Of course it’s raining. I trudged around the back of the ambulance to the backboard compartment, automatically hunched against the wet. I knew my current partner was going to be a grump about the rain, so I determindly put on my happy face. Most medics seemed to exist in a constant flux of crankiness: at the highest point there were inside jokes about crappy calls steeped heavily in sarcasm, at the lowest were power words and rants about the depravity of human nature and the brokenness of the world. For whatever reason, this helped heal the exhaustion, the hurt, and the nightmares. But it didn’t work for me. If I focused too much on the bad- and there was a lot of bad- I became miserable. So I worked at cheerfulness, and funnily enough, it made everything more tolerable.
The backboard was slick within seconds and I made a mental note to stock up on blankets when we got to the ER. I had to suppress a giggle as the fire personnel and my partner attempted to reason with the rather large woman about the state of her injuries. It wasn’t reasoning, really, it was the complicated dance between what we were allowed to say, what we wanted to say, and what was reality. What we wanted to say was usually closer to reality, but we could lose our jobs if we said anything that might be construed as “discouraging” a ride to the hospital.
At first I couldn’t see any damage, then I noticed the paint transfer on the bumper and the teenage driver hugging herself trying to not look scared. The patient was vacillating between anger at being hit and “excruciating” neck pain.
“…she ran straight into me. I had my blinker on and everything. She hit me and my head went like this.” Patient demonstrated the whiplash movement, narrowly avoiding braining herself on her own steering wheel. “…and now it feels like a twinge, here-” patient indicates “-and like a pulsing sensation.” My partner kept a straight face and asked, “Can you demonstrate that motion again?” One of the firefighters walked away, coughing.
Long story short, she wanted transport to the hospital, and we were all soaking wet by the time we had her strapped down and loaded into the ambulance. As we pulled into the bay at the hospital the rain stopped…and dispatch came over the radio announcing the ER was full and in holding. “F***ing Murphy’s Law,” my partner muttered yanking open the back doors. I stifled a smile and then froze:the bangled lady appeared at the ER ambulance entrance. She winked and then walked briskly past another crew bringing in a code, their attention focused on the CHF patient secured to bipap with leads springing off his heaving chest.
“Gonna be a couple of bumps, ok.” My partner’s voice snapped me back to the present and I hopped out to grab the wheels as he pulled out the stretcher. It was no business of mine who that lady was. I gave a mental shrug and refocused on the task at hand. By the time a doctor cleared c-spine and we wheeled the loudly protesting lady up front to Triage I was too busy trying not to laugh at my partner’s reenactment of the accident scene to worry about strange mentally unstable woman – other than the ones I transported to the hospital of course.