Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Life, Death & Everything in Between

Apologies to AD for stealing his subtitle for this post.

Yes folks, I know I'm a bad blogger and I don't post often enough. I need to start getting in the habit of jotting things down that I want to blog about. Anyhow, WhiteCoat put up a post today that reminded me of a call I did a few months back.

Nursing home calls are the bane of my existence. In my EMS career I have gone on one nursing home call that involved a critical patient where the staff was actually helpful, this is not the case. My partner and I were dispatched for an 83 year old female resident of a local nursing home, the patient lives in the residential care wing of the nursing home, not the skilled care wing. We walk in and ask for a history and they just say "she's a DNR." There's the first clue that this is going to be a clusterf*ck. We arrive at the patient to find her taking her on the verge of taking her last breaths and the staff demanding that she be transported because they just don't know what to do. They spoke with the RN working on the skilled wing and given that she is already over worked she told them to call for an ambulance. The patient's son, also her health care POA, had already been contacted and not fully knowing the situation and worried about his mom asked that she be transported to the ER.

This frail old woman was unresponsive, cyanotic (turning blue) with a weak slow pulse and agonal respirations. A check of her paperwork confirmed that she did have a current DNR order signed by her primary care physician. So my partner and I picked her up and placed her on our stretcher and wheeled her out to the ambulance. We both knew there was nothing that we or the ER could do for her and we both knew that the only therapy we could provide would be a smooth ride to the hospital. My partner was tending to the patient while I drove and he gave a report stating what we had found and that we were transporting at the son's request and at the ignorance of the nursing home staff. We delivered her to the ER and shortly after she died. Not in the comfort of the room that had been her home for the past few years but under the bright florescent lights of the trauma & resus room in the ER. Not with dignity and not with her loved ones by her side, but instead surrounded by paramedics and nurses and a doctor all discussing what to do. While everyone else in the room stood around and discussed what to do I pulled up a stool and sat down next to her and held her hand as life escaped her. I sat with her and prayed. I firmly believe that no one should ever die alone. The look of death on a patient's face sometimes reveals peace and sometimes reveals fear. No one should be afraid and no one should be alone. Thankfully the patient's son arrived just moments before she passed and he and I sat there, each on one side of the bed.

In the time that I have spent in EMS I have come to believe that death is neither a beginning nor an end, but rather a transition to something else. What that "something else" is, I suppose is left to each person and their beliefs. I have also learned that every life, regardless of how short it is has a purpose and thus every death serves a purpose as well. I have been witness to a life that lasted only hours. When a coworker's son and daughter-in-law learned that they would be having a child and that it would not survive I was asked to photograph this child's life so that the parents and family could have something to look at and remember the day by. Those few hours were the hardest and most rewarding hours of my life. In the span of just a couple of hours I witnessed the love a parent has for their child; the pride they have in showing off this brand new baby. I also witnessed the pain of a family grieving the loss of a child. Close relatives gathered around this child, each taking a turn to hold her and shortly after her grandmother gave her back to her mother and father the doctor came back in the room to check on the child and told us that she had passed away. I am unable to describe the feeling of that night and so I'm not even going to try, but I know, deep down inside that this child's ever so brief life served a purpose. It may take years for me to learn what that purpose was, perhaps I'll never know until I find myself at my own death, but we all serve a purpose and every human life is precious and that we can learn a lesson from every single person we encounter.

Be well & be safe.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Well Wishes.

NurseK alerted the blogosphere to the plight of EmergencyEmily, apparently our favorite EMT, come-from-behind comeback kid wound up in near respiratory failure and is managing to poach wifi from the hospital, so please, email her some lovin and support, she deserves it.

This little incident got me to thinking. What if NurseK and MonkeyGirl and ERNursey were all working in one ER with doctors ShadowFax and Scalpel with EmergencyEmily, me, AD & TraumaQueen working the local ambulance and stopping at the end of a shift to be served beer & burgers by Ribeye? Scary. Downright scary. It would be a rip-roaring blast of a good time, but scary nonetheless.

Anyhow, send some lovin' over to EmergencyEm and lets hope she's back up and running soon!

Friday, January 11, 2008


So, today marked another milestone in my move to Pennsylvania. Today I went to the PennDOT driver's license center and filled out a form and took a vision test and was asked some questions by a rather rude man who seemed to be bothered by the fact that I was there and he had to do his job. I wrote him a check and he handed me more paperwork and then he handed me back my Maine driver's license with a hole punched in where the expiration date used to be. I'm not sure what it was, just his demeanor maybe coupled with the fact that I'm now officially a resident of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but when he handed me back my now defaced Maine license it was as if it now read "You're no longer one of us, traitor." I felt as though I had just renounced my citizenship. On the plus side when I was done waiting to have my photo taken and my signature digitized the woman who took the photo welcomed me to Pennsylvania and hoped that I was getting settled in okay.

Following this I then went to get my vehicle registered. I think it is odd that in this state I had to go to the local AAA to get my car registered, but on the plus side while I was there I essentially got a membership to AAA for free because they applied the fees toward a new membership.

After leaving AAA I stopped in the local CompUSA store which is apparently going out of business and as such all of their stuff was marked down. I managed to pick up a home theater in a box at a great price and when I got home I found a little yellow note of goodness from the man who drives the big brown boxy truck and I was able to go and pick up my spankin' new HDTV.

So now I'm going to go set up my HDTV with my new DVD player and my new surround sound system. WooHOO!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Okay folks, add this one to the list of You've Got To be F*cking Kidding Me!

After reading this I have to go lay down.