Laughing, I suppose

Saturday, July 02 2005

We are certainly some strange folk, in EMS.

We left a house where “great-uncle Fred” hadn’t been seen since retiring last night. Turns out, well, he’d had a few medical conditions he may have been ignoring, and died sometime in the night. Not knowing this, dispatched to a “stoppage of breathing” call, we rushed in with our paraphernalia, four of us on the bambulance and several from the wagon (dispatch will if they can send a wagon on such a call, in the event we need more hands for CPR, etc.)

Nothing to be done. The departed had been down for some time based on rigor and lividity. Call the police, and hang around until they show up on scene. All deaths not attended by a physician or occurring in a hospital are “crime scenes” until cleared by the PD. Sensible. Family sad but not surprised or inconsolable.

And what do we all do, hanging around thus? Well, neighbor Dad and his three- and five-year-old sons had waved at the pumper as it roared into the street. Go outside and make happy with the kids!

The youngest was much too shy to leave dad’s shoulders, but the older proudly wore an engine crew’s helmet as he sat in the cab and pushed the buttons he was shown (surprise! This one’s the air horn). I swear his grin was this big. Fortunately we carried in the bambulance some plastic toy fire helmets and stuffed animals. He and his brother seemed quite pleased to have them, when time came finally for them to dismount and we be on our way.

And it occurred to me, as we cleared the scene after PD arrived – you know, that was righteous. What better thing to do, but play with kids after leaving the scene of a not-entirely-unexpected family tragedy?

Now, it followed to ask me self, When exactly would such a thing seem strange? When first I ran EMS, I played imagination games: What if? If this then…? How would…? It always seemed, since we were all about life, that a death scenario was going to be the biggy, the deep dark heads-down heavy-step past the cameras to the unit “no comment” call. I dreaded such a call.

Harumph. DTs remains “death free” lo these many years – I’ve come to scene for dead folk, and I’ve run folk who are dead (but we worked ’em), and turned over to the ED folk who’ve later died. Never put a live patient into my unit and had ’em die on the way, though. Odd pride. Off topic. Nevertheless, death is just one of those things you get used to. For other folk, I mean.

We speak fondly of a particular suicide – “He unloaded the clip and just put one in the chamber to do himself,” we say, and the other EMS folk say, “Wow, what a nice guy!”. If the weapon were full-clip it would be more unsafe. Very considerate. And I think, “Wait a minute – this guy killed himself, and here I am complimenting him on technique.”

But that simply helps to illustrate the odd viewpoint of EMS, I guess.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who offered congrats, public and private, on me EMT-I. You’ve earned yourselves a free downgrade in needle size on your next IV… 🙂

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