Here I was, freshly cleared and ready for my first shift on my own. My partner for the night was a thirty year old medic who’d been driving an ambulance since she was 18. She was short and fiesty, with a penchant for lip gloss and patient education. I felt like I had swallowed pop rocks and I wasn’t sure the fizzing sensation in my stomach was due to excitement or terror.
I’m not real big on change, I like my routines, and I tend to shut down under pressure. I can (and do) get lost in shopping malls and my driving skills are passable but extremely defensive. My lack of parking and reverse ability is semi dangerous. The biggest thing I’d driven before hopping into an ambulance was my mother’s CRV, I currently drove a Prius. In essence, I was probably the most unlikely candidate for working as a paramedic, especially in a high call volume city that makes it onto the “most dangerous places to live” list year after year. And yet, here I was.
In the world of EMS, good paramedics were at least 50% bullshit. What they did know they knew like the back of their hand, despite any level of exhaustion, hunger, or stress. The rules were simple, you walked onto a scene acting like you were the answer to prayer and then prayed like crazy that that was the truth. I had been riding with a Field Training Officer for three months and had yet to have a “textbook” call. Since it was never textbook, you learned to fudge through what you didn’t know for a fact- relying heavily on faith (if you had any left), instinct, and blind luck. I was a textbook kindof girl, still too new to even find my instincts buried under all the anxiety, so I prayed…a lot…
I looked up from my IV bag inventory to find a heavily bangled rail thin elderly lady perched on the bench seat clutching an ugly orange purse in her lap.
“Can I help you?” I stammered out, placing the 18 gauges back in the bag and zipping it up.
“Mmm, that remains to be seen, dear. But you seeing me is an excellent step in the right direction.” I smiled warmly, trying to keep my confusion to myself while checking off possible health issues in my head: alert, breathing fine, skin color good, eyes seem clear… “Oh I know I’m being terribly rude, and my husband will scold me for this, but I just had to meet you. You’re causing him some considerable irritation and I couldn’t resist.”
“Well, I’m sorry for upsetting your husband.” Whoever the heck he was. I stand up and start inventorying the airway compartment, hoping the crazy lady gets the hint and leaves or tells me what her problem is. “Don’t be.” She stood up with a considerable rattle and skipped down the steps out of the ambulance. I shook my head. Whatever her issue was, and I was leaning towards mental health, she didn’t seem to have joint troubles.
The radio tone pierced the air, making my heart jump into my throat as I hastily turned the volume down. I grabbed the note pad and my pen and took a few seconds to compose myself before checking in service. My partner climbed into the driver side and yanked the seat forward as I finished jotting down the dispatch.
“…chest pain my ass, I’ve been to her three times in the past two weeks. She’s looking for pain meds.” I nodded and started entering info into the chart. It was going to be another typical atypical night, I didn’t give the old lady encounter another thought.
****It’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) so I’m going to try and post something everyday. Nothing is edited, and with two kids and ADHD I doubt it’ll be consistent, but I’m going to try anyway. 🙂 ****