Saturday, April 3, 2010

Report From Ladder Company 40 What In the World Am I Doing?!

March 28-April 3, 2010  Days 189-195

I have been giving this new and improved blog some thought and I realize, that under my current circumstances, it is going to be very difficult to get a good grade for myself here.  I decided not to worry too much about it though and here is why:  In class this week we learned about vital signs.  The first set is called the baseline vitals.  This set of vital signs is a basis for determining how well our patient is doing when compared to later readings.  We can see through trending if the patient is staying stable or if the patient's condition is deteriorating.  When I thought about that, I thought the same is true of my grade in this blog.  Each week's grade is a baseline vital for the following week.  Keeping that in mind and knowing that I am giving my all in this endeavor to become an EMT, I feel a lot better about the grade, even though it doesn't meet the standard of where I WANT it to be.

This week's report card:

PT Who has time to exercise? D
R&R What's That? C
Health B-
Study Hall A+ and Extra Credit

Total grade for the week C+

Monday was the first day of class for me.  I hope that the weather was not a sign of things to come.  All day there was nothing but a giant storm cloud following me around.  One minute we had a brief glimpse of blue sky and sunshine then the angry black clouds would roll in and release their wrath of rain and hail upon us.  When they were through, they would quietly disappear and the sunlight would show for another moment before the next regiment rolled in.  The wind was relentless and unforgiving too.  All in all, it was an ugly day outside.  Great day for the first day of EMT school.  SIGH

I had been nervous and anxious about the first class all day.  One of my child care parents came in to  pick up his son before I left for school and when he saw me he asked me if I was okay.  I wondered why he would ask.  I was smiling.  I was engaged in activities with children.  I told him I was fine and asked, "Why?  Is my face red or something?"  (I have Rosacea, a skin condition that causes blotchy redness, among other things) Sometimes when the Rosacea acts up people think I am sick or getting sick so I assumed this was why he had asked.  He said that I looked fine it was just that God had really put it on his heart to pray for me.  WOW!  It is always so special to be loved and acknowledged by God. 

When five o'clock rolled around, I waved goodbye to my staff and the kids and I did something I have not done in over twenty years... I went to school.  I walked into my classroom about 35 minutes early.  There were two young male students in their seats, no where near each other.  I felt very shy and uncomfortable but, since I have been trying hard to overcome my shyness, I painted on a smile and walked in.  I made eye contact with the nearest student to me and said brightly, "Hi!"   I got absolutely no response whatsoever.  Really.  I glanced at the other student, across the room and he didn't look up at me.  I sat down at the seat in front of the first student and began looking through my text book again, reviewing the material that was to be covered that evening.  Rough start!

Shortly after that another young male student sat next to the one I had chosen to sit in front of,  the one who had so blatantly ignored me.  Their conversation was annoying at best and I realized I was sitting in front of two very immature boys who were going to annoy me to no end if I did not move.  Several students later, one walked in who was female and roughly my age.  She sat in the front row, which is where I really wanted to sit to begin with but didn't for some reason so I moved and introduced myself.  Her name was Cindy and she was at least friendly.  We chatted for a few minutes and presently, Adrian, a young man who had been in my CPR for the Professional Rescuer class spotted me and sat next to me on the other side.  I was very glad to see that he had made it into the class!

Our instructor, Tom, is a fire chief and paramedic for a local county fire district.  (We have a second instructor, Cliff, who is an Assistant Chief for another neighboring county fire district.)  Tom told us that we were no longer going to have any friends, social life or time for family or anything else for the next three months.  He gave us our course outline, walked us through the process of becoming an EMT Basic in Washington State and launched into the night's materials.  He was kind and understanding about people's schedules and personal lives but firm about his policies and the DOT requirements for the course.  At the end of the night I went home, expecting to be entering a dark house where everyone was asleep only to find out that my hubby waited up for me for my first day of school.  As soon as he hugged me and asked how it was, I burst into tears!  I was so overwhelmed.  I don't know how I am going to go to school and work full time.  I know God knows all about it, but I have to say, I am stressed out.

Tuesday morning I did something I have never done before.  I attended the housing ceremony for our local fire department's new Engine 10. As anyone familiar with the fire service knows, traditions are an important part of any department's history.  Some traditions universal to fire departments include bag pipes, red fire engines and dalmations. It is even a tradition that if one firefighter gets shown on television he or she must buy icecream for the rest of their crew.  Another tradition is the housing ceremony.

Housing ceremonies date back to the 19th century when  fire apparatus was usually a horse drawn wagon filled with water.  Even back then, when a fire company bought a new fire wagon, they invited the community to come see it.  After the community came to view it the fire crew would "push" the wagon back into the firehouse because horses don't easily go in reverse! 

While we no longer use horse drawn wagons for fighting fires, the tradition of a housing ceremony still exists in varying forms today.

The program was about a half an hour long, maybe a little shorter.  The prelude consisted of a lovely piece by a piper from our city's honor guard.  It was followed by a short speech by the fire department's spokesperson.  After that the Fire Chief spoke of the many runs that Engine 10 has made in her tenure with our department.  Our station 10 is the busiest in our state and the chief spoke of what great care that her crews gave her to keep her in such good shape.

The COO of the Darley Company gave a short presentation about what remarkable shape the old Engine 10 was still in.  He spoke of the demanding specs that the city required of his company when ordering apparatus and how Darley Company had worked so hard to meet those needs in great detail.  His speech was followed by the Vice President of Spartan Motors who shared similar information from the Spartan Comany's perspective.

Then came the fun.  "A" shift pulled out old Engine 10 onto the apron and the guests of the ceremony were given an opportunity to look her over one last time and take pictures before the crew "pushed" her off the apron for the last time.  Then  "B" Shift backed the new Engine 10 onto the apron.  Again there was time given for pictures and admiration of the new rig before the invocation and Blessing were given by the Chaplain Emeritus (he retired after many decades of service with the department this past January).  His prayer was beautiful asking that Engine 10 and her crews would be a blessing to the community in their service to it and praying for protection for the crews and citizens they serve.  I was very touched by it.

Once that was done, the community was invited to assist in pushing Engine 10 into the bay to begin her career and service.  I was first to take position on the front passenger corner and together we all "pushed" as the "B" Shift Chaffeur backed her into place.

It was a beautiful ceremony and not something I will forget for a long time.  After it was over, fire fighters and their families, administrators, citizens and the like all visited and shared light refreshments.  I made my rounds to the few that I knew and then went home to study.

Here are some facts about the retiring Engine 10 which was also a Darley Pumper on a Spartan Chassis:

Engine 10 has proudly served our city's South End neighborhood since 1996.  In it's lifetime it went on nearly 60,000 calls and travelled an amazing 201,428 miles in serving our community.

Some facts I learned about the new Engine 10:

The new Engine 10 is a state of the art fire engine.  E-10 has enhanced safety features and is compliant with EPA emission and fuel conservation standards.  The electronic pump and valve controls (for regulating the water supply) have been improved and designed to increase dependability and efficiency.  Engine 10 is 9 feet 5 inches tall and 31 feet 8 inches long.  It has a 1,500 gallon per minute Darley pump and two booster line reels.  The Engine carries 30 gallons of foam, 2,500 feet of hose and has a 500 gallon water tank.  It also contains a Class A compressed air foam system.


Tuesday after the ceremony I hit the books then went back to work.  I came home and hit the books some more before going to bed.  Just before going to bed, I did something I really didn't want to do.  In fact, I hated to do it, but it was the right thing to do.  I used my fire phone and put myself, "Canteen 7" out of service for the next 96 hours.  It was not a choice really.  Our code is family first, work second (including school) and Buffing third.  I will not be able to respond to many fire calls until I finish school.  I will be in service when it is appropriate to do so, but this class is definitely my priority.  I want to live the dream! 

The rest of the week consisted of getting up in the morning, going to work, coming home and studying, going back to work, then on Wednesday and Thursday I went back to school and finally came home to bed.  I didn't make it to bed before 11:15 any night this week until  Friday night when  I came home from work and spent about two hours goofing off (catching up my email, mostly).  Then it was back to the books until I went to bed about 11, but I didn't get up until 6.  SEVEN WHOLE HOURS!!!  WOO HOO!  When I got up at six I went back to the books and finshed up preparing for today's class.  Today we had lecture for four hours on lifting and moving patients and taking baseline vitals.  Then after an hour lunch break we had three more hours of class to practice our skills.  Monday will be our first test, both written and practicals.  EEK!  Class was over at 4:00 but I stayed after when Tom asked for a few volunteers.  (I'm not a dummy!  When the instuctor asks for volunteers, it is a learning opportunity and I was not about to pass it up!)  He had a few of us stay after and participate in a test for a former student who had taken an incomplete last quarter due to some extenuating circumstances.  One of us got to be his patient, the victim of a car accident, and the rest of us were part of the student's crew and were directed by him as he took charge of the scene as the EMT.

All in all it has been a very hard, challenging and trying week.  I spent many hours studying, few sleeping and pretty much none recreating.  I spent mostly driving time praying and did a fair amount of crying in private moments and while talking to God.  I am feeling a little better right now and I am still glad I am doing this.

I don't know what I would have done with out all the support I have gotten from you, my team members, my friends, co-workers, family and the families that I serve at work.  I am very blessed.

Stay safe, Team!

Hotflash out.