Saturday, October 2, 2010

The long delinquent Hotflash speaks

Hi Team!!

And welcome to my newest team member, Dorothy Williamson! 

I know I have been delinquent a long time.  I have to admit, part of it was laziness, part of it was just busying myself with other stuff and part of it is this funk I've been in since I finished school.  But I don't intend to dwell on any of that here so enough said on it.

Thanks 911R for the nudge to get back in here and update everyone.  This blog was meant to be an accountability tool to keep me reaching for the goal so your nudge is just the right thing for me.  I am not promising weekly posts again for a while though.  There just isn't that much going on to post about.  I do have a few things to talk about now though.

I am way over due to tell you about the National Registry Exam.  I took it on July 16th along with two of my fellow classmates.  We all met at a point along the way then carpooled to the test site.  We were scheduled within 15 minutes of each other to take the exam.  We stopped on the way to have breakfast.  A nice little sit down place near the test site served excellent food for a reasonable price and we ate togther while bantering back and forth nervously wishing to get the exam overwith.

Finally it came time for the exam.  It is done on a computer.  If you answer a question correctly, it gives you a harder one.  If you answer a question incorrectly it will give you an easier one.  There are up to 150 questions but the better you do on the exam the fewer questions you will have to answer.  I had heard the minimum cut off was 70 questions.  And I got cut off at 70!!! :)  And I felt really good about it too.  The test seemed SO much easier that Chief McC's tests!!!  Chief McC and Chief L did a fantastic job preparing us!

Now, knowing I had gotten cut off at the minimum and that I felt good about it still didn't make me confident I had passed.  We called Chief McC. when we were all finished and when he asked us what number we had gotten cut off at we each told him.  When I told him 70 he said, "Well, either you did REALLY, really well or you did really, REALLY poorly."   Inside I knew I had done well but I couldn't buy it until I saw the official results. 

I had been told that in most cases, it took only a day to get results online, but that it could take up to two weeks.  And remember, as I have said before, I am NOT a waiter.  Unfortunately I took the exam on a friday.  But I was also told that the results could post by as early as 4:30 that day.  I left excited and hopeful.
But 4:30 rolled around and the results were not posted.  I remember being very disappointed even though I know it was a long shot.  I checked again before I went to bed, LOL, even though I knew if they were not there at 4:30 they would not be there until, at the very least, the next business day.  To be honest, I checked several times a day throughout the weekend too.  And Monday morning, by which time I was frustrated and having doubts.  I'm such a stewer over things and I don't tend to trust my own abilities when I can't see rapid results, even though I really do know better.  I'm trying not to say I have low self esteem but at times, that is what it is... or maybe it's even less complicated than that... more straight forward... I am afraid to fail!  To me it is like failure (in any way) means the end of the world!    But I really am working on it, so please don't worry about me.   If that was not true about me, I never would have followed through with applying for the EMT program to begin with.

By Monday night I was as anxious as could be.  I was out shopping when I got a call from one of my fellow students about their scores.  Sadly, it was not good news.  And I honestly didn't think the other student had passed either.   (I later found out I was right.)  Finally I got home and settled for the evening and walked over to the computer to check again.  And I passed!!!!!!  Now I am an officially Nationally Registered EMT-B meaning I can sign my name  "Hotflash, NREMT-B"

The next step is to find a sponsor.  I need to find someone who will sign paperwork to lay claim to me and my skills.  Without a sponsor I can not apply with the state to practice what I can do.  As I no doubtably have said before, I want to work for a specific ambulance company. (The fire department would be my dream employer, but I can make some compromises).  The ambulance company I want to work for has the municipal contract and that means that if the call is BLS (basic life support -meaning the ambulance needs only EMT-B level providers), often times the fire department will have them do the transport of patients.  If the call is ALS (advanced life support -for more threatening cases meaning at least one paramedic, aka EMT-P will be providers), but in that case, only if the City Fire Department doesn't feel they have the resources or time to do it, or so it seems.


I am sorry I never sent it out and never finished it.   I am still in quite the funk.. personal / marriage problems have confounded my depression.. YES I've said it finally.. my depression is back :(  with a vengeance. but I have not lost hope that i can beat it again.

I want to thank 911r for never giving up on me.... she messages me occasionally to say she misses me and to see if I am okay.  What an AWESOME friend I have!

I started this blog as an accountability thing.. to keep myself working towards the goals....

It helped me for a long time to do just that but a tool is only as good as the skill of the person yielding it. and I have not used my skills at making this work for a while now.  I am not promising to be here often yet.. I don't have the energy or desire to write much lately.. but I will try to check in sometimes and let you know how I'm doing.   

Thanks to all my wonderful friends and my family for the love they show me... Coach Alex is the bestest friend I ever had and I love her very much!   And 911r you are absolutely AMAZING to me.  And all of you have been good to me.  Thanks.

Love and hugs from me... stay safe!

Hotflash out.. but only until next time! :)
Publish Post

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Report From Ladder Company 40. And now for news you've been waiting for... Oh, WAIT!

Hi Team!!

Wow, It's been a while again since I posted and I have so much catching up to do!  I am sorry I didn't keep up because of course the longer I procrastinate, the fewer details I can remember.  (That might be a good thing.  As my Coach says, "I have a lot of words and I'm not afraid to use 'em!")  I'll give you what I can.  Grab yourself a cup of coffe or a Mountain Dew or what ever your particular brand of poison is and a snack.  This is another long one!

So,  the week of June 6-12, 2010  (Days 258-264) was definately significant!

I spent the early part of the week studying like crazy.  This was finals week!  Every day I would begin at 04:30.  I would get up, get ready for work and out the door by 5:20 then head across town to pick up my co-worker.  I always get to her house early and I bring my EMT study aids with me everywhere I go.  Now I love Katie, but she isn't always ready when I'd like her to be and it varies as to what time she actually comes out the door, which is why I arrive as early as I do.  Given my drothers (or is it spelled "druthers"?)  I would show up at work much earlier than I do!  Anyway, since I always have to wait I spend the time reading.  And usually it was the EMT manual I would read.

The last few weeks of class had gone by in a whirlwind covering about twice as much material a week as the first 7 weeks so I had a lot of information floating around in my head.  Unfortunately, having to read twice as much wasn't helping me to retain that information as well as I would have liked.  That is why I began reading the chapters a second time.  For those of you who have never looked at the Brady EMT-Basic coursebook, it is big, heavy, awkward and very dry reading!  Because I have sleep disorders, and because of the hours I kept between school and work, I found it very difficult to keep my eyes open while reading which was very frustrating.  It only served to increase my anxiety about passing the class.  That may seem silly since at mid term, I had an A in the class, but I was really stressing it.

I had already failed two size ups by Chief McC., as far as I was concerned during the quarter.   Chief McC was the secondary instructor for my class, Chief L, the Lead.  I found Chief McC. to be much more demanding of us and much more intimidating.  On the first day that Chief McC. was teaching, I was the first student to class and was waiting outside the door when he arrived to unlock it.  I introduced myself, bravely (remember, I am shy!).  He had a booming voice and very direct manner about him.  As we entered the classroom he said to me, "So what am I teaching today?"  I was surprised he would ask me that and it escaped me that he was sizing me up at the moment.  I had read the required chapters.  I had completed the corresponding sections of the workbook.  I was prepared for class.  But, could I answer him?  Not on my life.  I had to look at the syllabus to answer him.  Of course, he knew full well what he was teaching that day.  He only wanted to know if I knew and if I was prepared.  I had prepared but nervousness caused me to fail the size up.  Still, I was so nervous I didn't even realize what had just happened.  It wasn't until later in class that day, that he happened to mention to the class his little test of "a student".  At least he didn't out me!  I still felt about half an inch tall.    The second time I failed his size up of me was only a week or two later.  We were talking about oxygen, when and how to use it, safe handling, etc.  He demonstrated how to set it up and talked about minimum safe psi, etc.  Then he set the cylinder in front of me on my table (I sat in the front row) and asked me to read the gauge.  Besides the fact that he put me on the spot and I was shy and nervous, he held it in a position that was difficult for me to read it due to a) the glare of the flourescent lights on the face of the gauge and b) I was just far enough away from it that I could not read it well through either the upper or lower portion of my bifocals!  (did I mention I am an old bat?).  As I struggled to read it, Chief McC. demanded of me loudly, "What's the matter?  Can't you read it?"  I actually took my glasses off and squinted at it to read it and finally read it out, but the damage had already been done.  Fail number 2! 

Now, as it happened, I discovered that Chief McC. inspired me more, demanded more of me and I learned a lot more from him with his demanding teaching style than from Chief L.  In fact I really admired Chief McC. and longed to be a fly on his shoulder for the next year just so I could soak up every piece of wisdom and information he spewed, like I was a large empty sponge!  However, this did not make him any less intimidating to me.  I would never have admitted it though.  I did my best to anticipate what would be asked of me in class, to answer questions, etc especially when he was instructing.  But Chief McC. still didn't make it easy.  He never let us blurt out answers to questions or raise our hands like school aged children.  He would ask questions and only if he specifically called on us would we be allowed, and EXPECTED to answer, correctly.  That meant we had to pay close attention!  It was a great technique in that we DID pay attention and we DID learn.  It was not a good self-confidence builder.  In fact I was so afraid to let the Chief down again that I prayed he didn't call on me.

What I am getting at with all this long winded reminiscing is that by finals week I was pretty frazzled and not feeling as confident as I would have liked! (Read: inwardly freaking out!!)  But like any emergency, I presented as calm, cool and collected, did what I had to do and then fell apart later, when nobody was around to witness it.  Like in my car all the way home. "OMG OMG OMG OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I'm such a maniac!!!!"   (That was pretty common conversation between me and the fly on MY shoulder!)  And for that reason, I was not at all confident that I would pass.

Chief McC. had talked to us quite a bit about the National Registry exam.  He talked about the kinds questions that would be on it.  He also told us that only 68% of applicants pass it.  And that in Washington state the percentage was only slightly higher than the national average at 69%.  That didn't instill much confidence either.  It DID instill a determination to work hard, however.  Chief McC. was the instuctor who wrote the exams for our class.  So I KNEW that although Chief L. administered the exams and inputted the scores in the computer, Chief McC. was bound to look them over and see how we did.  I have always been an over achiever so it was especially important to me to do well on his exams.  And although I got solid grades, I never scored as high as I would have preferred to have.  This final written exam was expected and touted to be the hardest of the class.  It made sense.  It was to cover a lot of new material as well as be a comprehensive exam of everything we had learned prior.  In addtion, the first  three exams we could go over and debate our answers if we got them wrong.  If we presented a reasonable arguement with sound medical reasoning, he would sometimes allow us a point back but we could never get the question wrong again if it came up on a subsequent test, and those questions almost always DID come back again.   We were not able to do that on the final.  The only way that a point could be given for a wrong answer on the final was if a) a majority of the class missed the question and b) if the majority of those who missed it marked the same wrong answer and c) if Chief L. reviewed that information and felt it reasonable that we would choose the answer we did.  If so, he would give everyone the point for that question and mark that question for re-write for future quarters.  Did I mention I was very apprehensive about this exam?

To make matters worse, I had totally misunderstood what was going to happen this week.  We had four comprehensive practicals to take as part of finals and we also had three or four practical skill sheets to complete yet for the class.  The way I thought I understood it was that those practical skills sheets would be checked off as part of the comprehensive practical finals.  So I thought wednesday the ninth was only going to be the written final.  Although I was sweating it some, the written exams never scare me as much as the practicals so I was doing okay, until announcements at the beginning of class where I learned I would have to perform the practicals as well that evening.

Amazingly, I pulled myself together and began the written exam, wishing I had been first to step out for the practical skills tests.  Everytime a student would return from the practicals to continue their written exam, I tried to be the first to jump up to take their place.  Although I jumped faster than most, I was also seated in the middle of a row and could not get out as fast as most.  It took me half of the class period before I finally got to be the one to go.  I was about 3/4 of the way through the written exam at that point.  I aced the practicals!  Now I felt much better and more confident.  I returned to the classroom and to my written exam and finished it.  I then went back over each question slowly to make sure that I had read each question right and marked the best possible answer.  A passing score was a minimum of 80.  Looking over the 100 questions I discovered that there were exactly 20 that I wasn't sure of the answers to!  Talk about sweating bullets... AGAIN!  I read each question a third time and reviewd my answers.  I changed a few.  I knew as I did that that usually the first answer you choose is correct but there were a couple I just didn't feel right about so I changed them.  Finally I turned in my test.  Only being sure of 80 was cutting it pretty close to the mark!Now I had an hour to wait before they would be graded and passed back to review.  I am not a good waiter.

Finally we got the scores.  The average score was 78, failure!  I got 86!  I was ecstatic.  Especially as I saw the scores of my team mates and others around me.  Anyone who passed was ecstatic and most shared their scores, even when they were barely passing.  A few shared scores just under the mark and I felt badly for them.  It was a hard freaking test.  Much harder than the three prior to it.  And now they could not debate the answers.  When I thought about my score compared to the average, I knew many had not passed.  Chief L. looked grim as he began to analyze which questions were missed by how many students.  Then he sat down and began going over them.  By the end of that, my score was a 90!  And many more students had passed the exam!  The rest, if they had not already failed and retaken one exam in the class, were given the opportunity to re-take the exam before the next day's practical finals.  They would still retain the same score on the books, but if they passed the second time they would be allowed to take the practical finals.  Otherwise, they were washed out.  One of those students was one of my teammates. 

It was great how the class rallied around each other.  For each student who had initially failed the final exam, there were several gathered around him or her offering encouragement and offering to help them study that night even though it was already 22:00.  I am sure I am not the only one who offered up heartfelt silent prayers on behalf of those needing to re-test.

I went home feeling both elated and stressed.  Stressed not only about the comprehensive practicals but about my classmates who had become almost like family in many ways.  I wanted everyone to pass.  That night at home I could not sleep to save my life!  It was nearly three in the morning before I slept and at 04:30 it started all over again.

On thursday, after my morning shift, I wanted to study, though I could not keep my eyes open.  On top of that, we had turned our skills sheets in the night before so there was nothing to look at to prepare for the practical finals.  I somehow drove home from my shift without falling asleep behind the wheel and wanted to crawl into my bed and die for a few hours.  But I was still so anxious about the practicals.  I sat on my living room floor and visualized a make-believe patient.  I did a scene size up, initial assessment, rapid trauma assessment, detailted physical exam and ongoing exam on my imaginary patient.  I had no idea if I'd left anything out because I had no one around to evaluate me.  And I had no check off sheet to refer to.  I finally gave up and gave in to sleep.  It was the best thing I could have ever done for myself.

I woke up just before I had to leave for work, thanks to my handy dandy cell phone alarm.  Groggily I headed out the door, and prayed all the way to work.  I prayed for clarity of mind, for good recall, that God would help me remain calm and relaxed and help me to perform to the very best of my abilities, the way I had been trained.  I prayed for my team that we would all communicate effectively and work well together.  I prayed we would have each other's backs and if one of us missed something when we were the lead that the rest of the team would effectively cover and make sure we did everything right.  Then I went to work and tried not to think about it.

At work I explained to the kids that I would be leaving extra early as this was the day of my final testing for EMT school.  My 36 k-4th graders thrilled me to no end when they began chanting, "YOU CAN DO IT!" over and over.  THEY had my back!  I was moved almost to tears.  When the time came for me to head to school, a whole herd of children about knocked me down in their excitement to hug me goodbye and wish me well.   I knew I had been hugged by God.

When I got to class the first thing I did was inquire of my teammate if he had completed the re-take of the final.  He beamed at me.  He had taken and passed it.  Praise God!  Next I checked on a few others of my classmates that had been in the same boat.  Smiles all around.  Whew!!! 

The way the practical finals were done is that each team would go to four different stations throughout the evening.  There was major medical, minor medical, major trauma and minor trauma.  In class the students had asked which one the instructors thought was the most challenging.  Chief McC. told them major medical, hands down.  He said he'd put his sharpest cookie on lead for that one if it were him.  He also told them that as lead, he'd put his sharpest cookie on c-spine at a scene.  Guess who my team elected for both positions.  No pressure!  One thing I knew, I had come too far and overcome too many obstacles to get there to fail now.  Even though my team was made up of me, a  Protestant Christian; one Catholic and two Buddhists, I asked my team if they would mind if I led them in prayer.  To my pleasant surprise, they allowed me to do so.  If nothing else, it put me at ease a little.  Suddenly I went into emergency mode:  Calm on the outside, encouraging, cheerleading and all CAN DO attitude. 

Chief L. assigned one team to each station leaving four teams in waiting.  Did I mention I am not a good waiter?  Our team is team G, affectionately called, "The Gangstas".  I don't really remember which order that we were assigned to the practicals only that Major Medical was last.  Great.  I had to WAIT for my most important role.  I HATE waiting.  It makes me nervous.  "SUCK IT UP!" I was screaming at myself inside.  I started at one point to get dizzy and lightheaded and then realized I had forgotten to pack food for class that night.  I had last eaten at work, around 15:15.  It was 20:00 or so by this time.  I went in search of a fix.  I found the vending machine and bought a $50.00 20 ounce bottle of orange juice.  (okay, so I exaggerated a little, but not much!)  I went to my car and found yesterday's string cheese unopened on the passenger seat.  I looked at it much with the same disdain that Sam looked at the green eggs and ham but it was protein.  I knew it would make me feel better so I gobbled it down.  Then I went back inside.  Finally my turn came around to lead and we finished Major Medical.  We were the LAST team to test.  We helped clean up the station and returned to our classroom.  Over the next twenty minutes the last group in each of the other stations trickled in carrying equipment.  Now we had to wait again! 

I forgot to mention that for the practical finals, we were not told how we did at the end of each station.  Our instructors told us that we would be given a short debriefing when everything was done to discuss what we did well, what we needed to improve on and weather we passed or not.  If we didn't we had to come back and re-test one more time the next day.  They felt this was in the best interest of the teams because if we didn't pass one section, the team lead for that section would be a basket case for the remaining stations.  Good logic.  Not so easy to live with though.  As we waited, (I especially,  not so patiently,) Chief McC. callled one group at a time into the "cry room" as he called it.   For the most part he called our groups in alphabetical order..  A, B, C, o wait, C is out of the room, D, E, F, H.

"H???"  What the hell?  WE WERE SUPPOSED TO BE NEXT!  DOH!  Wait some MORE?  Crap!  Does this mean we failed?  Finally as I panicked in my head (but stayed cool on the outside, mostly), he came out of the cry room to call the next group.  "This is it," I thought, dreading it by now.  "C!" 

CRAP!  I had forgotten that C had been passed over.  "I GET IT LORD, BE PATIENT!   I GET IT!!!"
I didn't like it though.  "I trust you," I said to God, more to convince myself than Him.  I WANTED to trust Him, did that count?

Finally Chief McC. called us.  With fear in my heart I stepped into the cry room with my team.  At first we all held hands for just a moment, then we dropped hands and faced the Chief like what he had to say to us next was going to determine how we would spend the rest of our lives.  It certainly FELT that dramatic to us.

First he said to us that he knew this class was one hard freaking class.  He said it was meant to be.  He said this was not a job for just everybody no matter how badly they thought they wanted it.  He went on to tell us how worried he had been when he saw that the four of us had teamed up.  He said he couldn't have picked four different personalities to try and become a team.  He told us he knew it would be a great challenge for us from the start.  "That said," he said.  "Let's talk about how you did tonight."  Did that sound doomy and gloomy to you?  It sure did to me. 

He started with Minor Medical.  He gave us feedback and we made some mistakes, but overall, he said we did very well.  He told our Minor Medical team leader he had done a good job.  He congratulated him and said, "YOU PASSED!"   I figured Major Medical would be next and braced myself for whatever was to come.  "Minor Trauma," said the Chief.  He again gave us his evaluation and told the team leader, "Congratulations! You passed!"  I think I am going to be ill.  Surely now it is my turn.  "Major Trauma," Said Chief McC.  More of the same, positive and negative feedback followed by congratulations.  By now I am fighting tears.  But I don't know  if they are tears of frustration or stress or just what.  I just know that they are building up behind the dam and the dam is about to break.  Finally the Chief looks at me.  "AND YOU!" he booms.  I tried not to shudder.  Then he smiled.  "You did an amazing job!"  He proceeded to tell us what went well with Major Medical.  He never mentioned our shortfalls though I knew there were some.  One was critical.  I never said "Scene is safe!"  I remember looking and thinking it but I never said it.  But my partner had my back and he had looked at me and said, "the Scene is Safe!  I checked it out!"  Scene safety is a critical failpoint but Ian had saved my ass!  I know I saved his too in his scenario but I hadn't given it  a second thought.  I was just grateful he saved mine.  "Congratulations!  You passed!"   The dam broke and I bawled like a baby.  Chief gave me a big hug and asked if I was going to be okay.  He said he wasn't sure anyone here was trained well enough if I went down.  We laughed.  It took a few minutes but I finally pulled myself together.  My team and the Chief and I were all hugging.  Then Chief McC. addressed us again.  "I want you to know," he said.  And he proceeded to tell us that he felt we had been the most improved students in the class.  He said that he knew we wanted it more than anyone else there.  He also said that we pulled it together because we were able to put aside our differences and focus on the job.  He told us that is what fire departments are looking for.  It's what ambulance companies need.  It would serve us well and if we ever found our way there, he'd be proud to have us on his department.   That was the biggest compliment and pat on the back I could ever have gotten.  I had impressed the Chief.  My TEAM had impressed the Chief. 

After that, everybody packed up and either went out to party or went home.  I had to be up at 04:30 and it was 21:00.  I didn't care.  I went out to have a beer with the team.  Chief McC. promised he'd join us.  Chief L had to take his son home.  His son was a minor and had been one of our patients for the day.  I was sorry Chief L couldn't celebrate with us but I was so glad we WERE celebrating.  The Chief didn't show up until a good half hour after the rest of the class.  He came to me first and put his arm around me on the barstool.

"How are you doing?  Are you okay now?" he asked. 

"Never better.  Sorry I fell apart back there."  I explained that I always keep my cool until it's over.  And that I just couldn't help myself because I have wanted this SO badly for SO long.  He said, "I never would have guessed that!" and smiled.  Then he added, "I'm proud of you."

I have no doubt the Chief made me wait on purpose that day.  I am honored to have trained under him.  I learned a lot.  I told hm at the party that I wished I could be a fly on his shoulder for a year.  He laughed because he works for a very small department.  He said, "You'd only run three calls!"  I love that man.  I'll never forget him.  I hope I will see him in the field.

I cried all the way home that night.  Tears of relief and joy and gladness.  Tears of excitement and wonder about what is to come.  Tears of amazement that I am that much closer to finally living my childhood dream.  And even now as I write about it, I feel raw and exposed, but good.  And tears still come with the amazement that I have made it this far.

Photobucket   Photobucket
(sorry, I blanked out some information for privacy reasons)
Thanks Team for believing in me.  Every time I was down, one or more of you would say something or write something that lifted me up and renewed my confidence just enough to keep going.  I don't deserve all the attention I have gotten over this, but it sure has been a blessing.  I hope now I can live up to the expectations you all must have of me.  I want to be the best EMT I can be. 

Now, I am preparing for the National Registry Exam.  That's the next step.  WHEN I pass it, I have to find a sponsoring agency to hire me.  For those of you who offer prayers on my behalf, I am hoping for Rural Metro.  The exam is on the 16th of July, at 09:00.

And now, it's back to the books!

Until next post, stay safe!  And thanks for all of your support.  I am SO grateful.

Hotflash out.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Report From Ladder Company 40 A Crappy Day vs Living the Dream

May 30-June 5, 2010 Days 251-257

Before you decide to read this blog entry, I would suggest you get a small snack, or bring your lunch.  Make sure you have a nice beverage available, maybe even a pillow in case you need a nap.  I am not implying that it is boring, at least I don't think it is, but this is a long one.  I hope you enjoy it because you've certainly waited long enough for it.  Thanks for following me and being such a great support to me.

This week was very intense for me... the next to last week before finishing EMT school!  Ordinarily I would share my week with you in chronological order, but I don't want to leave this blog post on a low note so I will tell you about the latter part of the week first.  In fact, I am only going to blog about the first and last day of the week. 

On Saturday, I had my ER rotation at a local hospital.  I showed up about 15 minutes early.  I was still riding the high from my ride-along the first part of the week and I was anticipating a busy, educational day.  When I was granted permission to head back to the desk, I introduced myself to the first employee I saw and asked for the charge nurse.  They didn't know where she was but told me to have a a seat and wait.  There were two chairs outside of the patient rooms just across from the desk so I sat.  I waited about ten minutes and finally she came into the hub.  Somebody informed her why I was there and she walked over and greeted me.  She never gave me her name.  She told me she would assign me to Nick for the morning and in the afternoon I would probably be with someone else.  The problem was, she didn't know where Nick was.  She told me to have a seat and it shouldn't be long.  15 minutes later, Nick showed up at the hub.  She told him I was a student and that he was assigned to take me around with him and to make sure I got what I needed.

Nick came over and introduced himself.  He asked me where I was a student and I told him.  He had taken the class from my same two instructors a while back and had then gone to Texas to Paramedic school.  I thought that was interesting since our college has a highly respected Paramedic program.  Nick took me around the ER, which was currently quiet and we put away linnens, disinfected and remade beds and then went on a bed hunt to fill empty rooms.  I helped as much as I could, wiping down beds, placing new linnens, etc and even pushed a bed back to the ER when we went on our bed hunt.  Once that was done, there wasn't anything to do. 

There were only six patients in the ER at the moment.  Three were on suicide watch.  One was a very sick woman who was post stroke with a tylenol overdose, renal failure and kidney failure with altered mental status, one was a man in severe back pain, and one was an older gentleman who was having some chest pains and respiratory distress and also had a rash that looked like a bad sun burn all over his arms, and it was blistered in places. 

There was a nurse supervising the older gentleman with the respiratory distress and one of the suicide watch patients, and Nick relieved her so she could have a break.  That meant he was tied down to one spot for a while.  He told me that things were very slow so far for the day.  He said that to make sure I got my patient contacts I should just start going room to room and taking the SAMPLE history from patients.  SAMPLE is a neumonic device to help us remember what information to get during patient assessments.  S=signs and symptoms and from that information we also ask OPQRST,I   (O=Onset, when did this happen? P= provoke, What makes this better or worse? Q= quality, can you describe your pain -sharp, stabbing, crushing, etc.  R=radiate  Can you show me where it hurts the most?  Does it stay right there or does it seem to travel anywhere else? S=Severity Rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10, T=Timing Is sthe pain constant or does it come and go?  I=interventions  What have you done to try and make it better?)  After all of that for each symptom we check A=allergies meds, food, environmental.  M=Meds  What medications are you taking, do you take supplements, are you taking any "recreational" drugs?  P=pertinent medical history.  Have you experienced this kind of thing before?  Are you under a doctor's care for anything? etc.  L=Last oral intake.  When was the last time you had anything to eat or drink?  E=events leading up to the situation.  What were you doing when this came on? 

I attempted to get the SAMPLE history from each patient, checking back with Nick periodically, that is when I could find him.  The patients were wonderful.  I would introduce myself and tell them I was a student.  I would ask if they minded answering a few questions and all of them who were able were more than willing to talk to me.  I tried to be encouraging for those who were scared or uncomfortable.  I asked if I could do anything for each of them to help them be more comfortable.  I squeezed hands.  I smiled.  Inside I wanted to make them all better, to give hope to the hopeless and to ease the pain of those hurting.  But I knew I could only listen and try to encourage them and pray.  That would have to be enough.  I enjoyed the patients.  Even though Nick kept disappearing for long periods once he was freed from covering for the nurse. 

There were times when I could not find him for 15-30 minutes and nobody else working there seemed to know where he was either.  I wasn't learning much.  I was getting a little out of it, in that I was becoming a tad more comfortable around the patients.  I was frustrated though because Nick kept disappearing and he was supposed to be the one I was shadowing and learning from.  I started following another ER technician who was friendlier.  She explained a few things to me and allowed me to ask questions.   Then she hooked me up with a nurse.  Norena was a nice nurse.  She was friendly and let me help her with patients, but mostly it was just getting things for them to make them comfortable.  Nothing to learn medically speaking.

After I had seen all of the patients there, the staff were pretty much all seated around the hub, chatting with each other about their weekend, their dates, their families and what not or surfing the internet.  A few were using the computers for patient reports.  Nobody talked to me and I didn't know how to engage them when all they seemed to want to do was talk about their personal lives.  I finally saw the charge nurse again and explained that I kept losing Nick when he'd send me one direction and go another.  She said to me, "he can be like that sometimes," and then walked away.  Nice.  Norena then came to me and said that the doctor wanted to do a lumbar puncture on the patient who was post stroke and asked if I would like to assist with it.  She explained the procedure and how I could assist.  I was excited to be able to help with something so I agreed.  She went to the doctor and asked if it would be okay and he said he would be happy to have a student assist. :) 

While in the patient's room the doctor noticed that her foley catheter was leaking.  There was a puddle of urine on the floor.  I told him I would see to it that it was taken care of and had Norena show me how to correct the problem before I wiped it up and sterilized the area.  I was willing to do ANY job that needed doing and had mentioned it to each person I had been with.  If I had been told to change bed pans I would have done it.  I just wanted to learn.

I helped hold the patient in position for the lumbar position and tried to comfort her as best as I could.  It is not a pleasant procedure and her inability to communicate with us I am sure did not make it any eaiser on her.  She understood us but only nonsense came out of her.  I felt sorry for her and frustrated for her.  I patted her leg that I was holding in position.  I wanted her to know that I cared, even if we couldn't understand what she wanted.  When the doctor was performing the procedure, he explained to me what he was doing.  When he was finished, I thanked him for letting me participate and he was very nice.  He said he was always willing to help a student.

After the procedure I was directed to another ER tech, who was standing guard over two rooms on suicide watch.  All he had to do was make sure they stayed in bed.  He couldn't leave that spot.  There wasn't anything he could have me help with.  We chatted about who I was, what I wanted to do, how much longer I had in school.  We talked about who he was, what his background was, where he went to school, how long he'd been an ER tech, etc.  Then he began showing me things that were in the various carts around the ER, a line of which were next to his post.  He showed me the cart with supplies for suturing, opened a few packages to show me instruments and the needles used, etc.  He showed me the intubation supplies.  This continued for about 15 minutes, both of us at a loss for what to do with me.  Finally Nick passed by and was told to take a patient to a CT scan.  One of the nurses told him, "She's a student (pointing at me), take her with you."  He looked at her then me, then her again and said dripping with sarcasm, "Thanks a lot!"  WHOA!!!  Wait a minute.  I'm RIGHT HERE!!!  I didn't want to take things personally but I felt like I'd been slugged in the gut. 

The nurse tried to lighten things up and play it off and then looked at me and said, "It's okay.  Go with him."  He glared back at her.  I followed him but he walked as fast as he could, pushing the gurney and never looked back.  His legs are much longer than mine and I had to almost run to keep up.  We went to CT scan where the Technician was nice but Nick did not let me help with the transfer of the patient or talk to me at all.  The scan took a few minutes and then I chased Nick back to the ER.  He put the patient back in his room then told me he'd be right back and promptly disappeared again.

I again found myself standing around the hub with nothing to do.  A new ER tech I had not seen before finally approached me and introduced herself.  Kim was her name.  She was nice.  She told me she worked for the ambulance company that I am hoping to get on with and that she also worked here.  She was doing an internship of sorts here and today was her last day in the ER.  She had taken her EMT class with my instructors too and we shared some funny stories.  She was very nice and told me about how the ambulance company worked, encouraging me to apply when I was able.  I liked her a lot.  Sadly, she had to get her final evaluation and therefore had to leave  me alone again.  She handed me off to a nurse who barely looked up at me from the hub.  While she and her co-worker talked about boyfriends and dating she would look up at me occasionally and say things like, "How long are you here?"  or "What do you still need to do while you're here?"  At least she cared a little that I had criteria that had to be met on this rotation.  I was now six hours into the 8 hour shift.  I needed four patient contacts this day because I already had been hands on with one during my ride along earlier in the week and needed a total of five.  I needed to put in 10 hours of observation time but only five would count from the fire department, even though I had thirteen with them.  Well, 5 from that day and six so far from this day was enough to satisfy the requirements.  I technically had my patient contacts too, though I thought it was lame.  I decided that I wasn't going to stand around doing nothing, being ingnored and put down any more.  I was going to miss an important wedding by working this shift today and it meant a lot more to me than hanging out for another two hours of mostly garbage treatment.  I spoke to a nurse about leaving and she said if I had all I needed I should go enjoy the sunny day because it was, in her words, dead around here.  She signed my paperwork and out the door I went, resisting the urge to run.

That was a most unpleasant experience and taught me one thing:  I do not want to work in a hospital, I definitely want to work in the field.  I went home feeling discouraged and lousy.  It has taken me two weeks to get around to writing the blog post and I still feel lousy about the whole thing.  I felt beaten down.  I wondered what I did wrong.  Perhaps I did or said something though I don't really think I did.  I've reviewed it over and over and I can't think of anything.  I was comforted a bit when a friend told me she participated in a disaster drill at that hospital as a victim.  The staff there were rude to her and treated her and other non-hospital staff like gum on the bottom of their shoes too.  I've come to the conclusion that it must be the culture of that hospital.  And I want nothing to do with it.  Instead I am going to focus on what I really want to do with my life.  And that brings me back to the beginning of the week.

I started it out with a very fun day!!! On Sunday I got to participate in a Ride-along with a large neighboring city's fire department. I was stationed at a downtown, waterfront station. The station has one fire engine and two fire boats. I got to ride along in the Engine! But, let me start from the beginning.

When I signed up for my EMT class, I wrote a favorite author, paramedic and blogger for advice on how to be successful as an EMT student. His name is Peter Canning, author of "Rescue 471," and "Paramedic." He also writes a blog called "Street Watch Notes of a Paramedic."  Peter answered me back right away with the advice to study hard and to take every opportunity I could for ride-alongs, ER time, etc. So I took his advice to heart.

At first I tried to schedule ride-along time with my town's fire department. I figured I already knew people and might be able to get some preference because of my work on the Fire Buff Battalion, but this town's Fire Department proved to be extremely challenging to get into. I haven't succeeded yet, though the firefighters keep telling me not to give up. Even they think I ought to be able to ride with them! (I love these guys!) I kept trying to think of other ways to get in somewhere when I thought of my friends on the IACOJ website. I recalled that one firefighter who had private messaged (pm'd) with me a few times was from the large metropolitan town not too far to the North of me. I pm'd him right away. His name is Randy.

Randy took very little time in getting back to me and after a few pm's back and forth I composed a letter to the Fire Department in the large metropolitan town to the North. Very soon after, I received a letter along with a bunch of paperwork to fill out. Basically I was signing away my life. I didn't care! I sent it back in and within a few days I received a call from a Chief up North saying my ride-along request had been granted. WOO HOO!! And Sunday was the big day.

I arrived at the Station at 8 a.m. with 3 dozen chocolate chip cookies (Cap's favorite I was told ahead of time) and a dozen and a half of my favorite Orange Vanilla Chip Cookies that I got the recipe for from the IACOJ website.  (And before dinner they were ALL gone!!)

Randy greeted me when I rang the doorbell and brought me back to the day room. There the guys were mostly sitting around the table, shooting the breeze and eating breakfast. Randy introduced me to the crew and told me to "make myself at home." Did I mention that I am shy? (Message to Cat...Yeah, I know Cat, you don't believe this, but it is true, and I had warned Randy ahead of time!)

The next 15 minutes were a little awkward as Randy was in and out doing normal stuff that he does around the station and the rest of the guys went about doing what they were doing when I walked in. I sat quietly, taking it all in, trying to think of some intelligent thing to say. I couldn't think of anything so I sat quietly. I was expecting a briefing of sorts, explaining the rules of my visit, the "what to do if's", that sort of thing. And I was expecting to be given an orange vest and blue helmet to wear, which I wasn't looking forward to but I think I would have worn an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polkadot bikini if that was what it took to get this gig in the first place! (Sure glad THAT wasn't the case. That's a freaking scary image!) Thanks to Randy, I almost looked like one of them. The public didn't know the difference. Oh yes, he was terrific!

Finally, someone invited me to have some breakfast. (Randy had told me he would arrange breakfast and dinner and that lunch was on my own, same as the rest of the guys). I took a peek at the offerings. Oats and a large bowl of fresh mixed fruit and yogurt. It looked good, except that I am allergic to pineapple and it was in there. Randy had asked me ahead of time and so he knew I was allergic but whomever the chef of the morning was apparently forgot that he had told them that. Oh well, my pineapple allergy isn't that bad. I decided to pick through the bowl and try to dish up fruit without getting any pineapple in my bowl. It proved to be challenging and I didnt' want to draw attention to myself so I only got a small serving and threw some yogurt over the top. It was really good!

The briefing I expected never came and Randy summoned me to the apparatus bay after I ate. I walked in with him and he handed me his fire department coat. He told me to wear it whenever we were out so that I would blend in. (I had worn black pants and a black button down shirt so I wouldn't stand out too much.) He said, "We're supposed to make you wear an orange vest and a blue helmet but we're not going to make you look like a dork." I had never met Randy in person before this day but I liked him a lot already! :)

First order of the day was a cruise ship tour. We toured a Norwegian Cruise Lines Ship. This was their drill, to check out the firefighting capabilities and systems on the ship. The FD had to submit a list ahead of time of all the personnel that would be on the tour and I was not on that list so there was no guarantee I would be allowed to board. They were going to try and get me in but if they couldn't, I was going to be on my own from about 0845 to 1200 hours. Yay. I could go visit all the waterfront shops, hang out in a bar or pay to tour the aquarium. Not what I travelled North to do, but God knew all about the situation before I ever got there and I decided I would trust him to work out the details. Very shortly after Randy gave me the coat to wear, we all piled into the Engine and headed to the pier. The Captain explained to someone who I was and why I was there and there was no hassle at all in getting me aboard. God is GOOD! For the next almost three hours we got all the behind the scenes, below the decks tour and toured the passenger cabins, recreation facilities, and everything. We heard all about the ship's fire fighting capablities and staffing in place for that and how the system all works. It was a really great tour and quite fascinating. The head of firefighting on the ship was our tour guide. He was from Paraguay and he had an English accent mixed in. He actually looked and sounded Ukranian. During his tour he called a halligan tool a "hooligan tool," and I suppressed a giggle but I heard a couple of snickers from a few of the guys! =D

We saw the engine rooms, the incinerator, all the fire lockers, how the watertight doors and compartments work, the gear they use (It'sGerman and very nice gear! The firefighters I was touring with were envious of their gloves!) We also saw the passenger cabins, even the premium ones, including a small suite with private deck that went for (believe it or not) 25,000 dollars a week, on top of the cost of the cruise itself!!!
The firemen were scheming about 50 guys going in on one together and bringing sleeping bags!

There were a ton of stairs on the tour! I did pretty well when it was one or two decks we were going up at a time, but at one point we were on deck 4 and needed to go to deck 11. The first 8 guys took the elevator but the rest decided not to wait... One of them said, "screw this!" and they all started up the stairs. I wasn't supposed to leave my partner's side and he wasn't going to wuss out so up we went. After three decks I told the one guy behind me he had better go ahead of me because I was going to slow him down, but he wouldn't hear of it. He said it wasn't very nice of them not to consider me. What a sweetie! No way in HELL was I going to be a whiner or a wanny. I had actually prayed about this situation the night before. I  just headed for the stairs like the rest of them. (But I was freaking out inside about how the heck I was going to accomplish that many stairs in one fell swoop.) About half way up the fifth set of stairs, my right leg actually rebelled and I almost missed a step. I caught myself and the nice firefighter that had refused to leave me asked if I was okay. I told him I was running out of steam but that I was going to make it somehow. He told me to take my time and although I slowed down, I finished that flight. Randy was just coming back down a flight to me when I reached the landing. He too iquired as to weather or not I was okay and I had to admit I didn't think I would be able to make the other two decks. He was so kind! He said, "GOOD! Let's take the elevator. I hate the stairs!" The other firefighter told me I did well and we climbed in the elevator and rode the last two levels. In the elevator I apologized to Randy for the ribbing I thought he might get for taking the elevator. He told me he was GLAD to be in the elevator. I don't think I believe him, but I liked hearing it. :) Did I mention, I loved those guys? Before the tour was over we had seen all the amenities, the pool area, the rock climbing wall, all the restaurants and bars, we saw the crew quarters... it was really amazing! I feel extemely fortunate to have been a part of it and the guys treated me very well.


When we got back to the station a little after 1200 hours we sat around b.s. ing for about 15-30 minutes and decided we needed lunch. Randy said he was going to go to Subway, (Basically next door) and asked if that sounded alright to me. I agreed it sounded good. Randy asked around to see if anyone else wanted us to pick up anything for them and the Cap took him up on it. Soon Randy and I sauntered over to place our orders. He had me order first and he was about half way through getting the Cap's sandwich made when (predictably) the first run of the day was dispatched. Randy told the Subway sandwich artist that he'd be back, but we had to run and we ran back to the station and jumped in the Engine which was was waiting for us on the apron, door opened. I threw my sandwich and coin purse in so I could use both hands to hoist myself up then scooted into my seat and out of the way while Randy jumped in behind me. His radio went flying and landed somewhere near my sandwich and coinpurse at my feet while we wrestled the seat belts as we bumped along, siren screaming. WHAT A RUSH!!! Randy and I retrieved our belongings as we raced along and then we all gloved up. Randy told me the call was for a woman down, in cardiac arrest with CPR in progress. When we arrived, I estimated her to be about 65 and word was she had been down for an undetermined amount of time. The guys worked her with everything they had, at least 10 min of cpr but she was asystole which is not a shockable rhythm. They gave her sodium bicarb and epi but nothing worked. They called medical control and got permission to stop. I was surprised a little that I didn't feel much. I mean, I thought of her family and I was a little sad for them, but other than that, I didn't feel anything. I know partly it is because I was already aware of the low rate of success in reviving someone found in cardiac arrest, and I would guess that if I had personally been performing CPR on her, it might have been different too. I had never seen cpr on a real person before and it was really educational. It was sad, but they did all they could for her. They did an amazing job. I helped them clean up the scene and we hopped in to leave and promptly got another call.

The second call was a 57year old female cancer patient with fever, and in septic shock. She was at the cancer center. As we bounced around inside the cab while the lights flashed and siren wailed, I was watching out the windows.  People were waving as we drove by and giving us thumbs up signals.  Some took pictures.  We were the heroes on our way to save the day.  Only it didn't feel like it to us.  We were just doing the job, trying to make a difference.  Nothing more, nothing less.  It was odd to see and feel the appreciation of strangers not even related to the patient... as we headed out to come to the aid of people...these people who had no idea who we were going to try and help, or where, but who appreciated that we were there anyway. 

After reaching our patient all we could do there was assess her and then, after the doctor at the cancer center gave her report to them, the medics transported her to the hospital. But her daughter was there and the medics did a great job with her too. In the elevator as we took the patient to the ambulance, one of them patted her shoulder and rubbed her back offering silent comfort and support. It was very touching and a real demonstration of the compassion that attracts me to this line of work in the first place. 

When that call was over we headed back to the barn. Once inside we washed up and then Randy and I headed back to Subway to get Randy and the Cap's lunches. This time we completed the transaction and brought the sandwiches back to the station where we got to eat them without interruption.

There were quite a few awkward quiet moments at the station but throughout the day, there were times I would participate in some small conversations. As often as I thought I had something valid to contribute, I did. During lunch one of the guys' family showed up... his wife and two kids. I had a good time conversing with the firefighters and with the kids and their mom a bit too. Kids I am definitely comfortable with!

They were wondering what seagulls eat and I told them "just about anything!" I was telling them about some of the enounters with seagulls that my daycamp kids have experienced and they enjoyed that. One firefighter mentioned that although seagulls DO eat about anything, alkaseltzer probably wasn't a good idea. LOL That reminded me about squirrels and large marshmallows. I told them about how my husband as a kid used to put three marshallows on a log when he was camping and then sit back and watch the fun. A squirrel would approach cautiously and investigate. After deciding it was food, the squirrel would put one inside it's cheek and then put another inside it's other cheek. This is a pretty ridiculous site to behold because squirrel cheeks are not really meant to store something as big as large marshmallows. But it gets even funnier when the squirrel gets greedy and wants to take the third one with him. He will attempt to put the third marshmallow in his mouth but it of course will not fit. So he will set it down and try to use his little paws to rearrange the first two marshmallows and make more room. But now they're covered with squirrel spit and getting ooey gooey. The squirrell will play with his food for quite a while and end up a sticky gooey mess before giving up. I have not personally witnessed it but my husband's accounts of it have had me rolling on the floor holding my sides more than once. Of course as adults we realize this is cruel and inhumane punishment of relatively innocent little creatures and we would never dream of doing this, but the stories are fun to hear. The kids and firefighters alike were laughing by the end of the story.

After lunch, Randy and I spent some time out back of the station people watching at the pier, chatting about the fire boats and our families and so forth.  He told me that when the tide came in more so the ramps to the boats were not so steep, he'd take me down to tour them.  I was looking forward to that. 

The next call to come in was for a ferry worker and was reported as an ankle injury.  When we arrived, less than two minutes after the call came in, they let us on the ferry but as we approached the patient, who had been seated in a wheelchair, we were asked to take him into the ferry terminal to examine him so that they could prepare the ferry for its next run.  Our patient told us he was the second mate on the vessel.  Apparently there had been a dead motorcycle and he was getting ready to push it but his foot slipped on the wet deck and he felt a "burning, tearing" pain in his calf.  When we examined his calf it was very red and swollen. when we got there.  We assisted the man with getting his leg elevated while we waited for AMR to arrive for transport and Randy's partner took the man's vital signs.  When AMR arrived we assisted them in transferring the patient to their wheeled stretcher and that was that.  I felt sorry that we were not able to ease the man's obvious pain.  In fact, I found that to be difficult, realizing he was in great pain and not being able to do anything for him.  Still, he seemed grateful that we had come and he thanked us as AMR EMT's began wheeling him out.

As we were leaving the ferry terminal, Randy stopped and pointed at a sign on the wall.  He had a grin on his face.  The sign said something like, " Please keep a close eye on your small children to make sure they do not put their fingers in the holes on the benches." It was an official looking sign. Seemed a little odd to me.
Randy who was apparently seeing it for the first time explained.  It seems on a shift a month or so ago, there was a cute little two year old girl who got her finger caught in a hole on the bench and they had to saw around her stuck hand and then use snips to remove the ring of bench still attached to her.  I guess the girl was a real cutie but pretty freaked out by it all, understandably.  Her mother was taking all kinds of pictures.  Poor kid probably had pics of her oredeal plastered all over facebook! :(   Randy and the rest of the crew found the sign amusing though.

On the way back to the station, Randy's sixth sense must of kicked in.  He said to me that he wanted me to know that if they got a call on  the freeway, he liked me and all but he wanted me to stay in the truck.  He assured me it was not personal and he didn't want to offend me.  I told him I understood completely.  The last thing I wanted to do on my ride-along was to become a patient myself!

When we got back to the station this time, I started to discover that the driver of the Engine is an amazing cook! Of course, I haven't eaten anything resembling real food since I started school. My family has not kept up their end of the bargain to keep me in decent food.  Consequently I have eaten a lot of corn dogs and frozen chimichangas when they were available in the freezer.  I also had many dinners consisting of two pieces of string cheese and a 20 oz. bottle of orange juice... So maybe I would have been happy with deep fried slugs, but this guy ground his own spices... several different kinds of chili powder, dried mustard seed, salt, something smoky, paprika and I don't know what else. He let Randy and me smell it after he ground it and give our opinions as to what else it might need.  I thought it smelled great the way it was and Randy suggested something with a little more zing.  An adjustment was made and then he rubbed it under the skin and all over about 20 gigantic chicken breasts and set it aside to soak up the flavors.  He then went on to fix potatoes.

 We were only back at the station a short time when the next call came in and wouldn't you know it, it was a freeway call. The patient's chief complaint was chest pain.  He said he had felt palpitations and had chest pain so he pulled over and called 911. I guess he was following a relative so when he pulled over she did too.  Amazingly he listened to his body and didn't try to deny he had a problem.  He did the safe thing and got out from behind the wheel!  I had to stay in the rig to be safe which was perfectly understandable, but I was still bummed. From my view however, the patient appeared to be in his late 20's or perhaps his thirties, but a young man for sure. 

I wished I could be part of the patient assessment but I knew it was best I was where I was.  I made myself busy by taking in as much as I could of my surroundings.  I looked at the helmets hanging from hooks and one thing I noticed was that the helmet ornaments were different on Randy's helmet and on his partners.  His partner had an eagle but Randy had a beaver.  I took pictures.  And while I was at it, I took a picture of myself seated in the fire engine, wearing Randy's coat.  Modern cell phones are cool.  I love being able to take my own picture!



While I kept myself entertained, the crew assessed their patient and called for transport, but while they were getting him setlled on the gurney, steam started coming out from under the hood of the patient's relative's car. The firemen checked it out and she had busted a radiator hose! They taped it together and threw some water in for her.  Then one firemen drove the patient's car and followed the woman off the freeway to a pay parking lot.  We followed in the Engine. That was so nice of them!  Heroes twice in one call!

I remember coming back from the freeway run and hopping down from the cab of the Engine.  The fire station smelled heavenly!  Ordinarily, I love the smell of fire stations anyway.  Sort of a mixture of cleaning products, deisel fumes, smoke and I'm not sure what else, but that is not the smell that had my attention this time.  The aroma we were greeted with was the smell of the roasted potatoes with onions, rosemary and I don't really know what else.  I only know that it was an amazing aroma and I started to drool!

Finding ourselves with some down time, we noticed that the ramps to the fire boats were not so steep any more so Randy offered to show me the two fireboats at the station.  Who was I to complain?

The older one was pretty cool and he took me to every nook and cranny. He took the time to explain what things were for and the advantages/disadvantages of some of the features.  He commented that I should have brought a camera.  I told him I had my camera phone with me and he offered to take a few pictures of me on the boat.  He also told me there were not any secrets on the fire boats and that I should feel free to take whatever pictures I wanted to.  I was kind of shy to take pictures for some reason, but I did take a few.  Oddly, I never took pictures of any of the crew or even the Engine.  :(  The shy bug had bitten me hard that day and I'm kind of frustrated that I didn't master it but I guess that leaves me an excuse to go back.

The newer boat was really awesome.  When it was to be made some intelligent decisions were made.  Experts were consulted.  I mean, each area was designed by people who work in and with or use those areas.  For example the patient area was designed with heavy input from paramedics.  It is set up very conveniently and well stocked so that the only thing the medics have to bring on board with them is their drug box.  And the patient area is directly off an area that can be enclosed for privacy but it has special shower heads in the ceiling to facilitate decontamination procedures in case of hazardous material exposures.  I was very impressed with both the layout of this boat and all the thought and planning that went into it.

After we had spent quite some time touring the boats we headed back inside the station to find that dinner was ready.  The chicken had been grilled on the barbie along with corn on the cob and there was a pot of baked beans along with the roasted potatoes.  A large bowl of freshly cut watermelon was set on the table for dessert.  A few of the guys were giving our chef a hard time about not having any bread with dinner but I would have to say that I am of the opinion that none was needed!  Nobody hesitated to dig in and it got very quiet for a while while we all devoured the gourmet meal set before us.  I thought perhaps I had died and gone to heaven. It was absolutely amazing and there was more food than I could possibly imagine! All nine of us could have had two chicken breasts, (that seemed like they were turkey breasts by the size!) and there would still have been leftovers.

As I finished my dinner I thought about pinching myself to see if the day was real or not.  There I was in a fire station, having the time of my life, running calls (I love riding in a fire engine running code red!), hanging out with my heroes, eating food fit for royalty and I just wished the day would never end!  It was freaking awesome!  After dinner the guys all started stacking their money on the table.  Apparently buy in for the meals for the day was ten dollars.  I felt a little awkward because Randy had told me he was arranging for breakfast and dinner and lunch was on my own, but I didn't want to assume a free ride either.  I mean, these guys went out of their way for me, especially Randy and the Cap.  As I started to get into my coin purse to pay my share, Randy paid his share, but double.  He told his crew mate who was collecting that he was paying for mine too.  That was very nice of him.  I thanked him and he smiled as he told me, "you're welcome."  I still felt a little funny because nobody had asked anything of me all day.  When I asked how I could help after dinner I was told to sit down and relax.  I appreciated that hospitality but I wanted to pull my weight, so to speak.  I didn't want to come across as self-entitled.

After dinner we were watching movies  "ON DEMAND".  As my friend later called it, "Movie night with the fire department."  I commented that it was MY kind of date!  Even so I wished for at least one more run before I had to leave this adventure.

We only saw about twenty minutes of the movie, because we started it ""already in progress" and  then got another run.  Woo Hoo for me!  (Sorry, I don't mean to "be happy" about other people's misfortune, but this WAS what I came here for!  Honestly, I don't like seeing peole in pain or scared or distraught at their circumstances, but I do want to be a part of making things a little better if not, at least  more bearable.)

As we hopped into the Engine, Randy looked at me and said, "you're going to help with the work up on this one."  YES!  A formal invite!  I nodded, trying not to look too eager and to not look scared to death.  I probably failed at both but I made a valiant effort anyway.  Randy told me to glove up and pointed to his box of gloves.  I smiled and nodded.  He didn't understand why and said to me, "No, really.  Glove up."  As he was saying this I was trying desperately to get into my jacket pocket, fighting the shoulder restraint of my seat as I did so.  I said, "I am, don't worry.  I just have tiny hands.  I'd drown in those gloves.  I have my own in my pocket."  He looked surprised when I pulled out a zip log bag with several pairs of nitrile gloves three sizes smaller than the ones he had offered me.  As I put them on he told me what the call was for...  A rectal bleed at a homeless shelter.  (I thought, "oh goody yay".)   Oops.  I said it aloud.  He smiled as I mentally prepared myself for a GI bleed.  I knew it could be something else, but that was a real likelihood and I knew it.  I have never smelled one but have been told it is one of the top three worst smells imaginable, along with brain matter and rotting human flesh.

By the time I had gotten both pairs of gloves on, we were pulling up to the scene.  Upon entering we found our patient not far inside, seated on a set of stairs.  He was cyanotic around the mouth and diaphoretic, (blue and sweaty) and he was definitely sick!  He was clearly scared and distraught at his condition.  He had blood down the legs of his pants and there was a small pool of blood on the floor.  It looked like a lot but I doubt it was 8 ounces.  (I know it is measured in cc's but I can't translate that yet.)  Luckily, it turned out not to be a GI bleed. No odor.

The employees of the shelter came up with a sleeping mat for us to have him lie down on and we assisted the patient in moving from the stairs to the floor onto the mat.  One of the guys got some bulky dressing materials and instructed the man to pull his pants down some and place the dressings in his underwear then pull the pants back up snugly.  They encouraged him to do this for himself but assisted as much as was necessary. 

Meanwhile, Randy started with vital signs.  As he checked the patient's pulse, I timed his respirations.  They were 30, shallow and irregular.  (normal for an adult is 12 to twenty, with adequate and equal chest rise and fall and a regular rhythm).  Automatically I started to think, "Non rebreather mask, 15 liters per minute." 

When I reported it, Randy handed me the oxygen cyllander and a nasal cannula that he had removed from the jump kit.  "Set up the nasal cannula and get the O2 started," he said as he set the jump kit down between us.  He looked at the patient and told him, "My partner is going to get you set up with some oxygen, alright?"  The man nodded and I began working.  I took the tank out and checked the psi to make sure it was well above 200, then I checked to see if the O2 was "on." (I had no idea if they left the valve open when the flowmeter was off or how they put their equipment "in service.")  I don't remember if it was on or if I turned it on but when I made sure it was ready to go I attached the tubing of the cannula to the port and set the flowmeter.  I was about to put the nasal cannula on the patient when the Captain kneeled beside me and took it from me.  He said to me, "What do you have that set at?"  Confidently I answered, "15 Liters per minute."  He said matter of factly, "No, not that." and waited for me to make the correction.  Immediately I realized my mistake.  A non rebreather mask is what I was taught to use first in this type of situation, but Randy had given me a nasal cannula.  15 liters per minute would be a hurricane in the nostrils!  "Nasal cannula!" I said and smacked my forehead.  I set the flow meter down.  "4 Liters per minute," I said as I corrected it.  The Captain put the nasal cannula on the patient.  About that time the paramedics arrived and took over the patient's care. 

Randy's partner came to me and noticed a smudge on my glove as I stood up.  "Did you get blood on your gloves?" he asked me.  I had already seen the smudge and determnined it to be dirt from the O2cyllander.  "No," I said.  "What is that?" he asked pointing to the smudge.  "It's dirt, I already checked." He asked if I was sure and I said that I was. He then informed me quietly that our patient had hepatitis C.

I stepped back out of the way but wanted to do what I could to be of assistance.  I knew the best thing I could do was assist with the patient's ongoing assessment.  I knew we needed updated vitals, but I wanted to stay out of the way of the paramedics so I started with respirations.  They hadn't improved much and I said so.  I didn't have my stethoscope or BP cuff  and others were working around the paramedics to assist as well so I stayed on respirations.  After four more counts of thirty seconds each, the respirations had dropped to 24 but were still irregular.  I reported to the Captain who was recording it all.  The paramedics were almost through packaging the patient for transport at that time.  Cap said to me, "So he is improving then," looking to me to agree.  I shook my head affirmatively but repeated that his respirations were still irregular.  Cap wrote the information down.  Then Randy whispered to me "Did you catch that the patient has Hepatitis C?" and checked me for blood.  I nodded affirmatively. 

One of the employees of the shelter began yelling, "Close off the bathroom.  We've got Hep C here!"  He kept yelling that the patient had Hep C, affording no dignity or privacy to the patient who willingly shared that information with us.  We aren't sure how the employee caught wind of it as we all did our best to keep it very quiet.  I felt really bad for our patient.  It bothered me how scared he was and how he kept asking us, "What do you think it causing it?"  All we could do was assure him that we were going to take good care of him and get him to a hospital so the doctors could find out. 

We disinfected everything we touched, handles to boxes and bags we carried in, the stethoscope, etc.  Then we picked it all up and carried it back out, following our patient being wheeled out on the stretcher by the paramedics.  As we began to leave, the place broke out in applause.  It was a weird feeling, they were clapping because we came to do our job.  On the way out, another potential resident for the night was coming in and puking all over the entryway floor.  We did our best not to step in it as we left.

Once we were all back on the truck,  the Captain announced that nobody set foot in the station until we were disinfected.  As we drove through downtown, I noticed people pointing to us, and kids waving, and BIG kids waving (read adults here), and pictures were being taken.  I pointed out that one man was trying to take our picture while we were at a red light.  He was on Randy's partner's side of the truck.  Randy gave his partner rabbit ears.  LOL

Once we were at the station Cap instructed Randy's partner to make up a bucket of bleach water to rinse our shoes in right away.  Normally when we arrive back at the station, everyone jumps out (except the driver, LOL) and the Engine is then backed into its bay.  I had been instructed from the beginning to stay seated until we were parked in the bay.  This time, I wasn't sure what to do.  We stopped and I didn't get out.  I wasn't supposed to set foot in the station.  I waited until Randy came to the door.  "Are you okay?" he asked.  "Yeah, I just wasn't sure what to do, Cap said not to set foot in the station."  He chuckled and offered me a hand to assist me out of the truck.  I jumped down.  He said his partner would have the bucket ready in a minute.  I followed him behind the Engine and waited my turn to rinse my shoes.  Then the floor was mopped from the bucket to the doorway and all the way around the Engine.  The floor of the cab was wiped down with disinfectant wipes and then we all returned to the living area of the station.

Randy and I talked afterward.  He told me I had done a good job.  "Except for the mistake with the O2," I agreed.  He smiled at me.  "It was no big deal," he said.  "It wouldn't have hurt anything and it is an easy mistake to make.  You were excited.  We could have used an NRB on him, we just didn't.  But you'll never make that mistake again.  Don't worry about it, you did just fine."  I really appreciated that neither Randy or the Cap criticized or scolded for the mistake.  In fact, they never brought it up, I did.  Randy and Cap were excellent teachers.  They taught me gently and patiently.    For that I am very grateful and appreciative.  Every call we had been on so far had only served to confirm that this is what I want to do. And I was treated  like a professional.  For that too, I am grateful and appreciative. 

Our last call before I went home was a "fire" call. Notice the quotes.  It came in as "a transient with a cooking fire and lots of smoke."

It was only a few blocks and we did not use the siren.  We arrived and it was indeed a transient and a cooking fire, fully and safely contained in a small hibachi type grill. He was griling fish and potatoes. There wasn't much smoke at all. He was along side a vacant building using a few stacked pallets for a table where his things were, but the grill was safely on the ground. The firemen admired his dinner, inserting a generous dose of smiles and humanity and told them why they had come. They said that they could see there was no problem however and as far as they were concerned this was simply a man enjoying a good meal.  They asked him where he got his fish and told them it smelled good.  They told him to enjoy his dinner and that they were going to go.  The man was all smiles.  I loved how they handled it.

Once back in the rig though the Captain was very upset. He said he was sick and tired of property owners trying to get the fire department to be the heavy. He said the man wasn't doing anything wrong and should enjoy his meal in peace.

We got back to the barn at 8:45 and Randy and I chatted a bit, and he printed me out their EMT flow chart, a cheat sheet to walk through the steps of patient assessment and treatment. Then I decided since it was 2100 hours I ought to respect their time and make my leave. I thanked Randy for hosting me and for a very enjoyable day.  I made the rounds to thank and say goodbye to the men who were still in the day room.  Most of the men were upstairs in the sleeping quarters by now so I didn't get to say goodbye to them.  Randy walked me out to my car. 

He told me he hoped I had enjoyed myself and gotten something out of my day and I assured him that I had. He told me I was welcome to do this again anytime and that he hoped that I would.  I told him I would LOVE to do it again, perhaps this summer after I finish my class, just to keep fresh all the things I've learned before I become employed in this line of work.  He wished me a safe trip home and then I left.  I cannot believe I left the station without getting a pic of the crew, the engine and without purchasing a shirt which was available in the station. I was a little high from all the thrill I guess.  SIGH.  Oh well, as I said before, it gives me an excuse to come back!  This was without a doubt, the most awesome day I have ever had.  And I know now FOR SURE this is what I want to do!

Until I blog again, stay safe!

Hotflash out.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Report From Ladder Company 40 BOOTS!!

Hi Team!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have gotten way behind here and I did not really take notes either so I am going to report the next few weeks of info to you here only mentioning the few important highlights.  But first, I forgot to tell you about something in the last post.

On Friday, May 21, 2010, our local Fire Department conducted another training burn which our Fire Buff Battalion participated in.   I wasn't able to be there very long.  Again, I had to be a grown-up and go to work.  SIGH. 
Here is what our fire department posted about it on their blog site:
The property is part of the “From Ashes to Homes” project with (our city and county) Chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The structure needed to be removed to clear the way for the creation of 11 new homes for hard working low income families. The new neighborhood will include sidewalks, streetlights, and a community area with recreation space.

This all day event was a great opportunity for (our local) Fire Department to conduct live fire training in a controlled setting and we were grateful to be able to assist Habitat for Humanity with the development of their very important project.

Go here to see a slideshow:

May 23-29, 2010 Days 244-250

Last week, just prior to the training burn, Cat, our Fire Buff President called me and said words to the effect of, "You have your bunker pants don't you?"

I said to her something like, "No, we haven't gotten mine yet.  You said we would when we had time and, well, we haven't made time yet."  I mean, it isn't like we haven't been busy or anything!!  In fact, I've had all the time in the world between school, work, studying, fire buffing and.... oh yeah, SLEEPING!

Cat then recalled that we had talked about that and told me we would have to do that very soon.  This after saying something like, "Damn.  It's going to be rainy for the burn and they would have been nice for you to have."  It's okay, I won't melt... I'm not that sweet!

Well, at the burn we talked to the man in charge of that.  And he told us to come see him on Tuesday. =)

Tuesday, Bob (Cat's husband) and I went to the Fire HQ and met Lee, the man in charge of that.  Lee had already picked out a pair he thought might be suitable for me. He had me try them on knowing full well we would have to shorten them.  (Remember, I am only 4'10"!)    I found myself trying them on in a storage room where there were no chairs.  Now, firefighters put these things on in a hurry.  But... Not I.  I put one leg in, no problem.  It was nearly five miles too long so I scrunched the leg of them up my leg until my foot popped out the bottom end and planted my foot back on the ground.  So far so good.  But then I had to put my other leg in.  There was nothing I could hang onto because I needed both hands to hold on to the pants.  Lifting my second leg up and into them proved challenging due to the fact that the pants are naturally bulky and when there is an extra five miles attached to each leg the problem is compounded.  After an awkward minute or so I almost had my foot going in when suddenly I began to list to my left.  I realized there was nothing I could do to save myself so I just threw my hands up in the air and prepared for the inevitable landing while saying something smooth and cool like...


"Don't worry, we're not gonna let you fall!" I heard as Lee dashed over to save me on the left side and Bob reached over to save me from the right.   Whew!!  Disaster narrowly avoided!  I could see and hear it playing out at work... 

"Mrs. Myers, how did you break your arm?" 

"Oh, honey, it was simple.  I fell from my fire pants!"

Once I was steadied, Lee held onto me firmly as I got the other leg in and pulled my pants up.  I was quite amazed that Lee, having only seen me a handful of times, picked out a pair that fit me well (going around).  Lee and Bob then helped me with the red suspenders.  They each adjusted a side as small as they would go.  Wouldn't you know it?  Three inches to big.  They will have to tailor my suspenders along with my pants!

Next we went for boots.  Amazingly, Lee found a pair that worked. I have very small feet (women's size 6).  Luckily I also have very wide feet.  I usually wear a larger shoe than a size six because of it.  Lee found one women's size six left boot and it fit very snugly.  But, for some odd reason, there was only another left boot and not a right one.  That isn't going to work.  He hunted around a while and came up with another style of boot and it was also a size six.  But they were a  men's size six.  I tried them on.  They were a fair bit looser, but not uncomfortably so.  I tried walking in them.  My feet were not slipping around.  They were more comfortable than the smaller left boot I had tried on first.  I told Lee so and he responded with,  "They're yours then!"   I have BOOTS!  Real firefighting boots!  COOL!

Here they are:  Photobucket

Okay, that's it for now.  I'll keep going as time permits until I get all caught up, then I will try to stay on top of this blog again. 

Until next time... Stay safe!

Hotflash out.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Report From Ladder Company 40 Play time!

May 16-22, 2010    Days 238-243

Hi Team!!

Tuesday  2-11 (2 alarm) House fire  and the Medics let me play!

It was a crappy day out, pouring down rain.  I was between shifts with my daily split shift job when I heard the call come in for a signal 1-11.  The familiar feeling of adrenaline rushed over me and I jumped into action, grabbing the car keys, double checking that my gear was ready to go and grabbing my fire department ID off of my coat to clip to my viser.  It comes in handy when I arrive at fire scenes where the police are blocking off access.  Once I was set I "raced" within legal limits to get there.

What I arrived to:

Bob and Cat had already gotten the canteen set up so I joined them.  As I walked by the burning house (I was across the street) the smoke hurled my direction in a gust of wind and it choked me and made my eyes water.  Nasty, dangerous stuff that smoke is.  I walked quickly and got free of it but not before the smell of it permeated my clothes and hair.

After being directed to move the ice chest and cookies closer to the medic unit being used for firefighter rehab, Bob and I were invited to climb into their rig and out of the rain.  Bob declined but I, being an EMT student and curious, took advantage of the opportunity to check out the rescue rig.  One of the paramedics was inside getting things ready to check out the next crew due for rehab.  He was friendly and made conversation with me.  I told him I was an EMT student and he seemed genuinely interested, asking me several questions about what I had learned so far, where I went to school and how soon I would finish.  Then he told me I could stay and help if I wanted to. 

I looked at my watch.  DAMN!  (sometimes I HATE being a grown up!)  I had to leave in 10 minutes to go to work.  But I really didn't want to pass up this opportunity.  I decided to call my boss.  I usually start work at 2 but kids don't arrive until 2:30 so I could technically let my staff set up and show up just in time to receive kids and no harm would be done.  My boss was really kind about it.  She allowed me to stay.  It wasn't much time, but it was better than none!

The medics have to take the firefighter's blood pressure, carbon monoxide level, oxygen saturation level, and pulse.  I had hoped to help with blood pressure and pulse as Scott, the paramedic had mentioned.  Unfortunately, it was pretty crowded in there with three or four guys for rehab plus two paramedics and me.  And they were using an electronic device to measure the BP and pulse and I could not reach it from where I was.  And the most I did was assist with equipment.  They would put the cuff on one guy and while they took his vitals they passed around the gadget that measures the carbon monoxide levels as they blow into it.  This is a new device they are using and the comments being made were quite entertaining, but this is a relatively family friendly blog so I won't go into detail.  However, there was a lot of joking and a lot of having to do the test over becuase it is very hard to blow slowly into a device when one is laughing.  As one set of vitals was finished, the BP cuff would be passed to the next guy on the bench seat and the process would begin again.  The guy closest to me started to put the cuff on himself and was struggling so I offered to help.  I reached over and closed the velcro cuff around his arm for him in the same position that he had applied it but the paramedic looked at it and said, "that isn't right," and took it off and started over.  I felt about one inch tall.  I KNEW it wasn't right but I assumed that the firefighter knew what he was doing because I have been under the impression that all of our guys are EMT trained and who was I, a mere student, to question them about it.  Apparently not. Lesson learned.  I assisted for the remainder of the time I was there and did not make that mistake twice.

While it was very minor part to play, I still enjoyed it and learned from it.  The guys were great.  They treated me like one of them.  And even though their humor is often off color, (no big surprise there!) I felt privileged that they did not act differently because I was there.  They felt free to let of steam in their usual manner.  That is very important to me, working with the fire buff battalion, knowing that the firefighters can be totally free to be themselves and not have to be mindful that what they say may be offensive to us or upsetting.  This is a stressful job and they need to cope in any way that works for them.

I felt priveliged too, when Scott asked a paramedic from another unit about the occupants of the house.  He started to answer and then looked at me and said, "We have HIPPA."  (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act -keeps everything about patients completely confidential except on a need to know basis, in a nutshell.)  Then  he looked at me and asked if I would mind stepping out for a moment.  Before I could answer Scott said, "It's okay, she's an EMT student.  She can stay."  And that was that.  They spoke freely and I got to be in on it!  COOL.

All too soon, my magical extra half hour was gone.  With a sigh I thanked Scott and the other firefighters who were around at the time and headed out and back to work. 

And when I had to leave for work it looked liket his:

The fire started in the kitchen, apparently.  There was a child inside as well as a teenaged care taker.  Both got out and took a ride to the hospital.  There were  various reports that gave conflicting information on the extent of injuries, ages of the occupants and such and I cannot say with one hundred percent certainty exactly what is true so I will not speculate here.

Here is what our fire department posted on their website about the incident:

The first arriving company found fire and smoke showing from the main floor of the two story turn of the century house. Crews battled the blaze with hand lines and initiated search and rescue tactics. A second alarm for additional resources was called as the intensity of the fire resulted in a collapsing roofof the primary structure and significant exposure damage to the adjacent house at 1732 S. Ainsworth.

A passing by off duty firefighter and neighbors assisted in getting all of the occupants out of both of the houses. Two of those occupants were transported to local area hospitals.

Sadly the house was lost.  The neighbor to the left had some roof damage and some serious water damage inside.  The Red Cross stepped in and assisted with temporary housing for both families. 

When I arrived back at work, it was stil pouring rain and I had to park at the far end of the parking lot so I kept my fire coat on because it is waterproof.  I ran into my class area with it on and the kids immediately zeroed in on me.  Who could blame them?  I stood out in that bright orange coat!  Usually when I address the class at this time of day, it is hard to get them quiet and get their attention.  This time was an exception.  All eyes were on me, expectantly and it was dead quiet.  They KNEW if I was wearing that coat it meant only one thing.  I got to the front of the class and the questions started flooding out of their mouths.  I told them what I had been up to and warned them that I smelled bad from the smoke.  Of course, as soon as they had the opportunity they were all up and around me sniffing! LOL  One of them later asked me, "Mrs. Myers, why are you so dirty?"  I laughed.  I told him I wasn't dirty I had just been walking through the smoke from the fire and it smelled bad.  He just assumed that if one was smelly one must be dirty.  I love my kids!


Okay, now, here's the thing...

Obviously, this post is WAY overdue.  And I haven't posted for a few weeks now.  I was so busy with school, and so stressed out that I kind of got to the point where I actually avoided this blog.  I can't believe I did that because this blog is very important to me and you, my readers, have been an amazing source of encouragement and support.  I am sorry if I let you down and I hope you will udnerstand and forgive me for it.  I let my self down too because, some day as I reach all of my goals, I will look back on this and realize I missed some important parts of the journey in my documentation.  But... life goes on.

I don't have my weekly "grades" to give you for this post or the next several.  All I can say is I have studied hard every week, I haven't drank near enough water and I am still not finding time to go out of my way to exercise but I am really looking forward to getting my life back when class is over so that I can do just that.

I guess I don't have much else to say for now.

Stay safe my friends!

Hotflash out.