Saturday, January 22, 2005

An Encounter


That's the word on the weather street anyway. It started snowing around three-thirty-four o'clock and it's now almost seven, maybe three inches down. Expected to get 20. I'm lucky I managed to park my car in the garage, squeezing it between the two ambulances. I was supposed to work in the city tomorrow, but the suburban day medic just booked, and they let me swap into his shift. So I'll be on the clock here till 10 tonight, then get an eight hour break -- I'll crash in the back bedroom, then back on at six A to 6 P. With luck I'll get to watch the football games on TV tomorrow.


It was very busy this morning as anyone who even thought they might be getting sick, wanted to go to the ER.

So far today we've taken in a cancer patient feeling faint, a nursing home patient having a stroke, a man with bronchitis whose daughter was worried he might stop breathing during the blizzard, and another man from a nursing home with a fever. We also did a refusal on a man with a syncople episode at dinner. I would have liked to have taken him in, but he didn't want to go, and he agreed to be seen by the nurse at his retirement facility and to call back if she convinced him to go or if he felt worse. Other than a slight orthostatic change in BP from sitting to standing from 104 to 96 systolic, he looked good, good color, good pulse. Still, all syncopes should go to the hospital.

Both hospitals were packed earlier. While we were doing our calls, our second ambulance did another 4 calls.

I just went out to get a pizza. Now pizza isn't on my diet, but blizzards let you break the rules. I needed something hot and filling in my stomach.


At the pizza shop, I noticed a grey faced woman say hello to me as I went in the door, then when I came out she was lingering in the heavy snowfall.

"You took care of my mother," she said. "I wanted to thank you."

"You're welcome. Thank you for saying that," I said. "How is she doing?"

"She's dead."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"They had her on life support for six days."

"I'm very sorry."

"You partner was upset with her beacuse she wanted to take her jewlery off. You knew she was having a heart attack, but you didn't tell me."

I'm not really certain what to say.

The woman is standing there in the driving snow, looking at me hard. She looks very unhappy. I'm not certain if she is grateful or upset. She takes a deep drag on her cigarette, and stares at me.

I just stand there. I have no words for her. I don't even remember the call or ever seeing her before in my life.

"God bless you," she says.

"Well, thank you," I say again, "You have a good night. Try to stay warm." I start toward the ambulance.

She stays there standing in the snow watching me as I get in the front seat. As my partner starts to drive away, she gives a short salute like wave and I wave back.

I have this sense that she will always be there in my memory, standing in the driving snow on a cold night, smoking her cigarette down till the butt is gone, extinguished against her cool skin. She stares at me.

I have no idea what she sees.


Only went out once more -- a lady from a retirement community who possibly broke her foot when a closet door came unhinged and landed on her foot.

My partner was funny with her. She was all upset at the retirement community people -- the nurse, nurse's aid and security man, and insiting that the retirement community pay for the damage. She was very demanding, telling us to bundle her up. My partner who has a shaved head and tatoos on his arms and bad teeth, was smiling at her and sweet talking and charming her. "Just hold on a minute, give us a chance to do our stuff. We're going to have all bundled up, warm and comortable as can be, you won't want to get off our stretcher. I'm just going to tuck those tootsies of yours up right now in out special blanket. There how's that? I knew you'd like that. Now let me fluff that pillow and sit you up just a little bit more, there, more comfortable. I thought so."