It takes 6 alarms set on my cell phone to wake me up. I never really sleep for more than 4-5 hours a night. The years of doing this are starting to take a toll on my body. It takes me no longer than 15 minutes to shower and get myself ready. What's the point of looking my best? I will probably be wearing someone else's bodily fluid on me by noon.
I arrive at the station 20 minutes early, as I do every shift. Nobody likes when you get a call 20 minutes before you are supposed to be off. It's a courtesy thing, make sure you are there early so the crew before you can leave on time. Not like that ever means anything. Chances are they went out 15 minutes before you got there anyway, and will get out late just the same.
We do crew change, it's 7am and we are in the middle of going through our Ambulance to make sure nothing is missing when the first call of our shift comes in. *Attention A3, respond to 44456 maple drive for the unresponsive patient, unknown breathing status.*
You gather your things, hop in the front, and drive quickly to this residence. A hysterical wife, approximately in her late 70's greets you with tears in her eyes. She explains that she woke up and Joesph, her husband of 50 years wasn't breathing. You move past this grieving woman, into the bedroom where Joseph lays. He has been gone for hours. With a quick eval, we determine that rigor has set in, and traces of lividity stream down his left side, which was the side he was sleeping on. I attach him to the 4 lead monitor, and notice out of the corner of my eye the look of hope shining in the eyes of Agnus, his wife. I turn on the monitor and see what I expected to see, a flat line. There is nothing we can do for Joseph. We turn to Agnus, regretting what we are about to tell her. That her husband was too far gone, and that there was nothing we could do. We watch as the hope drains from her eyes, and is quickly replaced again with tears of sorrow. Her sobs fill the room, like a deafening roar. I lower my head, place my hand on her shoulder, and tell her that I am truly sorry for her loss. With that, we leave.
Now we are heading back to the base, when we are summoned once again. This time, it's a 19 year old female experiencing nausea and vomiting. We head to this emergency, just as quickly as we went to the last. We arrive, and what is the first thing that happens? I get puked on. We move her to the awaiting ambulance, give her an IV, and some nausea medication and we are on our way to the hospital.
The day continues on and on in this manner. It's flu season, so a lot of people have vomited in my vicinity. My stomach rumbles. The thought of a cheeseburger crosses my mind when we hear the tones again. *Attention A3, head to Rt 72 in the area of jake's bar for the person unresponsive in a vehicle." You call en route, and there goes the thought of dinner. 3 times you are updated. Each update painting a more gruesome picture. *A3, be advised the patient is located outside of the car on the pavement, in a pool of blood.* Then the next *A3, we are actually getting report that he is unresponsive, and has lost a lot of blood and is actually under a vehicle.* Then fire updates us... *A3, the patient is in cardiac arrest, was a pedestrian struck by a motor-vehicle at approximately 60mph. Launched about 75ft into the parking of Jake's bar.* This one is going to be messy.
We get on scene, a bar full of spectators encircle this patient. Knowing well the nature of a crowd full of intoxicated individuals, we work quickly to get him out public view. Blood lay pooled on the pavement. The man's shoes? They were knocked right off of him and are about 50 yards apart. In the light of the truck we see everything more clearly. Large skull fractures, blood coming from every orifice. 2 IVs are started, epi is pushed, and CPR is performed. I go to intubate, the airway is nothing but blood. Finally the tube goes in and we are breathing for him. What is that on the monitor? How the heck? This guy has a pulse back. We make quick work of him, in the short distance to the hospital. He made it, but won't likely make it long term.
The truck is a mess. We spend 20 minutes cleaning up blood and wrappers. Just as we finish, we make a mental note of the equipment used, and head back to our service area. We stock our truck, and then receive our next call. This time, it's a Heroin overdose.... and off we go again.
The night continues on with very few breaks in between calls. 24 hours on this shift is brutal. We maybe got 2 hours of sleep. Our relief will be in at 6:40am... it is now 6:35am.... The tones drop. Another unresponsive patient, unknown breathing status. Another one called in too late. We couldn't help this patient.
We get off shift 45 minutes late.
Some shifts are easy, others are hard. You will never know what a day will bring.