Sunday, November 30, 2008

Because I am a Paramedic...

... I do things that may seem out of the ordinary to regular folks. Heck, even to those close to me who are also in EMS I seem to do some things that appear to be a little strange, if they pay close attention.

My expressions of love and appreciation may seem redundant or sometimes even excessive. Maybe it's a function of looking back on all of those close to me I've lost; those who may not have known just how much I loved and appreciated and needed them, combined with 15 years of seeing unexpected tragedies befall people in a split second - things that change their loved ones' lives forever. I made my best friend cry a couple of weeks ago, sending her a card with some heartfelt sentiments written inside. Is that stuff already understood between us? Sure it is. Did I still feel the need to express it all, yet again? You bet. No matter how dumb of an argument we may have, I will always, always tell Dan I love him at the end of it. I will always want to be kissed hello. Goodbye. Goodnight. For no reason at all. If I get T-boned turning on the divided highway going to work, or make an unfortunate turn on my bike in front of an 18-wheeler, or next time I jump out of a plane that parachute maybe doesn't work - I will die knowing those I loved knew it, every day.

I look at strangers with an extra vigilant eye. Watch people out of the corner of my eye. Let those walking behind me know that I know they're there. I pay attention to that little tug deep in my gut that some people set off; it's never been wrong. I stand sideways at the ATM and lock eyes with anyone who comes too close as if to say: I can identify you in a lineup. If you are under arrest and I am treating you, my nameplate comes off of my uniform and goes into my pocket.

I seem critical of others; too critical at times. Like many others in public safety and healthcare, I have zero tolerance for bullshit. Don't tell me you've only had 2 drinks. That you don't know how you wrecked; that you certainly weren't on your phone or trying to pick up that lit cigarette you dropped. That you haven't taken any mind-altering substances, or that you do expect me to provide them for you.

I believe that really bad things disproportionately happen to good people who don't deserve it. I have seen horrible twists of fate you wouldn't believe. A man drives down a highway and an 18-wheeler in front of him loses a wheel. The wheel strikes his vehicle, taking off half of the roof and half of his head with it. What happens if he takes a different road that day or leaves the house 5 minutes late? He lives. I hope he told his wife he loved her that morning.

I have little patience for the rest of those who have actually caused and played a large part in their injury, illness, and eventual demise. You didn't wear a seatbelt and now your jaw is busted in half, and now I have to cut off your $300 cashmere sweater to examine you, and you're pissed. I don't care. It's hard to feel bad for you when you could have walked away from this little fender-bender had you been smart enough to use the safety device provided for you in that $50,000 car. You drink and drive? I hope you die a painful death, but I'm realistic enough to know that you won't die or even get hurt; you will, however, probably hurt, maim or kill someone else. Drunks and babies: They bounce.

I have an overwhelming need to maintain a larger-than-normal personal space bubble when out amongst the public. Peoples' self-importance annoys me. One day you're cutting me off with your car or shopping cart because what you have to do and where you have to be obviously supercedes the needs of everyone else. The next day maybe you're trampling an innocent guy who makes less in a month than you made last week, so you can get a Garmin for $100.

You may, at this point, be counting your blessings that you live far, far away from my area and you'll never see me darken your doorway in your hour of need. However, know this: If you truly are in need, I'm in it with you 110%. I'll hunch over you on the floor and shield you from your enraged sugar-daddy who's trying to attack us. Then 6 months later I'll take 3 days off of work and stare him down court, and testify against him, even if you won't. I'll hold your Grandma's hand, and wipe her tears, and keep her warm and comfortable while I'm taking care of her. I'll even stop on the way out the door and raise the stretcher up just high enough for Grandpa to give her a kiss before he trusts us -total strangers - to take care of the woman who's been the center of his universe for 60 years. I'll medicate you onto Cloud 9 if you are really and truly in pain, even if it would be easier for me to turf you on my partner and avoid the paperwork and med replacement. I'll stand up to your kids and grandkids when they talk to you like you're a toddler or talk about you like you're not sitting right there. I'll listen, and honestly be interested, in your stories of growing up during the Great Depression, or how you flew a bomber in WWII. I'll make your sick or injured kid laugh at my expense and let you sit in the back of the ambulance with them. If you ask me how bad it is, I will tell you the truth. Good or bad.

However. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, that never happens. But fool me twice, you're dead to me.

Other strange stuff I do, because I am a Paramedic:

  • Never turn my back to traffic. At home. At work. In the mall parking lot. Never.
  • Hand washing: Before I use the bathroom. After I use the bathroom. Once more on the way out the door probably, too. Especially if the bathroom I used is in a hospital. Before cooking. After. After sneezing, even if it's a 20-sneeze extravaganza. After coughing into my hand. Or after shaking your cough-sullied hand. No offense.
  • If I'm knocking on your door and I don't know you, I'm standing off to the side. Just in case.
  • When I enter a place, be it a house, or an aparment building, or a grocery store or a log cabin - I familiarize myself with the exits. It's become automatic after all these years to automatically start mapping the quickest, easiest exit out of a place, usually keeping in mind we'll probably be carrying someone.
  • I will tell you how much I love you or appreciate you, and how much you mean to me. Ad nauseum. Probably most every time I talk to you this will happen. Get used to it.
  • I will put off mundane things that need to be done in favor of fulfilling things that I want to do, because life is short. This means that sometimes my house or yard will suffer, however my dogs and I will be happy walking around the lake or napping together on a rainy afternoon. I've seen many people on their deathbeds; not one of them has said, "Damn. I wish I could live one more day so I could vacuum those carpets just once more."
  • You will never see me put my fingers or my pen in my mouth. You will also very rarely see me get sick, despite people coughing and puking and hacking in my face daily. Handwashing, my friends. Handwashing.
  • I check out your veins. All the time. I can't help it.
  • I try to guess your medical history when I'm standing in line with you at the store, based on what I can see. I'm surprisingly accurate.
  • We bet on blood alcohol levels, blood sugars, discharge diagnoses, addictive predilections, and mental health quirks of patients. We're surprisingly accurate.
  • We do notice what kind of underwear you're wearing, or the lack thereof. If you're wearing a banana-hammock and you think we are snickering with the nurses at your expense, we probably are. (Sorry).
  • I wear my seatbelt all the time. Even driving across parking lots. 
  • I appear to like dogs more than people, in general. It's mostly true, and people have earned a great deal of that second-rate treatment.
  • When on amusement park rides, I calculate just what trauma may befall me and everyone else should the ride fail. It's distracting.

So next time you see someone impervious to the common cold or flu, with hands red and raw from overwashing, standing sideways at the ATM, locking eyes on everyone within 4 feet of them and maintaining that sacred bubble of personal space, looking for the quickest route out of the area ... wave hi from a safe distance to your friendly neighborhood Paramedic.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


You all know who you are. You've made my life more than I ever thought it could be.

So different, you two are. But so important to me.

I love your growly kisses. I hope I have them for a long time to come.

You read my mind with those big brown eyes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What do you do when you're getting paid to sleep...

... and you can't?

You blog, of course.

It's the first night shift in 4 weeks, which almost always causes me a bit of insomnia. The 3:30am call for a vehicle fire (cancelled prior to arrival) and the 4:30am paranoid/delusional person (whom police were nice enough to transport) certainly don't help. I'm not one of those people who can just lay my head on a pillow and be asleep right away. That little quirk is magnified about 1000X at work. Hell, I'll lie there with my bladder so painfully full that I have to sleep on my back because any other position causes agony - rather than get up and pee, and deal with the additional half hour it takes to fall asleep.

Then there's the little mouse problem we have. I swear, when I laid my head on my pillow, I heard a scratching sound that seemed to be coming from within my bed. Now, I'm not the least bit scared of mice, I even tend to think they're cute. If they want to live out in the garage I'm willing to let bygones be bygones. However when I hear odd scratching chewing noises that seem to be coming from within my bunk? *shudder*


An hour and 15 minutes left. I wonder how much of a nap I can get in before someone breaks a hip on the way to their bathroom.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So, What's New?

I've been busy. 12-hour daylight shifts and 3 new trainees will do that. I'm going to try to update more often; it's just that my life has been somewhat repetetive and monotonous of late. Who wants to read monotony? So. A quick recap of the past couple of weeks:

  • Christmas shopping is nearly finished. All the big-ticket items are already purchased/paid for. In cash! I love cash Christmas. The New Year is stressful and hectic enough without credit card bills looming. 
  • I've been sort of status quo with my therapy and food issues. I have sessions every 2 weeks, and it's keeping me on a maintaining kind of plane, rather than the binge/rapid gain cycle I did last year. I still haven't gotten it through my head that exercise every day is what's going to pull me from maintaining to getting to my healthy weight. However, not gaining is a big victory, if I am comparing this time last year to this year. 
  • Speaking of getting things through my head, I'm reading a great book: Liberating Greatness, which was recommended by my therapist.  The simplest description is: This book describes how neural pathways in the brain affect how you do things, even the simplest "habits" on a daily basis. It gives you tools to form new neural pathways which will have a positive effect in changing habits you desire to change. This is accomplished by affirmations which create cognitive dissonance, which is necessary for real change; the book tells you step by step how to properly create affirmations which will help to form new neural pathways in the brain to change behavior subconsciously. I can't recommend it enough. Here is an article describing how the science behind it works. 
  • Old Girlie turned 14!!!!! on election day. We had a little party, complete with cake. Pictures to follow at a later date. She had no idea why she was getting cake and extra kisses and hugs, but she soaked it all up like a sponge. It was a great day for celebration all around. 
  • Water rescue class is 2/3 completed. We can't do moving water day yet because the water tables are still too low, and we want to finish the day with our collective coccyges intact. 
  • My best friend is engaged! I'm deleriously happy for her. It's so odd that the two of us, both pretty non-traditional and seemingly anti-marriage, would both get engaged within the same year. I've known her fiance for years and she picked a great one. They will take wonderful care of each other. SO happy!
  • I've joined the BlackBerry cult. I'm not totally submerged in the Kool-Aid yet; there are times I miss my old LG, especially since I can't quite text on the fly like I used to. But there is the Storm to look forward to... 
  • Work's been weird. In the past week I've taken care of 1) a kid who had a several hundred pound gravestone fall on him (broken pelvis, he's pretty lucky actually), 2) a brokenhearted 15 year old who would rather live in a shelter than with her mother, who apparently feels the same way 3) the coolest 92 year old ever, who had a lively political discussion with me while we transported him to the hospital, blood running out of his nose like a faucet when pressure was not being applied - He told me, ominously, that the Great Depression started much like the economic situation the country finds itself in currently. I find that I am a lot more sentimental than I used to be, and I let things, like the 15 year old girl's situation, affect me so much more than they used to. I'm trying to decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I know it makes me better at my job in some ways, but the personal toll it takes? What are all these, how you say? Feelings... all of a sudden. Where did those come from? 
  • PastaQueen recommended the reality show "Ruby" in a recent post. Ruby is a woman living in Savannah, Ga, embarking on an epic weight-loss journey. What I liked about the show is that Ruby is human and fallible. Though she is working with a trainer, a therapist and an obesity specialist, she is a regular person just like any of us. She has to figure out, just like any regular person trying to get to a healthy weight, and how to do so in the midst of everyday life, stressors, and celebrations. There's no big monetary prize awaiting Ruby when she achieves her goal, and to listen to her, that's not what she wants. She wants to sit on a guy's lap. She wants to be able to walk the beach and ride on the back of a Harley without being pointed out and ridiculed. To wear jeans. To ride a bike. To be able to get up and just go when she wants to. Little things that I know I take for granted daily. Ruby is so kind and engaging that you will find yourself crying for her, laughing with her, and cheering her on. Thanks to PastaQueen for recommending this show. I'm rooting for Ruby already. 
That's about it for the past couple of weeks. Mundane, no?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Do you feel it?

The world has just become a better place. 

My world has become a better place. 

No longer will the President use fear to motivate the people. 

No longer will I have to hear every day, the nasal g-dropping Yooper voice of Sarah Palin, speaking on issues about which she hasn't the first clue. 

No longer, when I have to ask a set of questions to assess a patient's mental status, will I be embarrassed to administer that last part of the mini-mental status test: "And who is the current President?"

For the first time in a long time, I can't wait for tomorrow.