July 2004


Right. The goats.

So, today I went on a medical call in the early afternoon.

An elderly lady had fallen and had hit her head and elbow on the paved driveway. She was comfortable on the driveway, so I left her there and did my assessment. She seemed to be in pretty good shape but was getting sleepy. She was disoriented as to the date and time and the circumstances leading to her fall. The chief was on scene and asked me if I wanted to have him ‘expedite the ambulance’, but I really didn’t get the sense that the patient was critical despite her sleepiness. I started her on o2 and did a careful trauma assessment. She seemed fine; a little nap on the driveway. It was comfortably warm.

The ambulance came after a while and took her away.

I went back to the firehouse to do the paperwork. As part of the reporting, I called dispatch to get the times for the call; time of the call, time of the first unit to sign on, time of the first unit to arrive on scene, and time the units cleared.

I identified myself by number. The dispatcher immediately said that he had a question for me. Uh, oh.

“Whatever happened about those goats?”

The dispatcher explained that he had chuckled for an hour after taking my call about the goats, and had been wondering how it turned out.

So I explained the whole long saga. Both and I had driven over and left messages with different people, but both of those people had neglected to give the message to the goat owner and had gone away without telling him. It took a few days for him to get the message. He came by and told RK that he would pick up the goats as soon as he got a truck; finally, he came and took the goats in a sedan.

“Only in Vermont,” the dispatcher mused. “Where else can you have goats show up on your porch in the middle of the night, then see them picked up in a car?”

Both major candidates…

– Do not support gay marriage (though support ‘civil unions’)
– Are ‘personally’ against abortion, but will support the law
– Will ‘win’ the war in Iraq
– Will be ‘tough’ on ‘terror’
– Are in favor of granting rights to illegal aliens
– Are pro-gun
– Represent big business interests

However, one’s not George Bush.

The goats have moved from the office to the tractor shed. The usual suspects are begging to keep them; the derelict apparent-owner doesn’t seem to be in a big hurry to come pick them up; the town animal control officer won’t return our calls.

I don’t like the way this is shaping up.

I’ve suggested that we should give them to a chef in the neighboring resort town; no one seems to like that idea.

A bizarre day, juxtaposing fire, emergency medicine, ducks, and goats.

This morning, told me that she had seen a red-billed duck on the road. I didn’t think much of it.

Around two, I got toned out for a minor traffic accident. I went and drove engine one to the scene, then directed traffic for a while. After the car was pulled out of the ditch, I drove the engine back to the station, then headed home.

On turning into my road, I found several neighbors pulled over. I stopped my car and got out. One of the neighbors, a woman that I had not met before, asked me if I was a duck catcher. I said I was not.

The neighbors were trying to catch the duck and cage it for reasons that are still not clear to me. Being the helpful person I am, though, I pitched in to try to catch the duck. We herded it back and forth through the woods without success.

After a while, I went and got my turnout coat and gloves, thinking I would grab the duck and avoid being pecked. I actually managed to put my hands on the duck at one point; however, it squirmed away and was careful not to let anyone get close to it after that. Eventually the duck went down the bank to the river and swam away.

Tonight, I was in the office, ostensibly working, when the phone rang. It was , who informed me that there were goats on the porch. I walked over to the house and, sure enough, there was a pair of black goats on the porch.

After some discussion, I called my dispatcher on the telephone. I identified myself and informed the dispatcher of the goats. The dispatcher laughed for a long time, apologized for laughing, then finally suggested that I should call the state police.

Meanwhile, was on the porch feeding the goats carrots and peaches.

I called the state police and told them about the goats. They took down our phone number, suggested that we should try to corral them, said they would make some calls, and rang off.

I got some rope from the garage and we tried to tie up the goats. One of the goats let us put a lasso around its neck, but the other did not. The lassoed goat responded by pulling away, and eventually we untied it.

The goats went back to playing on the porch, looking in the window at the cat, and butting each other like miniature rams.

The state police dispatcher called after a few minutes and asked me if they were black goats. I told him that the goats were, in fact, black. He said that he had called our town chief of police, waking him, and that the chief had told him who the goats belonged to, but that the owner did not have a phone.

I drove over to the owner’s house. He was not there, but a drunk occupant told me that they had been looking for the goats all afternoon, and that he would give the owner the information when he got home.

I drove home again. Somewhat at a loss, we decided to put the goats in my old office. We opened the sliding glass door and the goats walked in like they were at home.

As we were deciding how to deal with the goats, my pager went off again. I went off to a call for a young male who had hit his head and had difficulty breathing. It was a pretty good call from an educational standpoint; the guy was in not too bad shape, just hyperventilating. I didn’t realize the problem and started him on high-flow o2, then started assesing for head injury. I was a little perplexed with the symptoms; the guy didn’t seem head injured. Finally the ambulance showed up and the EMT-I had the guy breathe into a paper bag for a few minutes, which took care of the breathing problem. Next time I’ll know.

I got home to find the goats bedded down in my old office. There they sleep. I got the number for the town animal control officer while I was at the fire station filling out the call report; if the owner doesn’t show up tomorrow morning, we’ll call and have the town guy come get them.

Here’s the first part of my UK trip account.

I’ve been here for five days. Half way.

My feet are just killing me.

For some reason, I have brought the wrong footwear with me the last three times I have visited. I’m usually pretty good about wearing the right thing; I’m not sure what happens when I pack for over here.

I chose to bring a set of Gripfast boots as my only set of shoes. It really sounds like a good choice; black leather combat boots. Can fit in any situation, office, squat, and (ambulance) squad. Wool socks, usually the right thing for hiking.

I got here very early Sunday and ended up hiking nearly ten miles according to the GPS. My feet started to hurt; the boots were a little tight and my feet were hot and sweaty. I had the foresight to buy moleskin, tape, and skizzors; Monday morning I had to tape and pad both feet, top and bottom. By yesterday, it was five patches on the left foot and four on the right before I could pull my boots on.

I’m not really sure what footwear I was wearing during the previous-before-last trip about which I posted a few days ago. To be honest, I had forgotten how bad my feet were that time until I reread the letter; I don’t tend to remember the severity of pain, I guess. Then last time, I think I had the wrong shoes again; I don’t remember my feet hurting, but remember trying really hard to find a pair of shoes.

Two days ago I tried to get a pair of shoes but everything was closed by the time I got back from the office to the city center. Yesterday I took the bus from the office into town at lunchtime and bought a pair of shoes. I was a few minutes late returning, but I think it was okay.

The office is an interesting place. I work fairly closely with about ten members of the local staff. The Red Menace (as I affectionately refer to my employer) has a pretty big place there, six or eight buildings in a campus right on the Thames. The buildings are clearly Red Menace buildings expressed in UK style, down to the fung shui ponds, paths, and raked pebbles.

The floor where my UK team works used to be a bustling place; it still is, really. Just a few weeks ago, though, the division the team used to work for decided that the particular product this team had been creating for the last several years would not, after all, be externally productized and that the team was now redundant, and would be let go.

Two Red Menace divisions are customers of this particular product. In my division, five thousand developers in the US, UK, India, and Australia rely on this technology as a part of their development infrastructure. Divisional executive management discussed and my group VP managed to score thirteen headcount from the old division layoff pool; he managed to convince the division EVP that the technology was crucial; had utilized all brownie points to get these people from the different division (a division that is ultimately closer to the king, as well).

The other thirty-seven people were let go. The Red Menace treated them fairly well (compared to the three times I’ve been laid off); six months severance, plus a month’s use of company resources from the time of notification. The redundant staff was quite good about turning things over in an orderly fashion.

So, now there’s a hole in the middle of the office bay where the other staff used to be. My first day here was the last day of the laid-off staff. It was weird, but I was glad to have the opportunity to say goodbye to some people that I had worked with for the last several years.

The UK has a weird view of office arrangement, so there are several other product teams in the same bay. Cubes are divided by low partitions only. No one has private offices except for the very senior staff. The previous UK team VP’s office is now empty; he was made redundant, as well.

Anyway, it’s open plan with many people about. It’s still bustling, as I said.

I’m here for knowledge transfer. The remaining ten UK staff now is part of my division, and I have been tasked with learning the guts of their stuff and teaching them the guts of ours.

Over the last five days, I have attended thirteen two-hour technical sessions. Some of the stuff is pretty interesting; a lot has been focused on a custom NFS daemon that uses a database as a data store, rather than a file system. I’ve given a session on the architecture and usage of the client software that my divisional team wrote that layers on the UK team’s product (twenty or so slides); I have two more scheduled to discuss our custom DAV utilities and other future customer groups that our unified team will have to serve (another ten or so slides).

It’s been hard to stay awake, for sure. But I can blame it on jetlag.

The Brazil factor is still in play; certainly the office environment is reminiscent of Lowrey’s place of work as the movie opens. Most things seem to work this trip, though. The CCTV cameras are much more prevalent, everywhere.

They’ve changed badges at the office. I’m really not sure why; the previous badges were just fine. When I got here, my old UK badge worked just fine to open doors and such. The badge is used as a smart card for purchases from the Menace cafes and sweets machines, though, and the smart card system had changed. My old card would no longer function as a payment device, despite the fact that I had a ten quid balance on the card when I left here last time.

It took me three days to get the card replaced even though they reused the old picture. The cards are virtually identical except that the new cards no longer have a photo of the office park, and the user photo is a tiny bit larger. The new cards look as though part of the production process is to leave them in the motorway for thirty minutes; as delivered, my new card had a big scratch through the photo and part of the Menace logo was scraped off. But they did manage to transfer my cash balance, and as of Thursday AM I was finally able to buy crisps and chocolates from the card-only vending machines.

I have a particular UK coworker. I will adopt ’s idiom and refer to the coworker as Mr. Ermine.

I have always liked Mr. Ermine. He and I used to have very similar positions in our various groups; the slightly flamboyant coder who’s idiosyncrasies and resistance to corporate process are overlooked due to the coder’s ability to pick up and deliver solutions to hard tasks.

Mr. Ermine started flying about a year ago. My suspicion is that my own flying experience may have caused him to consider picking it up. Before we met he was into audio and cars; now, he has embraced flying. Mr. Ermine has gone his own way, of course; he had hardly finished his private license when he started taking aerobatics training. I’m of the “wheels belong on the bottom” school of thought, myself.

He and I have about the same number of logged hours. I’ve taken twelve years to amass mine, while he has logged his in a year’s time.

I mentioned in an earlier post that Mr. Ermine had bought a share in a Russian trainer. This is to further his aerobatics skills; this particular plane can do all sorts of crazy things, including inverted spins. As far as I’m concerned, my ‘try everything once’ attitude stops just short of inverted spins. Kudos to Mr. Ermine, really.

Mr. Ermine has been stunningly cool to me since I’ve been here. We’ve gone flying twice so far, with two more flights scheduled. On Tuesday we left the office and went to the airfield where he had reserved a Piper PA-28.

The airfield, White Waltham, is a WWII-vintage RAF base. It has three grass runways, the airfield office is in a WWII building, and there is also a pub in the building with Fuller’s London Pride on the tap. It’s a very cool place.

We preflighted the plane and got in. Mr. Ermine took the left hand seat. The left hand seat is where the ‘pilot in command’ sits, and I had expected Mr. Ermine to take that spot. Even in the US, a pilot is not entitled to pilot a rental aircraft unless the pilot has been checked out by the renting agency. I figured I was along for the ride; sure, I’d like to drive, but I’m happy to ride, as well.

We got off the ground after a bit. Radio and traffic procedures are confusingly different from those in the states, so I was a bit overwhelmed watching Mr. Ermine and just as happy that I was not PIC. We gained a little altitude, got away from the field, and then Mr. Ermine offered me the controls.

Of course, I happily took them. I flew the PA-28 for about forty minutes; up over Henley, west up the Thames, south over Greenham Common, then back up over Reading. He seemed quite content to let me land the thing, but I had him take control as we approached the airport due to my inexperience with both the PA-28 and the UK airspace procedures.

Mr. Ermine has recently put his TVR, a tiny British sports car, up for sale, mainly to help defray the costs of his new Yak. We took the TVR to the airport, though, and he showed me what it could do. It’s possible I’ve gone faster in a car (I have vague memories of going 150 on the way back from a scouting trip in a car driven by another, older scout as a young teenager), but certainly I’ve never been in anything that accelerates like the TVR.

Yesterday, we went over to the airfield and took out a Cessna 182. I was a little surprised since Mr. Ermine seems to prefer low wing planes. He does, however, know that I like high wings and that I usually fly 172s.

Mr. Ermine had not flown the 182 before. It is considered a ‘complex’ airplane in that it has a variable-pitch propeller. Mr. Ermine had hired the head instructor at the field to familiarize him with the plane and certify him as safe in the plane. We went out to the plane before the instructor and Mr. Ermine had me do the preflight inspection due to my familiarity with Cessnas.

I happily sat in the back for the first forty minutes. We went up and flew around a bit while the instructor checked out Mr. Ermine’s technique. I held on grimly while we went through the stall series, but other than that it was great. We went back to the airport and did six or seven touch and go landings. Finally the instructor had Mr. Ermine pull over to let him out. I got in front and observed from the front seat while Mr. Ermine executed two more landings.

Mr. Ermine seems quite happy to indulge me. He has rented the 182 for Sunday afternoon, and again on Tuesday afternoon. We are planning a cross-country on Sunday and on Tuesday I am supposed to qualify in the 182. He’s also loaned me a cell phone for the duration of my trip.

I was just looking at the journal entry that I started in the UK. It discusses the first half or so of the trip, so here I’ll discuss the second half.

I had been planning to go stay in London over the weekend. Mr. Ermine (a coworker) had rented a Cessna 182 for Friday afternoon and Sunday, so I finally decided to change my reservation and stay in Reading for the entire time.

I took a day trip into London with two coworkers who were visiting from India. My team is globally distributed; UK, India, California, and Vermont.

I had a great time in London. The two indians were a hoot; they had a very different perspective on many things. As an example, the Red Menace (my employer) had loaned them a VW Passat from the motor pool; I would have considered the car to be nothing special but these guys were really taken with it. We did have things in common other than our employer; early on, one of them reminded me of the scene from ‘The Matrix’ where Neo goes into non-space to outfit himself with ‘guns, lots of guns’. Bala had changed this quote to one he found more appropriate; ‘Beer, lots of beer’. We took the train into London and spent the day as tourists, misquoting ‘The Matrix’ as we went and stopping in pubs every hour or so to top off. Bipin, the other coworker, had to stop us every hundred yards or so to take three or four group photos, so it was a fairly slow process. We went on a boat ride on the Thames and went for a ‘flight’ in the London Eye at dusk.

Sunday, Mr. Ermine, Bipin, and I went for a flight in the Cessna 182. This was the flight previously noted with the glider near miss.

Sunday night, I went out to the pubs. England was playing France in the world cup. It was a big deal, and many cars and businesses had been flying the cross of St. George in anticipation, much as sports fans over here advertise their team loyalties. I got to the pub latish, just as the game was ending. It was very close, with France scoring the winning two goals in the last minute and a half of the game. The previously high-spirited crowd became very quiet, so much so that it took me a while to realize the game was over and lost. I left the pub to walk back to my hotel through the city centre and witnessed rioting and hooliganism, with windows being broken and signs and equipment being ripped out of the pavement. I made my way safely back to the hotel. The cops were out in force and looked uniformly terrified. I guess I would have been pretty scared too, tasked with control of the unruly crowds and with no effective means of force for self-defense.

On Monday, I took a half day off of work and went to the Reading Ambulance Resource Centre. I was met by the centre menager who took me straight off (after a cup of tea, of course) to the 999 call centre, across town. The 999 call centre is the equivalent of the 911 centers here in the states. I sat between two dispatchers for about forty minutes and watched them take and dispatch calls. It was amazingly interesting, and I got to see a lot of things that the public doesn’t even think of.

After some time (and another spot of tea), the resource centre manager collected me to return to the ambulance resource centre. On the way there, we received a call for a car versus motorcycle. The centre manager is a practicing paramedic and we were the closest unit to the call, so off we went. The ride to the accident scene was the second most tense moment of the trip; we drove at breakneck speeds through the thin medieval windy urban roads on the wrong side (as far as I was concerned). But we made it.

It was a hit and run, but the cyclist was okay. In the states, we would have boarded and collared him, but in the UK, they have much more liberal standards towards spinal precautions. I later asked about this, and I was told that the chances of being sued are much less, so they can be more selective about who they board.  Here, of course, we board everyone with a mechanism regardless of symptoms in most cases.

We returned to the centre, and the manager set me up with a paramedic team for the five pm to one am shift. We saw a few interesting things over the course of the evening; a juvenile with a febrile seizure, a juvenile with a possible head injury from a bike accident, a routine transport to the hospital on doctor’s orders, another car versus motorcycle. We did board and collar the second cyclist, leading to perhaps the highlight of the evening; I assisted the nursing staff at the hospital in deboarding the patient. This was very cool in that I got to ‘practice medicine’ in an NHS facility; now I’m the only US EMT I know who has provided care in a nationalizedhealth care system (okay, I know a guy who was a paramedic in Toronto. I mean in the hospital).

Along the way I got to talk to the paramedics a lot about differences in care. I felt that they provided quite competent care, but I like it better here. One practice I absolutely disagreed with was the linens policy; they changed the cot linens once, at the end of the shift, where here we change them on every call. By the end of the evening, the cot linens had seen five sweaty bodies; I wouldn’t have wanted to be on them.

One clear advantage of the UK EMS protocols is in the area of pain control. In the states, a paramedic can start certain meds for pain control in limited cases. As a basic, if I feel my patient needs pain control, I can request a paramedic intercept. I might or might not get a paramedic depending on time of day and other factors.  In the UK, each ambulance carries nitrous oxide set up just like oxygen, and the basic practitioner can administer it if pain control is dictated.

I resisted the urge to ask if they had an N2O port in the front of the rig for the driver. Every single American EMT I have discussed this with, though, has immediately asked if they had a line up front.

Here’s what UK and American EMT’s have in common; most of them smoke cigarettes. Here’s what they don’t; tea, versus coffee.

Another interesting difference is in transport standards. On the UK, a rig can only transport one patient. In the states, a rig will carry two in a pinch. In the UK, everyone wears a seatbelt. In the US, the working technicians in the back do not (I think I’ve mentioned before in this forum the excitement when a rig with unbelted techs in the back stops suddenly for deer in the road).

The evening passed pretty quickly, and without a serious call. I did see a pair of drunken idiots delivered to the emergency department by a different ambulance, providing a bit of humor to the evening.

The following day was spent totally at work, and Wednesday I worked a half day then was driven to the airport by a coworker. The coworker is a peer of my boss and is what would be called a technical evangelist. He’s a very interesting person, and we had a very interesting conversation on the way regarding the current state of morale and progress in the UK office.

Here comes a big thunderstorm; I’d best shut down my gear before it gets zapped.

It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted anything. I started a journal entry while I was in the UK but haven’t looked at it in a while. I had a good time, though I did have a rather tense moment; myself and two coworkers came within about one hundred feet of being cleaned out by a glider at 4,500 feet. Man, I hate gliders.

Yesterday, I was up flying with my IFR instructor. We were practicing holds around an NDB, about six miles south of my airfield. Shayne told me to take my goggles off (when you are practicing instrument flying, you wear vision limiting glasses so you can only see the instruments and not cheat by peering out the window). I did so, and there was a glider a few hundred feet above us, descending towards us. I took evasive action; it really wasn’t that close, but both Shayne and I lost sight of the glider. I had told Shayne previously about the near miss in the UK, and he shared my anxiety about a midair colision with a glider. Interestingly, gliders, like rats and cockroaches, tend to fly in packs; if you see one, there are several more about. Also, the bastards carry parachutes, so if they tear off your wing, it’s no big deal for them. Well, less of a deal, anyway. Shayne and I decided to call it a day and returned to the airport, keeping a close eye out.

We’ve decided to start going out earlier, when the thermal activity is less attractive for gliding.

I’ve been busy on the medical front, at least from an administrative perspective. Over the weekend, I attended a two day class on ‘prehospital trauma life support’, which was pretty interesting. There was a really gross picture of a guy who had gotten his leg caught in a grain auger. I must admit, though, that I am becoming more habituated or desensitized to photos of gore; garden variety open fractures are no big deal to look at anymore. Perhaps that’s part of the reason they show photos of all that stuff. Let me tell you; leafing through an EMS text is eye-opening for the neophyte. There you are, reading along, turn the page, and there’s a degloving, or an avulsed penis, or a stick in the eye, or 85% full thickness burns. The fun never ends, as they say.

On Monday, I went up to a meeting of the state medical board. My ambulance squad was under review for having conditions lifeted from our license. The ambulance lady is on vacation, so that left it to me as second-in-charge of the squad to go. The town manager was supposed to go also, but he turned out to be late. So the state board asked little old me questions about our status, and I answered them, and I guess they liked my answers since they voted the way we wanted them to.

Today I had a nice long chat with the state head of EMS operations regarding my fire department status. It seems that there are some grey areas regarding my providing EMS care as a member of the non-EMS-licensed fire department. I had begun to suspect as much, so I sent the state guy email today and he called and we discussed. It is sort of okay for me to provide care as a member of the fire department under the extended auspices of my ambulance squad, but sort of not, considering that the department and squad serve separate towns. So the upshot of the deal is that I will probably be joining yet another emergency service department, number four, in order to remove the ambiguity. When I go on medical calls for the fire department, I will be functioning as a member of the new squad. The new squad is a professional service, so I think that means I will get paid for medical calls in town. Anyway, I will be going over to work out the details with the new squad next week. They have already seen me in action with the fire department, and the guy that runs the squad seemed pretty positive about me joining when I spoke with him on the phone today. It also means that I will start having some quality improvement feedback on my calls, which is a service that I have wished for.

Today I was driving to my client’s office and saw a teenager get tackled onto the pavement by another teenager. I saw the kid’s head bounce on the road, so I pulled over. The attacker got up and ran off, and I quickly assessed the kid. He had nothing immediately life-threatening, but he needed to be looked at for the possibility of closed head injury. I called out the local ambulance on my handy-dandy radio (much faster than 911), then hung out and answered questions from the cops. It was pretty disturbing, but I was glad I happened to be there.