Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Beautiful Day

Day started off with a guy with his foot stuck in a conveyor belt. We were downgraded to nonemergency when they said they got his foot out. My old partner and I were just chatting away on the way to the call. I was reading the paper at the same time. Next thing we know they are updating us that we have gone by the call. We both totally tuned it out. I forgot we were even on a call. It was a beautiful day and we were just driving down the road. It happens sometimes.

The guy was fine. There was no deformity to his toe, no crepitis, no point tenderness. He could walk on it. One guy was saying he would take him to a doc-in-the-box. Another lady was saying he should go to the hospital. As far as I could tell there was no injury. "It is up to you," I said. "We are here to offer you a ride to an emergency department." They ended up taking him to the doc in the box.


We took an old man from one nursing home to another where he was suppossed to be with his wife. He was dying of cancer and I guess they arranged it so they could be in the same nursing home to spend their final days. He had to pay by check because insurance won't pay for non medical transfers. We get him to the new nursing home, and they tell us the room, and there is another man in the room. No wife. I ask about the wife, and they don't know anything about it. They just work there. This is the room for the new admit. I hope they got it worked it out later.


We get sent on a long-distance out of town transfer. It sets me off on a range of emotions. There are plenty of basic ambulances on. Why are they sending a medic out of town for what will be a 3-4 hour round trip when all is said and done? At first I am ticked off. This just burns me. It shows no respect for me or for paramedics. What happens if a code comes in and all the medics are tied up? A basic car will go. How many times has it happened that I am on a transfer and I hear basic cars screaming for medics. None available.

I have two days to decide if I want to invest $2500 in the company. We are being offered a chase to buy "units" of the company. A paramedic can invest only $2500. No more. No less. I am inclined to buy because I want to feel like I am a part of the company, invested in more than just punching the time clock. I feel if I speak out at any time, I have my money where my mouth is. So on one hand, I am thinking if they are so screwed up that they are going to send me on a long-distance out of town transfer, then I'm not investing. But then I think, well if they are running the company this badly, then it can only get better, so my money will grow when it gets better. And then I think, well, maybe they are running it okay at least from the business point of view. The customers and the public don't know the difference between a medic and an EMT. The hospital just wants someone to come pick the person up and get the room clear. Since we may be the closest ambulance, we get there the soonest. This pleases the hospital, it pleases the patient. They are happy, business is good. They call us again. The money rolls in. So maybe from a financial point of view, this is all good.

We pick the guy up, and head out of town. He has dementia and really can't carry on a conversation. As my partner says, "lights on, no one home." It is a beautiful day. A nice drive through the country. The Red Sox game is on and they are winning. I am thinking, hey, what am I so mad about. I'm not carrying a four hundred pounder down the stairs. No one is puking on me. I'm not working a baby code. I'm getting paid. Overtime rate. I've got a cold diet coke in the drink holder.

Here's what it is. Everyone wants, needs to be special. You need to feel you are in some way different, that your life has meaning. When you are send as a medic to do a basic's job, when there is greater potential work for you, you feel diminshed. You feel like you are just a cog in a wheel. You are easily replaceable. You don't matter in the individual sense. You live long enough, and you realize you aren't immortal, you aren't particuarly special. You're not going to be President of the United States. You are not going to play right field for the Boston Red Sox. You are not going to be the center of everyone's life.

The first steps toward humility is recognizing that you need to find your own specialness in small places. Whether is is loving someone, doing your job well, or becoming really good at one small thing or just learning to enjoy a beautiful day, you find specialness where you find it.

I still love this job even though there are times when I feel devalued.

We dropped the man off at his nursing home, got him comfortable in bed, joked some with the nurses there, then headed back to the city.

They posted us in a suburban town and we did nothing for a couple hours. We drove to a park and I laid down in the back and got a good nap in. Then I finished reading my book, The Farming of Bones.

It was an very moving novel based on the 1937 massacre of Haitains on the border of the Dominican Republic. The Dominican President Trujillo, in an attempt to get Dominicans to ignore their economic problems, blamed the Haitains in the country for causing all the problems, and ordered them killed. Over 57,000 Haitians living on the border were hacked to death with machettes, their bodies thrown in the river. The Haitians were in the country to do the work the Dominicans wouldn't do, chiefly work in the cane fields. The Dominicans are poor, but the Haitains are like Mexicans to the Dominican's poor Americans. They are the poorest people in this Western Hemisphere, scorned by their country and by the Dominicans.

The book was told by a young woman who survives the massacre, but loses her lover and most of her reason to live. While she is one of the forgotten, she has her story to tell.

Here's an excerpt:

"It is perhaps the great discomfort of those trying to silence the world to discover that we have voices sealed inside our heads, voices that with each passing day, grow even louder than the clamour of the world outside.

The slaughter is the only thing that is mine enough to pass on. All I want to do is find a place to lay it down now and again, a safe nest where it will niether be scattered by the winds, nor remain buried beneath the sod.

I just need to lay it down sometimes. Even in the rare silence of the night, with no faces around."


And what does that mean? I guess what I feel is that everyone is special. Some people have very hard lives. Mine is relatively easy. I'm not dying of cancer. I'm not suffering dementia, at least not yet. I'm able to carry a four hundred pound person down a crowded stairwell -- with some help. I may be a cog in the wheel, we all are, but we're all special in our way, and we all are probably going to meet ends that we won't like. All I can do is say what I feel, tell my stories, and try to enjoy beautiful days like today. Days made all the better when the Red Sox win, which they did 9-4. Whoo Hoo!


Finished the day with a two year old allergic reaction to peanut butter. A little Benadryl started clearing it up. We got his car seat out of his mom's car and mom and I rode in with him in the back. They just moved to the country from Germany and she is due with another child in August. She used to work in a chocolate factory there. She loves the U.S.A., and loves her baby boy, whose screams at being hit with a needle gave way to peals of laughter at the Children's Hospital when he saw all the toys.