I spent a long time working in the inner city on an ALS rig, Rescue 1 in Providence, RI. It was an amazing ride, and if I could do it all over I wouldn’t change a thing.
Every now and then I like to point out the absurdity that is EMS, not every time we roll, but more often than anybody could imagine, unless they lived it. Here’s a few of the things that drove me nuts, hope you get a kick out of it…
1) Parents who call us when their kid wonâ€™t get out of bed and go to school.
Think this is only a police problem? Think again. Little Johnny refuses to get out of bed. Why you ask? Because he is sick, he says. Whatâ€™s a frightened parent to do? Call 911, have the medics do an evaluation and PRESTO! No more excuses. Works every time, except when the disgruntled medic shows up, decides that Little Johnny needs fluids and breaks out the large bore needles.
2) The well-being check.
Auntie isnâ€™t answering her phone. Youâ€™ve tried three times, and now itâ€™s three in the morning and you are scared. She lives so far away, nearly fifteen minutes by car, better call 911 and let somebody else do the checking! More often than not, Auntie is just fine, and was tired of answering the phone so she let it go to voicemail so she could get some rest!
3) The patient who calls us because they want to get seen faster at the ER.
This is the oldest trick in the book, one that has plagued medics since they brought patients to the infirmary in horse-drawn carts. Worst part? It actually works a lot of the time, regardless of how vociferously we explain to the patient that it wonâ€™t.
4) Medication administration.
Asthmatics need inhalers. Children need Tylenol. Diabetics need sugar. People with heart conditions need nitro. Medics need to rush to the homes of these poor souls; dispatched for â€œdifficulty breathing,â€ child seizing,â€ â€œfemale unconscious,â€ and â€œchest pressure,â€ only to be told that all the patient needs is some medication.
5) Providing psych transport.
The police have a perfectly insane individual properly handcuffed and in the back of their fortified, gated, electrified and deadbolted backseat. Said person goes bonkers.
Do the police drive this safely restrained individual to the ER for a psych eval? Hell no, they call for EMS assistance, free the lunatic, put him in a cubicle full of glass, needles, potential projectiles and an unarmed medic and move on to the next child who refuses to go to school.
6) Checking the well-being…revisited.
Hmm, havenâ€™t heard from Dad in a month or two, better call 911 and see what heâ€™s up to. Last I remember he was really sick and refused to go to the doctors! So, the medics arrive, stuff Vicks up their noses, and enter the hot zone. In a week or two the smell of the dead and decaying body will be just a memory.
7) Responding to abdominal pain call.
This has got to be the holy grail of dispatcher lingo. Canâ€™t figure out what the heck the person on the phone is complaining about? Ask them if their belly hurts. Everybodyâ€™s belly hurts, especially the medics who have responded to thousands of abdominal pain calls, 99.9% of which will be rectified by the personâ€™s next bowel movement.
8) Being sent to the mysterious nature unknown call.
And speaking of dispatchers, how in the world can they send an ALS unit for a Nature Unknown? You would think they would be clever enough to ask the person on the phone if their belly hurt!
9) The language barrier.
Any medic who cares about helping people and works in an area with mixed ethnicity knows the basics of a few languages; where is the pain, how long, mucho or pequena, ARE YOU BLEEDING! Any person who cares even a little (pequena) about the medic responding to their emergency knows the basics of English, what is your name, date of birth and where is your pain. It is absolutely mind-boggling the number of people who have lived in the US for years who cannot answer those questions without an interpreter.