December 2005

Yup, I’m forty. Still feels like thirteen, IMHO.

I hired a technician several weeks ago; he’s working out rather well. Not only is he a dedicated worker, interested in learning, and in possession of much information complimentary to my own, but he’s also neat, organized, and thoughtful. He brought me a twelve-pack of my usual and a personal-sized birthday cake yesterday. I could get used to this.

I gave a demo on Wednesday, or tried to. The demo was of a barcode inventory system I’m doing for the mystery client (according to the NDA, I’m not allowed to tell you who the client is, what they do, or even that I know they exist. It’s all very cloak-and-dagger). The system runs over the Internet (teh internets) between a hand-held device running Windows CE at a remote site and the client’s server. My demo environment was running on my own server. The thing was working well for a demo from the device and from a PC-based browser when I left the office but wouldn’t connect from the client’s site. Conveniently the boss was not in and the functionary who I spoke to didn’t seem too upset. I was embarassed, though. The server had been running a bit slowly and I suspected that SuperTech was doing something with it. He wasn’t, though.

I got back to the office and discussed it with SuperTech. He said that he hadn’t been working on the server and what port was I running my demo on? D’oh! I was running it on port 8010; the firewall had blocked the traffic. I unblocked the port and remoted into the client’s server, then used a browser from there to view the demo; it worked perfectly.

Between his one-minute hands-off diagnosis of my demo issue and the cake and beer, SuperTech earned his keep yesterday.


Having ditched my secure employment I haven’t really had much time to post lately. Something just happened that I have to share, though.

I had just sat down to lunch with the family and Rabid’s visiting parents when the tones went off for our sister fire department. It’s Monday, isn’t it? The tones were for an unresponsive woman in a car at a gas station across town. Seconds later, the phone rang. It was the town police chief. He asked me if I had heard there was a code in progress and was I going?

I said no; the ambulance would beat me there. He rung off.

As soon as I got off the phone, I decided I should go. I said goodbye to everyone and drove over to the scene, lights, siren, high speed.

I heard the ambulance sign off on scene. A few minutes later, I arrived.

I got out and walked to the ambulance, pulling on gloves as I walked. I got in the back of the ambulance. The dead woman was already in the rig; a paramedic was preparing to intubate while a firefighter performed CPR. The other technician from the ambulance was putting the woman on the heart monitor. I knew the woman needed IV access so I got to work. I used shears to cut the sleeve of her jacket and shirt and tied a tourniquet on her arm. Due to the lack of circulation, her veins were flat. I chose to go with an eighteen guage rather than a sixteen due to the condition of her veins. I got the catheter out and ready, then got the j-loop tubing out and flushed it with saline. I picked my site, cleaned it with alcohol, and popped in the catheter, hitting the vein on the first try. I put on the j-loop and taped it all down. The other tech handed me a tegaderm, a clear adhesive dressing, and I put it over the IV site to secure it.

They hadn’t shocked her; she had PEA, pulseless electrical activity, an unshockable rhythm. They decided to try to pace her; the other tech handed me a defib pad which I placed on my side of the patient.

The paramedic asked me if I had the line. He seemed surprised that I had it done so fast and was on to other things. He ordered epinephrine and atropine. The other tech started the epi and I put in the atropine.

The tech was trying to get the pacer to work. The woman was resistant and wouldn’t pace. Her anatomy was such that the paramedic couldn’t intubate. The firefighter continued the compressions while the paramedic ventilated her with a bag-valve mask.

The paramedic had the firefighter stop compressions and felt for a carotid pulse… She had one! According to the monitor, the woman had developed a rhythm; sinus tachycardia; not good, but no longer dead.

Sometime after I had the line started we had left for the hospital with another firefighter at the wheel. The paramedic radioed a brief patch to the hospital and then we arrived. We unhooked the woman from all of the gear in the ambulance and wheeled her smartly into the hospital. Five or six people were waiting in the trauma room; the paramedic and I moved her from the gurney to the bed and we turned over care.

I helped put the ambulance back in service; it was a mess from all of the tools, wrappers, and consumables used and discarded. I got a ride back to the gas station with three other firefighters from the sister agency; the CPR-giver, the driver, and another firefighter who followed us over to drive us back. They invited me to come participate in their scenes whenever I wanted.

So, to recap; she was dead when I got there. She was alive when we left her at the hospital.

Awesome. This was one of the most intense events of my life. Plus, I worked the entire code in my silly pointy green hat.

Some random pictures…

Kids at the Movie Marathon.

Landing at Teeterboro, NJ, on the way back from Key West. I’m in the jump seat.

This is a Bombardier Challenger. This was our ride to and from Key West. Rather nice, really. I could get used to this sort of travel.

Ground Zero. My first visit since there were buildings here.

The site of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire.

Next month on the 16th, it will have been twenty years since I was inducted into the Navy.

Boot camp was an interesting experience. Looking back on it is odd; thinking about being in boot and things that happened there are always considered from a ‘we’ perspective. Very, very few things that happened in boot were at all individual. I can think of three events during boot that were things that ‘I’ did rather than things that ‘we’ did. Just three.

I got sick. I had the so-called ‘Ricky Crud’ bad. The Ricky Crud is the sum of regional sicknesses that everyone brings to boot minus the ones from your own region. I got a really bad case of it. Having the Ricky Crud lost me a leadership position in our boot camp company (“I need a yeoman… I don’t need a sick yeoman”). It also got me out of a bicillin shot. The shot was legendary in its painfulness, both while being given and then again the following day. I went to sick call instead of to bicillin clinic. They forgot to send me later. I never told anyone of the oversight and as a result managed to avoid the bicillin shot.

I had time to myself during service week. One week late during the twelve weeks of boot, the recruits were farmed out to provide assistance and labor throughout the recruit training center. I was especially lucky in that I was sent as part of a work detail to the recruit recreation center. The rec center was a facility most recruits saw rarely; I only made it there once during my time in boot other than during service week. I’m not sure why, but I was put in charge of the detail and so had the run of the place. I had naps; I used bathroom stalls with doors and without ten or fifteen guys watching and waiting for their turn; I smoked cigarettes almost whenever I wanted to. Luxury.

I had illicit fun. During the second week we went to dental qualification. We stood in line for our turn in one of the ten or so exam chairs. As I got out of the chair, the dentist handed me my folder and told me to ‘follow the red line to room 333’. I did so; Room 333 had a sign on it that said ‘Dental Surgery’. I went in and was ushered into a chair. Two officers in scrubs placed lab goggles on me (‘in case we drop tools’) and used some medieval crank device to remove two wisdom teeth, just like that. They gave me six hits of Tylenol with Codeine and sent me back to my barracks on light duty for two days. Thinking ahead, I used four of the pills as prescribed; I hid the other two in my locker. During the last week of boot, we went over to a huge drill hall to practice our marching routine to be performed during graduation. I ate the two pills just before we departed for the practice and had an awesome afternoon floating around the drill hall.

Each morning they woke us about five to get on with things. For the first week or so, they did the hackneyed trash-can-down-the-barracks trick just before reveille. After that, we got an extra five minutes or so of sleep and then woke to reveille. After the first few weeks of that, it got so that we would wake up when the unseen functionary in some distant office put the needle on the record.

It was hugely depressing to wake up and hear the scratch of the record. It meant that the day was about to begin; once reveille was over, no one could be in their rack. So we’d lie there in our racks listening to the scratch of the impending recording and calculate the number of days left in boot. About week five, it seemed like a death sentence each morning. About week ten, it wasn’t so bad anymore.

I was thinking about the scratchy record last Monday morning while sitting in the ambulance, waiting for my partner to arrive. I woke to the tones at about 5:10; a woman across town had some kind of issue. I don’t recall the issue anymore; it doesn’t matter, really. I got up, depressed at the day starting before I was ready. I got my pants, boots, and jacket on and pulled the ambulance out of the bay. Then I sat in the rig and waited for my partner to arrive from wherever he lives in town. That’s when I found myself thinking about the scratch of the record.

I don’t remember the patient’s issue though I was the tech on the call. I tried to start a line twice and missed both attempts; right through the vein. The patient was very nice about it. It’s a lot different starting lines in a moving truck on bumpy roads.

Earlier in the evening, we took a young guy to the local big hospital from our localer little hospital. He had really bad tonsillitus and mononucleosis and had an unstable airway due to the hugely swollen tonsils. We took a doctor and nurse; they were concerned that they might have to do a cricothyrotomy on the way if the condition got worse. Didn’t happen, though.

Due to the call in the morning, I was late leaving for home. The last time I had worked Sunday night, two weeks before, I was toned for my volunteer squad and ended up spending five hours sitting in the firehouse providing immediate coverage for my side of town while everyone else in the department assisted in a mile-wide evacuation across town where a tractor-trailer had overturned on the interstate.

Just as I was leaving for home this week, the across-town sister department was toned to the interstate for an overturned trailer with boats. By the time I was in town, my department had been toned. I waited at the sister department for an engine from my department to take me up on the interstate; before my ride arrived I was pressed into service with the sister department and went up in one of their trucks.

The Dartmouth crew team was on its way to Miami for training. They made it twenty-five miles before one of the trailers jackknifed and overturned on the ice. $150,000 worth of boats. Twelve of them. Six of them were sixty feet long. The rest of them were at least thirty feet.

The picture shows the incident commander, two state troopers, and the lead guy from the heavy-wrecker service.

The first order of business was getting the boats off the trailer. Oars, too; about a hundred of them.

The people in civvies are unhappy Dartmouth coaches. They circulated like nervous parents while we took the fragile carbon-fiber boats off of the trailer and placed them in the median.

A sixty-foot boat weighs about 250 pounds.

Once all of the boats and gear were off the trailer, the wrecker people set to work righting it.

Surprisingly, none of the boats were damaged. The trailer was, though; not badly, however.

After the trailer was removed, one of the coaches took the undamaged truck back to Dartmouth to get a different trailer. He also gathered a number of students and sent them down in cars. Conveniently, they reloaded the boats on the trailer. Traffic was routed onto the shoulder for much of the morning.

The boats had to be turned to get them on the trailer in the right orientation. The jackknifed trailer had ended up backwards on the road; the replacement trailer was oriented with traffic. Due to the length of the boats, we had to completely stop traffic every few minutes so that the boats could be rotated.

The fire department arranged for pizza for the people working the scene. This resulted in the unusual and novel experience of standing in the middle of an interstate eating pizza while watching college students perform manual labor.

Finally the boats and oars were reloaded and the Dartmouth coaches got back on the road to Miami. No damage was done except some minor damage to the trailer. The whole thing took about five hours to resolve.

I’m working now; I had two calls earlier in the evening. I had a successful IV start; one poke, though I did have to resort to the Singer method. I was not going to miss the vein.

Put the needle on the record. Put the needle on the record. Put the needle on the record ’til the drumbeat goes like this…

From a fellow firefighter; felines, firearms, and flytraps. Fabulous!

My best effort is 1,637 feet.

I had an interesting day yesterday (the most interesting of five calls involved twelve thirty to sixty foot boats strewn across the highway); also, as my previous post may have implied, some changes have been afoot. I have a post germinating… Maybe I’ll be able to get it out soon. I am, of course, operating at a dead run at the moment so who knows when I will be able to write it. Maybe I’ll gift myself with an hour of downtime tonight.

I’m resigning my position at the Red Menace today.

Next up: sink or swim.