Maddog rides the fire engine! Unresponsive patients respond!

Well, the ambulance developed a pretty major fuel leak. I found out later that it blew a fuel hose and my chief could tell everywhere we drove that night by the trail of diesel fuel we left all over town. I wince at the thought of the sheen that is heading to the Atlantic Ocean as I write this.

Well, I go to bed with the thought that the ambulance is out of service and I'll sleep all night.


At 4am the bell rings and I'm up, dressed and in the vehicle bay before I realize we have no ambulance in service. I do hear:

"...Medic local: 402 _____ Road, Apartment 103, Unresponsive person, Engine XXX (our engine), Ambulance XXX (the ambulance from my old station), Medic XX (from earlier that night), respond on channel 2."

"There's no ambulance!" Complains I.

"C'mon, Maddog! Get on the engine, It's a medic call! We'll get there first!" says LT.

I'm on the engine!

"Get the suction unit and the AED off the Ambulance!" I shout.

"Right!" says another firefighter and, just like that, It's done.

In the engine, the Cap'n hands me the suction unit and the AED. Woodchuck is in the seat next to me. LT is driving and Jr. is riding officer.

"I'll carry the AED and the suction unit. Cap'n, you follow me with the aide bag and, Woodchuck, come up with the O2 kit. Ok?"

They nod. Once again, I'm in charge. I'm thinking, unresponsive at 4am means bad business. If they're truly unresponsive, they're either really dead or recently dead. AED, O2, Suction, I'm ready for the worst.

The address is right next to where my parents lived when they moved to this town in 1966. I'm not the first out of the engine but I'm the first to the door (runner, me). The door is opened by a worried looking woman in her 20's and I see a man of the same age sitting on the couch.

"Do you have any pets or dogs in this apartment?" I ask.

"No, No pets. Just another roommate." Says the woman with an accent. (German? Russian?)

"Where's the..." I start to ask, thinking the roommate is in a back bedroom, dead or barely breathing. The guy on the couch raises his hand.


I see he has a glucose meter on the coffee table in front of him. Things are starting to make sense. I move in to the apartment and situate myself near the "patient." By this time, the other 3 firefighters show up with the rest of my gear.

"I get like this sometimes when my sugar is low. My girlfriend, She got scared. I'm sorry you all came out." says the man on the couch. He knows exactly what's going on. His speech is clear and well-delivered. He too speaks with an accent. Definitely German. He uses articles. I've found that Russians don't often use possessives and articles in their speech.

"Cancel the Medic." I say to LT, who has the radio.

It's done. I take vitals. All normal. I check his lungs, eyes and look for nystagmus or other signs of inebriation which can also indicate a diabetic emergency. All come up negative. The guy smells of laundry detergent and spice deodorant. He does NOT smell like he's drunk or having a diabetic emergency.

His blood sugar is 36.

"Have you eaten?" I ask. I feel my eyebrows are in my hairline.

"Yes, I just had some cereal and milk." he says as the woman brings him an apple, oddly, on a plate. The patient takes a look around his living room. He's sitting on his couch in his pyjamas, surrounded by 4 emergency responders and a worried girlfriend (I know who called 911!).

"Ok. Your girlfriend is worried. That's why she called 911. I'm worried because your blood sugar is so low. If you want to go to the hospital, we will have an ambulance take you."

"No, No. I'm fine. This happens all the time. I eat something and my sugar comes back up. I'm fine, I assure you." He converses the way people do in books. A consequence of not being a native English speaker, I'm sure. I satisfy myself that he's of a good mental state and is doing something to address his hypoglycemic state. The apartment is clean and well ordered. The girlfriend is concerned and attentive. No signs of a dangerous or risky lifestyle. I also note the lack of tracks in his arms and the lack of "smell" in the apartment.

"Cancel the ambulance." Again, It's done.

"I need you to sign this form. It says that you do not wish to go to the hospital right now."

"Ok. No problem."

"Now, I want you to understand that this does not mean you cannot call 911 two minutes after we leave. If you need an ambulance or medical attention, you call 911. I'll come here 20 times tonight if I have to. Ok?"

"Yes, Yes. I'm sorry to put you all through so much trouble."

"It's no trouble. I'm only concerned if you are OK. Are you sure you don't need to go to the hospital?"

"Yes, I am sure. Thank you." All of his dialogue is delivered appropriately and clearly.

I get up to leave. I look around to find all my gear has already been gathered up and put away. Deferential looks from the Firefighters. Walking back to the engine, clearly the domain of the firefighters, I'm struck by the strangeness of it all. I'm surrounded by people I greatly value, respect and look up to yet, here they are, looking at me like I'm in charge.

Back at the station: "G'night, Maddog. Thanks"

Thanks? Me? No, No! Thank YOU! Wow!

I write a loooong report and go to bed.


No comments: