Well! Last night was one of the most enjoyable, most exciting and most educational experiences of my career as a volunteer EMT.

The weather was delicious. I arrived to find J2 hanging outside the station with Old P. Old P is a retiree in his late 50's who still runs on the squad and drives tiller on the truck. He used to be a diver and very much enjoys the firehouse. He's the one who recruited me to this station and I like him a lot. J2 has some shopping that needs to be done before she heads to Iraq for 3 weeks. She asks me to ride 2nd so she can take the ambulance. Sure.

Sick baby:

On our way out of the parking lot of the store we get a call. Sick or hurt infant, not sure which. ZOOOM! we take off. At one particularly full intersection, J2 goes against the flow of traffic and cuts straight through the intersection. Wheee!! I'm more comfortable talking on the air now. I get address confirmation from dispatch and keep them informed of our status.

I'm on maps and I nail the coordinates perfect. 50 yard dash, 3 flights of stairs, bang on the door. Mom opens the door with a beautiful, and I mean beautiful, baby girl on her arm. She's alert, good color and very interested in this new person. Mom states that she turned for a second on the phone and heard a "thump." Baby had rolled off the 2 foot high bed onto the floor. Mom got scared and called us. We get mom to sit. Baby's got a strong, steady pulse at 100 bpm and clear lungs with regular rhythm. No signs of injury or trauma. No guarding either. I give her a full check for injuries or tenderness. Nothing. The whole while she's oriented and interested. Sparkly eyes and perfect features. The baby doesn't protest to anything until J2 starts to speak.

You see, J2 has no volume control. When children are present, she has no pitch control either. She does the coo coo baby thing and Mom, baby and I all wince in unison. Baby starts to cry. J2 keeps going! WTF? I had a calm, compliant baby here and J2's making her crazy! *Sigh!*

On our way back, we discuss Dinner. We decide we want to eat from the Italian place nearby. It was where I had my first job and I had worked there for 5 years before heading off to sea. Good place. Since I was planning on doing a 10 mile training run on Saturday, a big mess of pasta would be perfect. We get back to the station to see if anyone else wants to get in on the "food run" and I discover that J1, my favorite hotshot ambulance driver, was on duty and had actually signed up earlier as the duty ambulance driver. It appears that J2 came in, without signing on and just took over. I convince her to join us on the run. I kind of needed her to be there as a buffer between me and J2 and I was hoping that J2 might decide to head out early. She's driving me nuts.

There seems to be some bad blood between the Js. Partly due to J2's lack of a filter between her brain and mouth and partly because of J1's tendency to hold a grudge. J2 is one of those people who lack in social skills to a degree that you begin to wonder if there's something wrong with her. She's extremely loud and enthusiastic. She's very knowledgeable about her work but she cannot pickup any cues from anyone. She seems to not even pay attention to what anyone else is doing. It's horrible to have someone like that as an EMS partner. You have to be so direct with her that you have to constantly choose between her yelling in your ear while you're listening to breath sounds or risking offending her to the point where she'll sulk and throw tantrums all night. Too much drama.

Well, J1 and I couldn't shake her from the ambulance even though she's leaving for a combat zone in 2 days and claims she has a billion things to do. Well, J1 and I decide we're not going to let that ruin our fun and we promise each other that we're going to be nice. We grit our teeth, make those rictus-like grins and say "Be nice!" at each other in a snarl. HA! Turns out we had fun. We took our dinners to a park near the firehouse and ate at a picnic table. Afterwards, the Js rode the swings while I cracked jokes about making our own patients. "Only one of you is allowed to get hurt so we have a driver and an EMT for the transport, OK?" The weather was warm and breezy but the radio reminded us that the night held promise. Personal injury/assault, personal injury/MVA, unresponsive person, EMS to assist PD. It's going in all around us as the night gets ready to swing. A citizen stops her car.

"Is everything OK?"

"Yes, ma'am. If the EMTs in your community are bored, that's a good thing, right?"

Big smile and a nod of the head, "Right!"

Back at the firehouse it's a soccer ball in the back parking lot. We're all working up a sweat and having fun. "Don't hit my car!" We've all got an ear out to the dispatch feed. It's like we have a sense of something looming. There's a pressure building and it's about to burst. Nobody wants to miss it.

Then it comes. Motor vehicle accident, one car on fire, injured person in car, off duty FF on scene. Squad and Ambulance roll. I'm thinking burns, BSI, working the maps, but I'm focused. I'm ready for the worst. I'm also calm. There's a little kernel of absolute peace inside me. It's the same feeling I used to get before I went into the boxing ring or before I walk on stage opening night. I'm ready. J2 is driving, J1 is riding 3rd. Our chief gets on scene way ahead of us and radios back that the injured person is NOT in the burning car and then he directs us where to stage. we pass a sedan fully involved in flames. The headlights are the only part that is not actually burning as it sits on the shoulder. The trees above it are catching fire and there is a perfect circle of fire around the car in the grass.

We stage, I hop out, put on my turn out gear and get to work. J2 has already pulled our trauma and extrication bags. We head over to the car with the patient in it. The rescue squad has already started setting up and they're going to work on taking the roof off the big american sedan. The volunteer FF is in the car holding cervical spinal immobilization for the driver. J1 goes in and takes over for him. She had to work hard to convince him to leave and only after the rescue crew hollered at him did he get out of the way. C'mon man, you got no protective gear, you're already the hero, let us work.

J1 calls back for stretcher and backboard. I join J2 to help. Back at the ambulance she tells me "You shouldn't have left your patient!" she's in her tizzy mode: moving too fast, too emotional, caught up in the drama of the moment. I put my hand on her arm, "I've NEVER worked an extrication, J1 has the patient and we're all a team. Got it?" J2 gives me a sulky look and we get back to work. I hate drama.

Back at the car, the patient's in and out of consciousness. I'm trying to get in and help J1 but I'm also getting shoved and knocked about by the extrication crew. I don't know the dance yet. Medic's on the way. Roof comes off in a flash (our rescue squad rocks!) and we get her boarded, on the cot an headed to the medic unit that is arriving. The medics ask J1 and I to stay and J2 to drive the unit to the landing site for the helo that's been called in. Clothes cut off, take vitals, Medics start an IV. The patient is starting to come around and become combative. She's oriented somewhat and is responding to verbal commands. She complains of pain only in her face which is bloodied and a little bashed up. Oh, did I mention she's drunk? You probably already guessed that. Seems she rear-ended the currently burning car at a pretty fast clip. Amazingly enough, the driver of the Sedan-flambé was totally uninjured and refused treatment.

The patient is stable and the helo is 10 minutes out. She's breathing without assistance and her vitals are stable and within norms. At one point earlier one of the medics asked me to help him set up the IV and I told him I didn't know how. Now that we had some time, I asked him to show me. He was more than happy and our wait for the helo turned into a sociable instruction session for J1 and I. I think the medics enjoyed teaching us as much as we enjoyed learning. We talked about drugs, IVs, what their thinking and diagnoses were and more. The helo arrived and their medics took over. I helped carry the patient to the helicopter and off she went. It was a little nostalgic as this service uses the same model of helicopter the Coast Guard uses. We helped the medics clean their unit and we went back in service right away.

On our way back, we get called again. MVA on the highway north of us. Then another! We're screaming down the road with sirens wailing. J2 is in full "tizzy-mode." She's distracted, talking from one subject to another and can't focus. I notice this guy in a souped up honda is not getting out of our way, We surge ahead and cut him off to get to the exit ramp and he's screaming at us. That's when I notice that our siren's wailing but our lights are not on! J2 notices this as well and promptly turns them on.

"Switch must be broken!"


Our chief gets to the scene first and, discovering it to be a minor fender- bender with no injuries, puts us back in service.

Back at the station, J2 is over my shoulder telling my how to fill out my paperwork but she had refused to do the paperwork herself. My restraint only goes so far and I shoo her away. Strangely, this is what offends her the most. She goes off to sulk in the other room. I look over to J1 and she's grinning that rictus-grin, "Be nice!" I love her!

We got together with all the squad team for a debrief. J2 did not deign to attend. I candidly asked these guys what I should have done and how I should go about balancing the needs of the patient and the need to stay out of their way. They were candid, fair and helpful. We all reviewed and worked on figuring out how to do it better. I don't feel the outsider any more. My chief called me by my first name and consulted with me about the patient disposition. The squad crew greet me when I come and go. Good. I'm a sociable creature and if I get along with these men and women well, there's more opportunity to learn for me.

The night did not stop for the rest of the area. Calls were going out all over the radio but none for our ambulance. Our rescue squad went on a call for a MVA where they had to cut out the dead one to get to the live one. I stayed at the station to provide staffing for the Ambulance. I could hear the ambulances for every other neighboring jurisdiction go out. Personal Injury/assault, scene not secure; Personal Injury accident; trouble breathing; unresponsive; the night was hopping but my ambulance was not. At 4 in the morning, I went home.

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