Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All in a day's work

Sometimes I wonder what people are thinking when they dial 911. You would think that number is normally reserved for true emergencies like cardiac arrest, shortness of breath, uncontrolled bleeding or a dangerous fall, not for something as benign as knee pain, a toothache or a headache. When I lived in the rural area, almost all of our ambulance calls were for true emergencies. People only called if they really needed us, and sometimes they didn't call when they should have. There's something about living in the country that toughens folks, I think.

Being a city paramedic has taken some getting used to. First, I appreciate the way most drivers yield the right of way to our emergency vehicle. I do wonder about pedestrians though. When we arrive at a red- lighted intersection with our lights and sirens activated, the last thing we want to happen is to create an intersection accident. So we come to a brief stop, and proceed with caution. Drivers who have the green light have time to see us and yield that way. Some pedestrians however, appear to think we have stopped to allow them to dash out in front of us. It takes an astute driver to keep them from bouncing off the front bumper!

Another thing I notice is the high volume of calls we get for minor medical complaints that would normally be seen in a clinic during a routine doctor's appointment. You know that knee pain that you've had for four days running? Did you really need an ambulance at three in the morning when you have a doctor appointment tomorrow? What about that toothache that is keeping you and the rest of your household in a state? Could one of your family members drive you to the hospital for pain control? Or have you thought about calling for an emergency dental appointment? Now don't get me wrong - I don't mind going to your home and putting a bandage on your child's boo-boo, or telling a new mom how to bring a fever down. I'd just rather be out there saving lives.

4 comments:

Adoro te Devote said...

I live in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis-St. Paul) and what you describe is the life here. There's no such thing as waiting for someone to drive one to the doctor in the morning, or to go to Urgent Care.

I've been through EMT training twice here and so had 2 clinicals in training...we did have some real emergencies, but the medics told me that they spend most of their time chasing geese or taking someone to the clinic two blocks from their house.

Um...ashamed to say this, but I'm also, even with what I know, one of those who wouldn't call for help if I needed it. A few years ago I nearly cut my thumb off, but because it was the city I'd worked in, well...I knew that if I called 911 I'd get a Big Red Truck. So I laid down and stopped the bleeding and I have a scar. (Needed stitches, couldn't drive myself, couldn't get a ride...no WAY was I going to have my past co-workers at the door! NOPE! Not for THAT! And as you can see...I'm not dead, just scarred. No regrets)

I also got heat exhaustion when I was in college when I went running on a 102 degree day and high humidity...um...can't believe I'm not dead, can't figure out why I'm not.

But I agree with what you're saying. And don't yell at me.

When I was in Insurance, we noticed a large difference between the people who lived in the Cities versus the people "outstate". the Cities...whiners. If they had an ache, it was the fault of a pothole and they wanted us to sue the City. One injury rep told me about a man who was driving home in a bad storm. Freak thing, but a branch came through his windshield and impaled his...scrotum.

Are you cringing yet?

He kept driving, pulled the branch out of his nards and went home. He figured it was what it was, it hurt, and he'd get over it.

MN and Canada have a LOT in common.

If I were a guy, though...I'm not sure I'd be able to deal with THAT!

paramedicgirl said...

Adoro, I was beginning to think I may have offended some people with this post; not one comment until yours.

Last night, over the dispatch radio we heard a call come out for a child who had gotten their finger caught in the door. Unless it's been amputated, you don't need an ambulance for that.

And last night we went code three (lights and sirens) for a headache that someone had for the last three days. Racing through the streets for a headache is senseless. But if the patient claims they are short of breath, they get an ambulance faster, even if it is at the expense of public safety.

pam j said...

I'm late to this conversation...but on the other end...so many people bring their serious or critical loved ones to the ER in cars. So often before they reach our doors, they need CPR and have to be scooped out of the vehicle. These families always get the speech about calling an ambulance if "your Dad (insert other family member) is this sick."

Cygnus said...

PG, please pray for the repose of the four souls killed early this morning in a tragic MEDEVAC helicopter crash south of Washington, DC. Two were your counterparts in the world of EMT.

The sad story.