus, he's from the Rockies. Mr. Hassle's

5) Street Watch: Notes of a Paramedic.

Wanna learn something? And enjoy it? Go to this site. A great mix of personal essays with CE quality lessons. I enjoy reading his posts. He is a very informed and intelligent paramedic. Street Watch

Monday, July 9, 2007


The stained, dust-ridden, electrical glass doors whish open, inviting the new out-of-towners into a world they never knew existed. A world they won't be able to wait to leave.

The wheelchair pushing the initiate, graffitied with white paint on the back and advertising the name of the hospital, is cautiously wheeled over the metal door frames into the foyer of this altered world by the close friend of the unfortunate one seated.

A silver, rectangular-boxed wall fan circulates the stale, urine-soaked air in this suffocating entryway. It's the doormat of this amazing underworld that passerbyers wipe their feet on. And, like the blessed holy water in that marbled pedestal, all that enter are baptized into this new, dream-like, chaotic world.

The tracks of the electronic door scratch as the glass doors close behind them. Like a book falling from a shelf and slamming onto the aged, wooden floor, a loud thud advertises those who have passed through have now come forth.

The two women jump uneasily as their arrival is announced.

"Lighters? Matches? Knives? Guns? Do you have any of those?" The security guard, gloved in sea-blue gloves fondles the pockets, waistband, and ankles of these new initiates. A glance at one another and a furrow of their brows initiates a quick, justifying quip by the security guard, "You can never be to safe, ladies."

Another whish, scratch, and thud.

Longhaired and greasy, with his hands cuffed behind his back stands a mediocre man in jean shorts and a striped, Izod crew. No socks and untied shoes. No belt. Stains of tears chalk his red cheeks. Two men, badged in green short-sleeved polyester shirts flank his sides. Pressed and tucked, official and important, these two chaperones of justice are but transient visitors in this chaotic world.

An oversized wheelchair strolls backwards from the triage desk. Backwards, and with disregard, it forges its way into the ever-tightening lobby of the women's altered world. Its grey handle pokes the pleats of the cotton skirt of the friend with the friend. Her eyes bulge and her body stiffens. She steps closer to the resemblance of the world she once knew and squeezes her hand.

"Say my brother, what happened to your feet?" His IV tubing filling with blood as he holds the bag shoulder level like a tray of hors d'ourves. He is strolling the linoleumed floor crammed with beds. His eyes are on the exit.

A grunt and a miff. The bloody-faced transient with matted hair stares emptily into the inquisitors face. His amputated feet are gift wrapped in the full-length red sweats, knotted at the cuffs. He turns and rolls onto his side, pressing his face into the stains of blood on the sheet.

The two women from out of town clutch one another as though walking down a dark alley in Gotham. One, confused as to exactly what is happening in this world, quietly exclaims justifications as to why she doesn't feel she belongs here.

"We're from out of town. Our friends are shopping."

Whish. Scratch. Thud.

"Excuse me, sir. EXCUSE ME, SIR! Have you been discharged?" Security amasses the fleeing, IV'd patron and corals him back into the world that he obviously belongs. His IV tubing now full of blood. The bag, resting on his shoulder like a wool scarf in fall, pinkens with the mixture of blood and saline.

"Ladies," he says with a tip of his imaginary hat.

They clutch one another. And with the obvious bond like those on a sinking ship, or a crashing plane, or a burning building, they move sure-footedly forward into the center of the triage area, next in line for the hurried triage nurse.

"Medical Assessment triage, medical assessment triage!" Crackled overhead by a tired guard, this welcome summons the charge nurse once again.

They take some deep breaths and hold one another tight. They can see the depths of this frightening world. Clocks drip from the wall like Salvador Dali's imagination and people's faces silently scream like the expressionist painting by Munch of the man screaming affront a blood red sky. All seven layers of hell are visible from where they stand.

The charge approaches and mumbles with another nurse in the tight quarters. The look at one another, then the foreign women, then at one another again. Their future is determined and like the gavel of a courtroom judge on his wooden bench, their room number is assigned with a loud rap. "Room number 11, please."

The wheelchair is unlocked and its occupant is once again pushed farther into the underworld. And, with the loyalty of a Golden Retriever, her one and only friend, the one who could be shopping now with their other friends, clutches her hand even tighter and shadows her down the hall.

"We're from out of town. We could be shopping, now." She says, as they slide deeper into their own nightmare.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

6 days.

Discolored beads of sweat created chalk lines down his furrowed, brown forehead. His eyes, twitching at the ultraviolet rays bouncing off the windshield of his old, blue van, were stained red and blinked frantically, trying to keep the figures leaning inside his van in focus.

His white tank-top T-shirt was stained brown under the sweaty armpits. His jeans stained with sweat from the 100-degree heat. His brown palms, dusted with the white powder of the peanuts he had been selling on the street to wandering baseball fans, held the polyester fabric of the front seat he was struggling in.

He shifted left, then right. Forward, then back. As if he were sitting on a bed of hot coals, he repeatedly adjusted his body in the cramped front seat, looking for that one perfect, comfortable, forgiving position.

The roar of the cars on the street passing by became louder and louder. The chatter of the near-intoxicated baseball fans chewed at his consciousness as the barrage of questions from the sweaty, bunkered firemen assaulted his mind. The oldies on the am radio in the van became up-tempo and louder; the symbols of the drummer crashed every fourth beat and rattled his brain like a bird in a cage.

The sun's heat boiled his blood, dried his skin, and suffocated his breathing. The radiant heat off the blinding concrete singed the hair on his arms and dried his mouth. It became harder to swallow and the warm drool from his mouth dangled off his lower lip and hung over his heaving belly.

The questions got louder and faster. His heart raced and his hands twitched. His eyes bounced back and forth like that white plastic ball on a ping-pong table. The blood in his wrist pulsated. And as he glanced down at his damp skin, he could see the tidal waves of red blood coursing through his arm. Time slowed as his surroundings sped up.

Words became noises and the faces of the responders blurred only into colors. He felt as though he was suffocating and drowning at the same time. Alive, but dead. Awake, but asleep.

He stood, after pouring the chilled remains of the glacier-captured water down the back of his neck. His legs wobbled and buckled and he felt as though he were floating. The chilled water ran down his sore back and evaporated by the time it made it to his waistband. The cotton from the T-shirt fought with the dehydrated body for the rights to this refreshing oasis.

The clouds swiftly streamed across the sky and left white, hypnotic tracers. The flashing lights of the emergency vehicles merged into one kaleidoscope of color and the background voices of the portable radios, affixed to everyone’s waist, surrounded him and assaulted his senses. As if he were falling down a tunnel, he sat himself down onto the stainless steel bed.

The plastic from the seatbelts seemed to suffocate his breathing. The ones loosely tied around his legs grabbed him like a hungry python and tried to squeeze the life out of him. He felt as though he was floating and the world was 100 feet below him as he was slid into the back of the ambulance.

The box grew smaller and smaller and the red and green lights on the control switch to his right blinked with the intensity of the sun. The handrail grew hands and sank from above, trying to push him further into the bed. The oxygen was noxious and loud and the clear plastic tubing seemed to be transforming into a rope around his neck. And the slow, slurred, speech of the paramedic trying to reassure him drifted slowly off into the distance, eventually becoming only an echo.

He sat there wrestling with his mind. Deciphering reality from fiction, truth from hallucination, he struggled to maintain his sanity. What was real, what wasn't? Was this even happening? Was this a dream, or a nightmare? If it was, should he wake or remain asleep?

For he hadn't slept in 6 days.