Where Has SBK Been?

Hey, did you know it can snow in New England in October?  I always thought it might be a possibility, but what we experienced up here in Massachusetts last week was unlike anything I have ever seen.  This year, I have sat through a tornado, a hurricane, an earthquake, and now one of the nastiest winter storms of my career.  Hey, Mother Nature, I am waving the white flag! My Saturday was just like any other: I spent it on the streets, responded to a call or two, and was ready to head home, shovel a few inches of snow off my front walk and enjoy the first snowfall of the year the best way I knew how: with a glass of wine and some dinner.  Things took a turn at around 5pm though when the snow picked up. With many of the leaves still having yet to fall, trees began to be weighted down.  Many of them broke taking power lines with them.  By 8pm, most of my city was without power including my house.  It is an eerie feeling when you are sitting on a main artery of a city surrounded by lit street lights and there, 100 yards down the road past an intersection is nothing but darkness.  At this point, I saw no reason to go home so I turned my 12 hour day into a 24. In comparison to the tornado that struck my city on June 1, dealing with the October snow storm was much more challenging.  When the tornado hit, we had our damage path, we knew what the threats were, and we figured out what we had to do to work both in them and around them.  What we found in the snow storm was the damage was much more wide spread, and the environment was constantly changing.  What was a clear intersection just 5 minutes prior could now be blocked with a tree or downed power lines.  Keeping track of street closings and hazards was a logistical nightmare. I spent the next week (yes, week) couch surfing with friends or sleeping in my cold house.  Although it was a stressful seven days as I waited...

Communication

Communication is such a huge part of this job.  We need to be able to communicate with our patients and get information out of them, we need to be able to speak on a radio (which is sometimes easier said than done) and we need to be able to translate what our patients say into medical jargen so the doctors and nurses we give report to fully understand what they are going to be dealing with.  In addition to all of this, we need to be able to communicate with our partners as well. Jamie was my third partner in my career, and she was the one that I worked with the longest.  The two of us were partners for close to two years, working evenings and weekend overnights.  We had some great times, and did some really good calls over the years.  Our styles were completely different.  I was more aggressive medically, where she was quite a bit more on the conservative side, but because of that I learned a lot about holding back, and what to treat and not to treat. We would seem to commonly encounter a problem in the street though: while our silent communication skills, we were not always able to read each other’s minds.  It was on a slow shift that we solved this problem.  Jamie and I decided that we were going to create our own language, one that was spoken by touching different parts of our face to let the other person know what was needed in more of a silent fashion. For example: there is a crying woman sitting on a bed, not talking with her boyfriend/husband looming over her.  Jamie might tap her temple with her index finger which, according to our silent language dictionary, says “let’s clear the room so I can talk to her alone.”  I’d say to the husband, “Sir, can we go take a look at her medicine?”  or “Can you hold the door for me while I get the stretcher in?” At its peak, we had just about fifteen different silent phrases we’d “speak” to each other on calls, covering everything from “This is ridiculous, why are we here?” ...

Happy Birthday!

A year ago today, I made the decision to take the leap into the EMS Blog world.I remember the days leading up.So much was going through my head.What should I write about?Will anyone actually read it?Well, almost 70 posts later, I’m still going strong, and I have you, the readers to thank for that. My first post was quite simple, it was just a little overview of who I was, and what I was hoping to accomplish in the coming posts.I say “who I was” because in the 365 days since that first post went up, I’ve grown and changed quite a bit.What started out as the simple musings of a Paramedic is now viewed over 1,000 times a month, and has over 50 registered followers.#MyEMSDay has been created, and over 200 EMS 2.0 pins are being worn by Paramedics and EMTs fromSpringfield,Massachusetts toMelbourneAustralia. To those of you who have read what I’ve had to say over the last year, I thank you.To any new readers I might have, welcome to year 2!And finally, toEMSin the New Decade, HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Share...

The Moments We Never Forget

The first post of EMS in the New Decade went up on February 26th of this year. Now, 49 posts later, I’m finishing out 2010. I thought though, that I’d finish up the year with a story from the earlier part of my career. December 18th, 1998 started out not unlike many of my EMS shifts. I was home from college and working a volunteer day shift at Toms River EMS. This was my winter break before I started medic school, so this break would be my last opportunity to have any sort of “freedom” before I spent the next year learning how to be a Paramedic. We were dispatched across town for the female, possible CVA. I didn’t recognize the house when I pulled up and walked in, with the district’s police officer, the son of a family friend, right behind me. The woman sitting on the couch looked up at me, “Scott? Jeff?” I realized at that moment that this was a close friend both my parent’s and the parents of the officer. She had some increased generalized weakness and speech problems before calling 911. The symptoms had since resolved, much to her relief. Her BP was a little bit high, but everything out seemed to check out. My partner and I packaged her up and we were off to the hospital. I rode in back with her having a generally pleasant conversation, spending time catching up since I hadn’t seen her since my high school graduation party almost a year and a half prior. Once we turned over care, she thanked me for everything and gave me a big hug. I made sure to check back on her as much as I could during the rest of my shift just to make sure she was alright. Fast forward now, to two and a half years later. I had just graduated from College was having a graduation party down at my parent’s place in New Jersey. My parent’s friend, the TIA patient from a few years prior, came with a wrapped present for me. I opened it up, and found a framed copy of the following: “FIRST RESPONDER” A blood soaked hand...

Shoulda had a Sugar Cookie!

Our jobs don’t stop for Holidays. The 911 phones keep ringing and facilities keep calling. For a number of years, I always worked the holidays. I come from a family of EMS professionals who were always very understanding, and willing to float a holiday to a day or two after Christmas or Thanksgiving, admittedly also for my own personal gain (holiday pay) but the knowledge that I let someone have some time with their kids was always equally rewarding. This month, I felt the need to throw my hat into the Ring for my friend Leanne’s topic for The Handover, an EMS Blog Carnival. Leanne writes a terrific blog over at Just My Blog, and was the 2010 recipient of the Bob Nixon Scholarship for EMS Expo. This month, she’s asking for everyone’s funniest EMS Holiday moment. While my story might not be that funny knee slapper, it was a moment that really put a smile on my face. My partner and I were finishing up our overnight shift from December 23rd into Christmas Eve. We were going to be off for eight hours and then start another sixteen hour shift into Christmas Day. Early in the morning, shortly before we were supposed to go home, we were dispatched to the “Unresponsive Male.” When we arrived, we found a girl who had brought her new boyfriend home with her from college for Christmas with the family. He was in bed, and she couldn’t wake him up. We could tell what was wrong with this kid simply by looking at him. He was diaphoretic, and would not wake up no matter what we did. The Sugar check confirmed our suspicions: He was Hypoglycemic. I went to work on the line, and my partner loaded up the D50. Within ten minutes of our arrival, our patient was up and talking to us. They had gotten in late the night before, and he had taken his insulin before dozing off, and didn’t have dinner. We asked his girlfriend’s mother to make some breakfast for him, and I gave him a stern lecture while my partner got on the horn to Medical Control to get permission to release...

I Couldn’t be More Proud. . .

Back in the 1970’s, my dad decided to take his shot at getting involved in the town’s First Aid Squad. When I was born in 1978, he stepped away from hit to be a father. In early 1992, he began working on getting his EMT Certification Recertified and rejoined the Island Heights First Aid Squad. Island Heights is a very small town at the Jersey shore. Approximately a mile by a mile, it has a year round population of 1,500 people, and gets a little higher in the Summer Time. Throughout the late 80’s and most of the 90’s, the majority of the EMS Runs the Island Heights First Aid Squad had were during the day, Monday thru Friday in neighboring Dover Township, now known officially as Toms River. Annually, they would run around 500-600 calls a year, about 150 of those in town. My dad was involved in EMS for about 6 months when my mom got tired of just sitting around listening to the pager go off all day. She decided that she would give this whole “EMS thing” a try. Her first year was very tough. She lost 15 lbs, and on some early mornings would cry when the pager would go off, although she probably wouldn’t admit to that today. She scaled things back a bit, and started running more abbreviated hours, and then decided that EMS really was for her. Through out the 90’s, my parents became more and more involved in EMS in the town. They both served as Captain, my dad spent time as Squad President, and they’ve both been the most active members of the squad for the last 18 years, and most importantly, they’ve been an inspiration to me. I got involved in EMS at the age of 15 as a Cadet with the Island Heights First Aid Squad, following in the footsteps of my parents. Say what you want about young people in EMS, but I think I handled myself the right way and learned how to be the right kind of EMT because of my parents, their involvement in the squad and their involvement in my early years in this field. They supported...

Pay to Play? No Way.

Imagine its late in the afternoon. You’re home doing some chores around the house, and you look outside, and notice smoke coming from your garage. What’s the first thing that you do? Pick up your phone and call 911. Somewhere, a dispatcher presses the magic buttons, and a Fire Department is en route to you. What would your reaction be if the Fire Department said “Nope. We’re not showing up.” What would you think as you watched that fire spread to your house and consume all of your possessions? I’d be pretty angry. That’s exactly what happened in South Fulton, TN last week. For the full story, take a look at this link and come on back. FireNation.com Article What it comes down to is this: A family lost their home, their pets, and all of their belongings over a $75 subscription fee that was unpaid. I’ve seen many different view points about this as I’ve surfed the Blogsphere this morning, and some of them really bothered me. There are Firefighters out there who stood up applauded saying that everything went just as planned, and rules are rules. My question to them is: Why are you a firefighter? Why do you do the job? Thats right. I’m questioning your integrity, and your willingness to do what you pledged to do. I have no experience as a firefighter. ZERO. I am very content standing outside of the burning building, so I’ve never walked in your shoes. I have, however, been to many, many fire scenes, and I’ve never once heard a firefighter ask “I wonder what kind of home owner’s insurance these people have.” They are there to help, and do what they have to do to put the fire out and save both life and property. With the help of some twitter friends, some research about the South Fulton Fire Department was done, and here’s what we came up with: The Department is staffed by approximately 20 Fire Fighters, only one of which, the Chief, is full time. The rest of the Department is Volunteer. They have five pieces of Apparatus. Two Pumpers, one Tanker, a “Command Unit” and one Brush unit. Finally, according...

Don’t Mess With Texas

The last seven months of my life have been surrounded by a whirlwind of activity. Twitter, Chronicles of EMS, and the EMS 2.0 movement have breathed new life and motivation into me, and one week from today, all of that will come together as I’ll get to share four days with some of the greatest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of speaking with. It wasn’t always like this for me though. If you had asked me one year ago where I thought that I would be today, gearing up to go to Dallas and EMS Expo would not have been my answer. Truth be told, I was in a rut. The roadblocks I was encountering in my system were immense, and seemed almost impossible to overcome. I would come into work and just go through the motion watching the clock waiting for quittin’ time so I could head home. Day in and day out, I felt like I was running in place, or just spinning my wheels. I’ve spoken many times in this blog about that fateful trip to the “left coast” and my week in Alameda County. It all comes back to that for me. It was eye opening. I had a chance to work with people I had never met before who were friendly, welcoming, hard working, and had a completely different outlook from anything that I had seen in my east coast home. They possessed the qualities that I wanted to see in my service. I remember writing their boss at the end of my trip, singing praise after praise about each and every person that I had encountered. My trip was great, and it was hard for me to get on a plane and fly back to my East Coast home, but I had to do it. I brought some souvenirs back with me though. No, I didn’t get any “I Love Oakland” coffee cups or Athletics hats. I brought with me new ideas and a new outlook on EMS. For the next couple of months, I sounded like a broken record: “Well, out in California, they do it THIS way.” Or “Maybe we can try this thing I...

Misunderstood. . .

There is a large population out there who has no idea what services we provide. The sad thing is, even after receiving our services, they still don’t get it. About seven years ago, I was working an overnight with one of my former partners. We were both avid people watchers, so a majority of our time was spent in the Entertainment District of our city. On most Friday and Saturday nights, this section of town lived up to its name. On one particular Saturday night, we were doing our usual “loop” checking out all of the sites, when we turned the corner, and found a group of people standing in the middle of the road flagging us down. When we pulled up, we noticed a woman lying in the middle of the road, and a car parked off to the side with a large “star” to the windshield. The woman’s friends informed us that she was walking across the street when she was struck by the motor vehicle in question. She was now unconcious. My partner and I went to work, assessing her, and starting a quick trauma workup on scene before we headed off to the hospital. As many of you know, part of that trauma assessment involves the concept of “exposing” the patient to assess for injuries. Due to her unconcious nature, our patient’s clothes were cut off. We kept her covered though to preserve her dignity. When we were getting ready to leave for the hospital, she regained conciousness. She asked me what happened, and I explained to her the events that led her to be boarded and collared with an IV in the back of my ambulance. She told me that was impossible. I asked her what the last thing that she remembered was, and she shared with me the events leading up to the accident, stating that the last thing she remembered was walking across the street, and then here she was with me. No matter how much I tried to explain to the woman, she was convinced that she was not hit by a car. Was it the alcohol? Was it just defiance? Was it a head injury?...

The Change Continues. . .

An employee walked up to my window this morning to pick up his gear before going on the road. We engaged in some small talk, and before he left, this was the exchange that we had: Employee: “Hey, EMS 2.0!” Me: “Where did you hear about that?” Employee: “(My partner) told me about it.” Me: “Wow! Who told her?” Employee: “Its out there, man. People are talking about it.” Our conversation shifted briefly to some of the movement’s origins, and then he was off to start his day. For those of you who know me, you’ll realize that rendering me speechless is not an easy task. This employee was almost able to do it. All it takes is telling one person a day about what EMS 2.0 is, and what it means. They will take care of the rest. People are talking. People are taking notice. People want to listen. People want to learn. Share...