I had an interesting call last night.

I was just getting ready to go to bed around 2:30 when my pager went off for an unresponsive 63-year-old male. I drove over and was the first on scene. The old guy was lying on the floor with his eyes open. I determined that he was unresponsive to verbal and painful stimuli and then took a set of vitals. He had a history of COPD and was on home oxygen; I replaced his 2 liters/minute oxygen via nasal cannula with 10 l/m via non-rebreather. The guy’s roommates stated that he had been okay about 45 minutes earlier, then had taken oxycodone and hydrocodone and ambien (his normal meds). Later, they heard some thumping in the guy’s room and found him unresponsive.

The ambulance showed up about the time I ran out of things to do. We got the patient onto a backboard and took him downstairs and outside. Once outside, we put him on the stretcher and threw him in the truck. The lead EMT asked me to come along for the ride. I got in back. We rolled the guy off of the back board onto the stretcher.

The guy’s breathing got worse so the EMT called to start assisting breathing. I pulled out a bag valve mask, hooked it up to oxygen, filled the reservoir, and started breathing with the guy, augmenting his insufficient respirations. The EMT couldn’t get an IV started in the guy due to poor veins; he did give the patient 2 milligrams of narcan intramuscularly. In two minutes’ time, the guy was breathing on his own and coming around.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I like working in the ambulance. Once the patient is loaded, it is a controlled environment. The tech has a number of tools and techniques and has a certain amount of time during which time s/he must support the patient before arrival at the hospital. It’s very different than the chaos at the scene. I wonder how much my perspective will change after teching a few difficult calls all by myself in the back of the bus with the patient.

Tonight I spent three hours at my new job. I am a municipal employee in the town of Windsor, Vermont; a part time firefighter/EMT, emphasis on EMT. I have to put in some ride-along time before I can run as part of an ambulance team. So far I have put in six hours without a single call… The curse of the third-rider.

I did three hours several days ago. My first task as a professional EMT? I delivered ten rolls of toilet paper to the police department.

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