February 2004


I’m back in not-so-sunny California. The dollar I left in Forgotten Lab is still here, as are the dirty wool socks I left right inside the door. I didn’t realize that I left so many crumbs around my computer, but given the location of the socks I’m pretty sure I was the last person here. The socks no longer smell; gotta love that reverse entropy.

The flight sucked atypically. I had managed to get upgrades for both segments. Conveniently, we had been boarded and I had already sucked down a complimentary Jack and Coke before the captain told us that the plane would not be going and that we all had to get off, and I talked the reticketer into giving me a meal voucher, so those are pluses. I ended up not getting upgraded on the new flights and I arrived at a different airport (SF as opposed to Oakland, not too bad) two hours late after my second most exciting landing in SF (wind, wind, rain, wind… Flight attendant… “We’d like to thank our captain and first officer for that safe and obviously challenging landing”). The car is sort of an, um, green elephant; a Crown Vic with 75 miles on the odometer. I like luxury as much as the next capitalist but it’s hard to park something that big in SF. I’m sure the rental agency thought they were doing me a favor.

A few hours of broken sleep and off to work.

On Tuesday I went and watched the other town fire department play with foam at the dump. The dump monster set the wood pile on fire and the FD put it out as a drill. I was at our station for a meeting with the officers and they invited me along to watch. We played with the thermal imager… It’s a handheld device that shows the infrared of the scene in front of it. If you aim the green cross on the screen at something (like a fire or bystander) it shows you the surface temperature of the something. Pretty cool.

Last night I was voted into the fire department. Apparently it was unanimous (I left during the discussion and voting).

After the meeting, I hung around for a while. Various other(!) FFs showed me things on the engines. I got to try on a Scott airpack. I got to play with the jaws of life and the complimentary beetle-pinchers tool for cutting car roofs off.

Then they set me up with turnout gear; new coat, pants, and suspenders, old boots, new gloves, old mittens, new nomex hood, old helmet, new fire department license plate, old pager. Pager!

Now my communications ‘basic load’ consists of pager and cell phone for work, pager for search and rescue, pager for fire department, radio for ambulance. Crazy. I feel like I need a Bat utility belt.

I’m not allowed to take my gear home for three months; I’m probationary. I’ll post a picture of me in my gear sometime later.

I will be meeting with the department officers next Tuesday. They didn’t say why, but I assume it is to discuss training and probationary requirements.

On a different front, today we received notice from the courts in New Hampshire and Vermont that we won our suits against both our former landlord and former tenant. Now we just have to collect, which may be difficult. Still, good news.

Yesterday I was sitting at the PC trying with some success to avoid work. On the scanner, the state police started discussing a ‘welfare check’ in my EMS squad territory. Something sensitive was going on and someone might be injured (pardon my vagueness). The police were going to go over to the location and check on the person. Over the course of a few minutes, it became clear that the state police were going to take a while to get there. I realized that my squad was probably going to be called out soon. The troopers were vague about the location and were going to communicate the address among themselves by cell phone.

Realizing that my radio would not pick up the call if my squad was toned out, I called the EMS dispatch center, identified myself (they know me as C-91), and asked if anything was going on in my service area. They said they didn’t know of anything, so I hung up and went back to working.

On the scanner, several troopers were discussing the situation. Finally, the senior trooper said that an ambulance should be sent over to standby near the residence. I realized that this meant my first-responder squad was definitely going to be toned out.

My car was over at the house, so I went over to get it. I stopped in and called the EMS dispatcher again, and they still didn’t know about anything going on in my service area. They forwarded my call to the regional state police dispatch center. I explained who I was and they told me that they had not notified the local EMS dispatch yet but were about to. They put me on hold while they did so. The state dispatcher came back on the line and gave me the name and address of the location and a few additional details. I had the 911 map in front of me and found the address fairly quickly; the call was on my side of town.

I went out and got in the car and drove on over to the location. As I got close, I called the EMS dispatch on the radio, told them I was on scene, and asked if I should standby to wait for the police. They said the police should arrive in about ten minutes and I should wait. I pulled into a nearby driveway from where I could see the location.

The ambulance called dispatch and reported they were on the way, but didn’t know where the address was. I gave them the 911 map page number. After a few minutes, the ambulance reported that they were standing by at an intersection nearby, and that C-91, me, was welcome to join them. I drove back to the intersection, parked, and got out to talk to the ambulance squad people.

There were four EMTs from the transporting squad. I recognized one of the squaddies from the rollover on the mountain access road. I introduced myself and everyone said hello. After a few minutes, the state police called and said they were close by, so we all piled into the ambulance and drove up to the location. Before we got there, the state police called and said they were 10-23 and 10-22; they had arrived, no one was there, and we could disregard the call. We went up to the location anyway as the squaddies (who seemed to have different but complimentary information to my own) wanted some details from the police for their records.

We spoke with the police for a minute, then piled back into the rig and went back to the intersection where we had left my car. We all said goodbye and I got out and drove home.

In contrast to the rude interaction I had with the squaddies on the mountain access road a few weeks ago, the four EMTs were very nice to me, seemed genuinely pleased to meet me, invited me to ride with them in the ambulance, and explained various procedural things that I was unfamiliar with.

Despite the fact that there was no patient contact, I thought the call went really well and validated my membership on the first responder squad. I knew even before I got in the car what I was possibly facing in terms of injuries and what sorts of interventions I might have to perform. I had showed up first by five or ten minutes to the call; had there been a real emergency, I would have been able to initiate care that much faster. The ambulance showed up with four EMTs, at least two of whom were EMT-Intermediates, so my BLS skills would have been reinforced with ALS skills and transport within ten minutes. Very comforting.

I attended some interesting training on Saturday; Pediatric Education for the Prehospital Professional. My only complaint with the course was that it is slightly misnamed; it should be Pediatric Education for the Prehospital Practitioner as all of the twenty or so students were volunteers. It was very interesting from a lot of respects and very cheap; eight hours of training and a 200 page text (which had to be read before the class) for $20. The course was sponsored by a number of area Kiwanis organizations and they helped defray the cost. The American Association of Pediatrics (the author of the courseware and the certifying organization) site shows the course being offered for $160, so I, or rather my squad, certainly got a bargain. The course was given at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center… Now I can tell people I’ve had medical training at Dartmouth. The instructors were all DHMC people including several flight and PICU nurses.

The courseware was well done.

Kind of the big drawback for EMS training in general is that you never know when they are going to present you with some sort of disturbing photograph. Let me tell you, clinical videos of children with appearance abnormalities or various types of respiratory distress are bad, but pictures of abused children are way worse. I guess they want us to be able to identify abuse, so they showed us lots of those.

One of the students had her seven-month-old with her… A very cute kid. The mom was in my immobilization discussion group and as a result I got to help start spinal immobilization on an infant. The little girl was smiling and giggling the whole way through and was not at all upset by our holding her down on the backboard.

Kids of EMS people have special burdens. There was another five-year-old girl who had been made up to appear injured, however, she didn’t want to participate. I was at a training at the snotty ambulance squad last month where the five year old daughter of a paramedic knew how to competently backboard an adult. My own boys have a fair amount of experience as practice assessment subjects; the little one likes it as long as he can play with the tools but the bigger one disappears when I pull out my medical kit.

I stopped at a rollover on the highway on the way to class. Some bozo rolled his nice car into the median driving 50 mph in snow. I stopped and checked for life-threatening injuries. The accident seemed gentle, all in all; his airbags had not deployed and the car seemed to be in good shape. His inability to put down his phone and palm pilot long enough for me to ask him if he was okay indicated to me that he was doing fine, so I left.