Tornado (pt. 1)

The phone buzzing brings me out of my mid-day nap, angrily.
"Drew. He can wait." I put the phone down and roll back over sleepily, hoping I can go back to my dreams.
As I'm twitching into sleep, the phone vibrates itself off my side-table, and I reach around looking for it with my hand.
"Sam? Are you okay?"
"Yeah, Mom, why?"
"I got a text from your school saying that there was a tornado warning and then I heard about it on the news. Didn't you get it?"
"No, I was sleeping."
"I don't want you to be in your apartment--it's not a good place for you. Can you try to find somewhere safe?"
"Yeah." I open my blinds and am shocked to see the trees bending dangerously as the rain comes down in sheets. How did this happen? When I went to bed, it was just a little cloudy.
"Keep in touch, okay?"
"Will do, thanks for calling." As I hang up, I see I have a voicemail, along with three other missed calls. I dial my voicemail and listen as a frantic Drew starts speaking.
"Sam, it's Drew. Eric, Andrew and I are going to the station. There's been a tornado, the hospital got hit--there's major damage. We need you to come. Please call me back."
I've never heard him like this. I jump out of bed and change hastily. I grab my BDUs and throw them on quickly, haphazardly tying my boots as I stumble into the living room.
"Liv, I'm going to the station. The tornado hit the hospital, Drew says there's major damage."
She looks at me, the shock apparent in her eyes. We turn on the news and the streaming feed of our dispatch simultaneously. The radio chatters endlessly, and the news flashes warnings on the screen as pictures of the tornado are shown repeatedly. I wait for the rain to stop, and then I head out to my car.
The drive out is relatively uneventful, and I thank whoever is listening for letting me arrive safely.
As I step out of my car, I realize that there is only one of the five medics still in the bay. I check the run board and see that the other four are in the county that got hit, doing back-fill for their crews.
"How long are you here?" I turn and find my chief standing over my shoulder.
"As long as you need me, sir, I don't have class tomorrow."
"We'll take the help, Sam."
"Yes, sir, glad to be of service."
The radio never stops. One engine is back in service, another is on its way out. One medic makes it to the hospital as another makes it to its stand-by location. Emergency management marks up every other minute, updating central on something new. I'm tired just listening to it.
"One of the girls doing back-fill has class tomorrow. Mind taking the zone to meet her so she can go home?"
"No problem chief, I'm on my way."
Driving to the other station, I take note of what's around me. There's an abandoned car on the side of the road, a few downed trees and lots of debris. I pass two more cars and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck.
The station is packed. Firefighters and EMTs are scattered around, and I feel out of place. A few people nod to me, and I reciprocate awkwardly as I wander around their station.
"Hey Sam, you're just in time." I look around and see Eric standing against the medic.
"In time for what?"
"Time for us to leave. We're clear." He points over his shoulder, and I notice their medic returning.
"Ugh, I mean, this is good, but it's frustrating."
"I feel like I'm not doing anything." He shrugs, and I climb in the cab with a sigh. We head home, and I climb into bed tiredly. I curl up under my blanket and try to ignore the branches scraping against the window next to my bunk.
I sleep fitfully all night, dreaming of my apartment, tornadoes, and my partners. I awake early the next morning to the jarring sounds of a call going out.


I failed my lift test.

Failing because:
My left hand grip-strength was 65. Needed to be 70.
I can do two bicep curls at 40lbs, not 5.
I cannot walk 15 feet after having dead-lifted my body weight. (I can, however, walk 3 feet)

But I can do everything else. Woooo.

"How much do you weigh?"
"I don't know, roughly 125, 130?"
"That's unfortunate."
"Because you'll be carrying your own body weight in this box."

So, it looks like I'll be hitting the gym every single day this week, working on grip strength when I'm not using my hands, and praying to the EMS Gods that I pass this next lift test May 8th. I cannot fail. I need this job--I want this job. I'm not letting 3 bicep curls, 11 feet and some weird grip test stand in between me and this job. Simply not going to happen.

"...'Self-efficacy,' [is] the unshakable belief some people have that they have what it takes to succeed." (from an article in The Wall Street Journal)

I'll keep you updated, I'm sure.

A multi-part post is coming regarding the tornado of earlier this week. I'll write that in between class, the gym, homework, rescue squad, and studying. "Free time," if you will.




Three tornadoes touched down in Virginia today, one in Suffolk. This tornado destroyed something like 13 houses, 1 strip mall, and damaged one of the hospitals that I transport to on a regular basis.

I'm at the station tonight, hoping to do some back-fill for Suffolk so as to relieve them. Please keep the 200-something injured people and their families in your thoughts and prayers, and the emergency workers who will be tirelessly keeping our counties safe.

The hospital with the tornado behind it.

I'll probably be writing all night if stuff really starts to happen.

Stay safe out there,


Chris gave me a pretty cool prompt idea based off of a post that he wrote. "Write about an important decision you have made in your life, but go back as far into why you made this decision, and what affected it as you can." I've been giving this some thought, so here is my first stab at it--there might be more in the future.

(Note: This is going in reverse chronological order, ending with the decision. I'm sure you can figure that out, but I just wanted to make sure to clarify!)

"We're going to live together," Drew says laughing as he shakes his head.
"You and me," I ask with a raised eyebrow.
"Yeah us, you weirdo. When we're in recruit school, we'll get an apartment or a town house, and we'll split rent. You can't complain about any loud noises when I bring girls home though." I roll my eyes at him and he winks good naturedly.
"Alright, fine, but what makes you think that I want to live with you?" He looks himself over, smiling a little as he does.
"Come on, Sam, I'm like...priceless. Girls will envy you. Guys will be jealous. Besides, it's my duty to take care of you." I punch him in the arm and he laughs.
"I don't need anyone to take care of me." Rubbing his arm, he nods.
"Yeah, that much is apparent. We're getting a dog."
"Fine," I say, essentially resigned to the idea of us being roommates, "but it has to be a big dog. I don't want any wimpy dogs in my house."
"See, now that's why we'll be great living together! Small dogs suck!"
"But you're a girl," the kid says to me with a twisted face, "girls can't be firefighters."
"You can still write," my mom says.
"Doubtful--when will I have time!?"
"You make time now, you'll make time then. You're a great writer. Don't give up that passion."
It hits me like a ton of bricks. All of a sudden, I feel my chest grow tight, and I feel a little bit dizzy.
Oh God...what am I thinking?
I'm pretty sure I don't want to be a high school English teacher anymore, and it scares me to death. What about my major? What about my dreams of inspiring students to write and embrace literature just like my favorite teacher had done for me? I sit down and pull out my phone, texting Drew.
"I need your advice," it reads, and as I send it I think how monumentally important this might be.
I've wanted to be other things in the past--Pediatric Radiation Oncologist, Trauma Surgeon, Forensic Scientist, Obstetrician; deciding on a new career path is nothing new for me.
My dad always joked that I'd never be an English teacher. "You have a scientific mind, Sam," he'd say after I asked a question like whether or not we could be sure that we were seeing the same colors or experiencing the same things. I asked him why we could recall smells and tastes, but not the sensation of hot or cold if we weren't currently feeling it. "Good question--maybe you should be the one to figure that out."
He and I both knew that I'd never be happy unless I was doing something sciency; I guess I was just in denial.
Where is the mail, where is the mail!?
I know it's coming. I know I passed. I'm going to be an EMT; I'm going to save someone's life.
"You have to take your position very seriously," my EMT instructor says. "You have to learn everything you can and do the best that you can--every time, no excuses." I nod my head as we eat the meal her partners prepared for us.
Running on the ambulance with her has been the coolest thing ever. I feel like a real EMT, a real provider. I get to put my skills to use and suddenly everything I've learned matters.
"I really love this stuff," I say as I shovel down some pasta.
"No kidding. You're the best I've ever had in one of my classes." I look up at her and roll my eyes. She laughs, because we both know that this is the first class she's ever taught.
"Gee, thanks," I add, laughing.
"But really, Sam. You have this natural zest and love of EMS, and you're good at it. You know the information, and you aren't street-stupid. You ever think of going career?"
"I...not really."
"It's hard being a woman and trying to prove it to these guys that you can do it; but there's no feeling like it when you succeed. I know you can do it if you put your mind to it."
I am taken to meet my lieutenant, a tall and skinny man in his thirties who appears to have had too much caffeine. He introduces himself to me as Alex Andrews; I calmly hold out my hand and say, "My name is Sam," plain and simple.
Enrolling in my University, I am invited into the Leadership program.
"What can you bring to this program?"
"A desire to help people."
"How do you plan to help people?"
"I'm not sure yet, but I know that I will."
I'm five years old, and my mom and I find a dead bird as she walks me to my first-grade class room. I cry when I realize there's nothing I can do to save it.
"But what about its mommy and its daddy and its friends," I ask my mom with tears spilling out of my big brown eyes. I'm only five, but I know that she doesn't have the answers.
"Do you want to have a funeral for it?"
"No, I want it to be alive!"
"Well honey, there's nothing we can do for it now." I sniffle and wipe my nose with my sleeve.
"I want to have a funeral for it."
And after we bury it in the ground behind the playground, I put a flower on top of it and say, "I didn't know you, but I'm sure you were a good bird. I hope you have fun in bird heaven, and I promise that I won't let any other birdies die if I can help it."
When I return to class, I draw in my journal. There's a dead bird in the ground, but next to it is me in my new bird hospital. There are birds all around, and they're thanking me for saving their lives.
I'm going to be a firefighter/paramedic.


Six Random Things

Tagged by Tori!
Rules of the game:
- Link to the person who tagged you.
- Post these rules on your blog.
- Write six random things about yourself.
- Tag six random people by linking to their blogs.
- Let each of the six know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment (on their blogs).
- Let your tagger know when your entry is up.

So, I'm going to do mine with pictures, because I think text-only might be boring.

1. I'm a redskins fan, and Chris Cooley is my man.

2. I have a hamster named Trevor who is probably the cutest thing ever.

3. I'm a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity.

4. I'm a Gold Award Girl Scout.

5. I used to be an actress.

6. I have an adorable sphinx cat.

Whew, that was harder than expected! Tagging Anni (consider yourself to be tagged on basically everything), Chris, Guitar Girl, FarmGirl, EE, and you, dear reader (if you have a blog). Leave me a comment with the link to your post so I can check it out, if you do decide to do it!


p.s.--I'll be bringing you a substantial post as a reply to one prompt I got from my "plea for prompts".


Remember To Breathe

Tracy asked me for some tips on staying calm during the state EMT test in my plea for prompts. Well, I'm no expert, but here's what's always worked for me, and the stuff my mom taught me. Thanks Tracy!

My mom never let me go to a test hungry. Every time I had a test, a quiz or an important presentation, I was always to have a good breakfast that morning. Mind you, I said a good breakfast. No pop-tarts, sugary cereals or donuts. I got toast, scrambled eggs, bacon and orange juice. My mom always said "how can you expect your brain to work if you don't give it some protein!?" She was so right. I always saw myself doing better when I ate a good meal than when I didn't. To this day, I make sure that I get some protein before something nerve-racking. (She'll be glad to know that before my job interview, I even made myself some eggs) So that's my first piece of advice.

Secondly, always remember to breathe. I find that in stressful situations, I often literally forget to breathe, holding my breath until my lungs scream for air. My pulse shoots up, my anxiety rises, and I'm freaking out again, breathing less and repeating the cycle.

The people at the test cite are just that--people. You make a mistake? It's alright, it's just a test. The evaluators aren't out to get you. In fact, they usually want to help you--they're nice people who were once in your shoes, scared to death of their proctors. Be polite, and show them that you know your stuff. They know you're scared, so don't worry about showing your nerves.

If you fail, it's not the end of the world. Lots of people have failed lots of times.
“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.”
--Sven Goran
Even if you fail, you can try again. Try, try again. Etc., etc., triteness, cliche. You get the point. Just try to remember that failure isn't the end.

As far as remembering things goes, this is the only advice I have. When you get the scenario, take a deep breath, and think of it all laid out in front of you. You always do what in trauma (as far as the state test goes)? Everything goes back to what (airway)? Is this a load-and-go? Should you consider calling for ALS?
After you've covered your every-situation bases, consider how the context of this scenario changes things.
Are the vitals stable? Are they improving? Does the patient have medication? Is that medication in date? You get the idea.
There are some things that are going to apply to every situation, and some that aren't. By this point, you know how to asses the situation. Refer back to an earlier point (remember to breathe), and just take your time.

Tracy, let me know how your state test goes! I'm sure you'll do great--it's just a re-cert. Man, now I'm all pumped for my Religion final in a week and a half.
Early Judaism--Okay, so...



Thank You Again

David was kind enough to consider me for another post of a day. If he keeps this up, it's going to go straight to my head, I swear! There are some really great posts up there, including one by one of my most favorite bloggers, Epi. Really great batch of posts :) Thanks again, David.

Drew, Eric and I are staying on shift tonight, so I'm expecting something to happen. Eric's picking up a batch of slice-n-bizzles on the way here from his paramedic class. I can't wait--I'm sure it'll be a great way to relieve exam-time stress!

By the way, I just saw a little girl on a commercial who said "I am a princess, and princesses don't get sick." That broke my heart. Oh how I wish it were true.

Stay Safe,


Beth asked me about music that means something to me in my "plea for prompts", as I've taken to calling it. I think it'd be sort of boring of me to just tell you which songs I like, so I'll tell you a story about a song that means something to me, "Summertime," another song I sang in my senior recital. Thanks for the idea, Beth!

"It's so hot in here," I say as we make our way towards the door. I need some fresh air, and even though I know it's probably the same temperature outside, I just need to be away from all those people.
He grabs my hand as we step outside, and to my surprise I find I get goosebumps immediately. The air has gotten considerably cooler, and it's misting lightly.
"IT'S YOUR BIRTHDAYYYYY," a drunken reveler remarks as I round the corner of the house. I nod my head and laugh as she toasts me, drinking liberally in honor of my birth, or maybe just another Friday night.
"What's next on your list," he asks me, and the congregated group of friends outside the door awaits my reply. I hesitate, thinking of something to do and the rain picks up a little bit. He checks his watch and looks back at me.
"It's nearly one-thirty, you should probably start another one!" I nod, but my mind is blank.
"Sing on a street corner," I shout excitedly, remembering another one.
"Number 78, I want to sing on the corner of a street!" Just then the cloud bursts and the rain falls in cold, thick sheets. He grabs my hand and pulls me back inside along with the rest of my friends, but as soon as he catches my eye, he stops. He can see how badly I want to do this.
"Your dress is white," he says with concern in his voice.
"I don't care."
"Me either," he says, practically pulling me back out the door by my hand. My perfectly-done hair is soaked, and I can taste the mascara on my lips as it runs down my face. He wraps his arms around me underneath the stop sign, and presses his forehead against mine.
"Summertime, and the living is easy; fish are jumpin', and the cotton is high..." The rain falls softly down on us, chilling every cell of my body.
"Well your daddy's rich, and your ma is good lookin'; so hush, little baby, don't you cry." He puts his hand behind my neck, pulling my lips to his so they touch lightly.
"One of these mornin's, you gonna rise up singin'; then you'll spread your wings, and you'll take the sky..." Every note vibrates against his lips as he pulls me closer still. The rain splashes on our lips and runs into our mouths lazily.
"But 'till that mornin', there's a'nothin' can harm you with daddy and mommy standin' by."
It's silent, save the rain making little noises as the droplets explode. Goosebumps make their way up my legs, and I'm not sure if it's from the rain or from his eyes staring back at mine.
"I, uh...I must look terrible," I say, breaking the silence awkwardly, "My hair is a mess and my make-up is everywhere."
"Who the hell cares about that? You're beautiful." He wipes the mascara off my face softly.
"I'd rather have just done that than look hot, anyway," I say laughing.
"And I'm so glad for that."
It's silent again, and he kisses me gently as a car waits its turn at the intersection.
Returning to the party, I realize that it could have ended at that moment, and I would have gone home happy.
"Thank you, I know," I say passively as I ignore the random partier with the beers taped to his hands.
My lips still tingle from the reverberation, and the taste of rainwater and mascara mixes on my tongue.

So hush, little baby, don't you cry.


Senior Recital

In response to my plea for prompts (by the way, I'm still in need of more!), Chris invited me to blog about something that has nothing to do with EMS. I like this, because it'll be a good way for me to show you guys I have a life (I swear I do!).

My floor-length gown swishes loudly against my feet as I pace in the bathroom. I can hear my heart trying to leap out of my chest--time simply isn't moving fast enough. I check the clock hanging precociously on the green wall of the church bathroom, and watch the seconds tick by slowly. The metronomic beat reminds me of what I'm about to do.
"Oh God. Oh my God, what am I doing?" I'm about to sing, solo (save a piano accompanist), for roughly forty minutes in front of fifty or sixty people. I've been preparing for five years for this one moment.
I swear my heart stops beating for a second as my voice coach peeks her head in.
"Hey, Sam, you ready?"
"I, uh...are you sure I have to do this?" I'm positive my makeup is running and my perfectly coiffed hair is falling. My gown must look hideous, and I'm going to sound awful.
"You've been preparing for years for this. You're going to do a wonderful job. You have a beautiful voice; everyone's waiting."
I head downstairs and make my entrance. My heels click happily on the stone as the crowd claps cheerfully, my friends and family welcoming my arrival. I smile and blush, glancing at my feet as I raise the stand. I look over at my accompanist and she smiles big.
I take a deep breath and look up. The sunlight falls on my music as I hear the first notes of "Dido's Lament," and I close my eyes happily, knowing this will be just fine.
I open my mouth, and the notes seem foreign. They aren't right emotionally--the style of the piece is all wrong.
I land harshly on a note, and I know I look surprised. This simply will not do. I take a moment during a rest and compose myself.
This is Dido's Lament. Dido is dying, having committed suicide. She's telling her final words to her handmaid, asking not to be forgotten. Stop being happy, and sing the piece like you mean it.
I feel the smile slide off my lips, and when I open my mouth again, the notes glide from within me effortlessly. I am Dido; my love Aeneas has left me alone in Carthage, and I would rather die than live without him.
I look over at Anni, my best friend, and imagine that I am singing to her. I put a hand on my stomach, feeling the last bit of life withing me compelling me to beg her not to forget me.
"Remember me! But ah, forget my fate." Those high notes escape my lips passively, and I look at the conductor of a local choir whose hand is now poised in front of his lips. He nods, his eyes closed, and I am satisfied.
The music ends, and there is silence. Slowly and quietly, the audience begins to applaud. I look at my mom who is in tears and I smile.
I glance at the Italian Aria in front of me and take a deep breath.
Okay, he is asking if Amaryllis doubts his love for her. He says that it is written on his heart, should she care to look.
I bring my head up, and I am ready again.

Okay, so writing about non-EMS is very difficult for me. No, like...wow. That was hard! Here is a very dramatic, operatic version of Dido's Lament if you're interested in hearing it. It's a great song :)


Drew and I gave a presentation to our school's Student Government Association about the proposed campus rescue squad that he, Eric and I have been working on.
It went really well. We got a unanimous vote of confidence from the SGA. The students are behind us, the city is behind us...now we're off to tackle the administration.

(He's a dork.)

“We must remember that one determined person can make a significant difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history.”
--Sonia Johnson

So here's to changing history--at least that of our university.


Help yourself!

After a plea for prompts, Maggie May asked "Have you ever NOT wanted to help someone?"
Thank you for this prompt! It's a wonderful question :)

It's about seven thirty as I'm dragging myself out of the comfort, if you can call it that, of my bunk. I don't bother lacing my boots as I walk out to the medic--I'm not driving, so I'll just get them en route.
Groggily, I wipe the sleep out of my eyes as I take a look at the run report. Syncope. "Hmmph," I acknowledge as I start lacing up one boot.
"Fainting at 7:30. They could have avoided that if they had just stayed asleep." I wink as I try to suppress a yawn, and my partner shakes his head.
"You college students...you know, the world does start well before the crack of noon. People still eat breakfast before work."
"Whoa, wait, what is this 'breakfast' you speak of?" He shakes his head and laughs as I change the siren from a wail to a yelp. My head pounds, so as soon as we clear the intersection, it's back to the wail.
The address we find is under construction. It's literally the frame of a house. I'm a bit confused until I realize that it's a house that's being built, and we're being called for one of the construction workers.
"I fainted." I look around and see a man in his early twenties sitting on the curb, yawning uninterestedly. He looks down at his fingernails and picks some dirt out of them absentmindedly.
"Oh, umm, okay," I say as I pull out the blood pressure cuff, "do you remember what happened?"
"Yeah, I was conscious, and then I wasn't." I look up at him and roll my eyes.
"I mean, do you know what you were doing when it happened?"
"Standing over there." He points using the arm I'm taking his blood pressure in. Great.
"Right, but were you doing anything?"
"...Standing." He looks me over from head to toe and makes an approving nod towards my partner.
"Hey buddy, do you have any history of this kind of thing?" I silently thank my partner for not acknowledging his immaturity.
"Naw, never passed out before."
"Did anyone see it happen?"
"Did you hit your head or anything?"
His blood pressure is great and his pulse is wonderful too. I wish I could be that healthy.
"Did you have breakfast this morning," I ask him as I get out the glucometer.
"Yep." God, he's so helpful.
"This might sting," I warn, jabbing the lancet into his finger lazily. His sugar is great--not hypoglycemic at all.
"Christ, did you have to do that?" I look at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Yes sir, had to make sure that your sugar was okay."
"I told you I had breakfast."
"Alright, do you want to go to the hospital with us?"
"Climb in," my partner says, gesturing to the ambulance.
After he gets in the patient compartment, he leans over and says, "thank god for you guys. I really didn't work today." I cough, a little taken aback.
"I'm sorry?"
"I really didn't want to work, but I've called in sick too much, so I figured that if something happened on the job, then I'd get a day or two off, and free medical care. Workman's comp and all that." My jaw literally drops, but I do nothing to stop it. I can see my partner turning redder by the second, and I pray to the Gods of EMS that he doesn't explode. I know I'm not getting paid, but I like this position.
"So, you mean to tell me," he starts, "that you're using 911--an emergency service to get you out of work?"
"Well, yeah."
"And do you realize that while we're sitting here with you, taking your non-emergent..." he stops as he thinks of how not to insult the patient, "as we take you to the hospital, there could be a real emergency? A real emergency where someone could die because we can't respond."
"There are other paramedics."
"Are there really?"
"Well, yeah."
"Last time I checked, my partner and I were the last ones in the county because the other ones were doing stand-by at a race. Next time a call comes out, they're going to have to page out the next county over. So I really hope nobody close to you needs emergency care, because it's going to be a while coming to them."
The patient, obviously unphased by this realizes he left his cell phone in his truck.
"Aw hell, I'll be right back."
"Oh yeah, no problem," my partner replies, "you're not keeping an ambulance out of service or anything."
"Can we uh...can't we report him or something?"
"No. You call, we haul."
"Yeah." He sees the patient returning from his truck, and puts his head in his hands.
"Fuck, Sam." The anguish is visible in his eyes. This isn't why we got into this job. We wanted to help.
"I'll tech this one," I say softly.
The whole drive to the hospital, we sat in silence, and I heard the entire conversation echoing back in my head. I was disgusted.
"So you say that you didn't actually pass out, right?"
He knows the doctors can't tell his boss. On the PPCR, I take care to write down every detail. I'm not going to let this scumbag get away with this, I think to myself.
I later realized though, that the second we marked up en route to the hospital, he already had.

Prompt Me

David McMahon picked my reply to his question as one of his top contenders for the Post Of The Day. That was really sweet and unexpected--thank you so much, I'm honored! Go stop by his blog if you haven't before; it's a real treat.

Well, today we make a presentation to our school's Student Government (of which I am apart) about why a campus rescue squad is a good idea. I'll let you know how it goes, but please think good thoughts for us!

Also...I just scheduled my lift test for my private transport job. Eep! This is the one and only thing standing in the way of me and the first job I've gotten for myself. I'm terrified of failing, so I'm going to the gym every day this week. I test next Wednesday...wish me luck!

I'm feeling a little dry creatively, so I'm digging back through my memory to try and think up a good call I can use. There's not much there.

So maybe you can help! I'd love for you all to give me a prompt. It can be one word, or it could be an entire scenario. Ask me a question, give me an idea, or simply suggest something I could use in a post. I could really, really use the help. Hell, it doesn't even have to be EMS-related! I might interpret it that way, but that's part of the fun :) So if you've never commented before, please comment now! I'd love a plethora of comments giving me ideas on things to post. Thanks in advance!




David McMahon asked the question "Have you ever been lonely?" He then asked that we answer it on our own blogs, and perhaps ask those who read ours to chime in, etc. Well, seeing how this isn't my public blog about EMS, and not my private blog about my regular life, I'll interpret it in an EMS sort of way.

I distinctly remember two times when I was lonely.

The first was my first call as the real attendant in charge. It wasn't until we were about half way to the hospital that I looked around and realized that I was the person with the highest level of certification. If I messed up, needed help, made a mistake--tough luck, kid. It was all on me, and it was terrifying. I felt about 2 inches tall and all alone. Looking at the rider sitting in the airway seat, I felt truly lonely, even though there was a driver, a third and the patient.
I've grown into my skills a lot more, although I don't claim to be any sort of super star. I know when I need help, but I know when I can handle the situation. Luckily, I don't feel lonely anymore.

The second was after my first major cardiac arrest. I didn't write this in that post, but after doing CPR, I passed out. I'm not just a pansy, so shhh. As it turns out, I had appendicitis the week later, and my family has a little history of passing out the week before having an appendectomy. So, worried about employee health and all that, my supervisors asked that I be checked out in the ED. "Fine, fine," I remember saying a little groggily as they literally picked me up, put me on another squad's stretcher and wheeled me into a room, sheeting me over to the hospital bed.
A tech came in, drawing the curtain behind him, and proceeded to take off my uniform shirt with little explanation. I guess he supposed I knew what he was doing. I was still a little confused after losing consciousness, so as he set up a 12-lead EKG, I pointed to the major bay and said "is he okay?"
"I'm sure he's fine, ma'am."
...Ma'am? Does he realize that I'm the one who did compressions on that guy's chest while he was lying unresponsive on the floor of his house? Does he know that I'm the one who breathed for him all 25 minutes on the way to the hospital?
"No, no, the one over there, is he okay?"
"Fine, really."
beep beep beep beep, I hear as the monitor picks up my heart rhythm.
"Hm, your heart is beating pretty fast. Stay still, try not to breathe for a few seconds while this works, okay?"
Yeah, my heartbeat was pretty intense. 120, supine. Not unheard of, though, I have a resting of anywhere from 80something-110ish. Really healthy, right?
So a few minutes later, my roommate Liv comes in to check on me. She was there doing clinicals for her EMT class, and heard about the code and my fainting. She decides to watch them work the patient I brought in. She leaves, and I'm sort of sitting in the room all by myself, shirtless in bulky BDUs, a little flustered.
"Major Bay 2, code blue. Major Bay 2, code blue." Hey, that's my code patient. No, no, he was alive when we brought him here. That's not him. He was a fighter, breathing against the bag, grabbing at the stretcher, fluttering his eyelids. No, that's not him.
Liv comes back in and says, kinda softly, "Hey Sam...your code patient died. I'm really sorry."
And as she went back to her clinicals, I looked down at myself. All alone in the room, the only noise accompanying me is the steady beeping of the monitor as it acknowledges my heartbeat. My heart, which is still beating, is the only thing keeping me company. I laugh a little under my breath. I feel guilty for being alive, I feel like a bad EMT because he's not alive, but most of all I feel completely alone. I think of his family, of my family, of what he had for breakfast and how none of it matters. I have never felt an irony or a loneliness that profound in my life.
I feel my heart rate climb, and my hands start to sweat. The monitor races to keep up, and that's when the alarms start. I glance over at it and see that my heart is now beating steadily around 198 times a minute. The monitor is flashing red and reads: TACHYCARDIC.
A nurse runs in, checks the monitor, checks my radial pulse, and calculates.
"Honey, you need to calm down. Are you okay? Do you feel alright."
"Yes. I'm fine."

Well, then, those are the times in EMS that I've felt lonely. Feel free to tell me when you've felt lonely as well!



Bumper Stickers

To the driver and his passengers on the interstate who drove up next to me, shouted obscenities to me through the window, and proceeded to pass me while flicking me off:

You are intelligent. You tailed me for a good twenty minutes, obviously reading my bumper stickers. Okay, you don't agree with my opinions; that's fine--it's what makes this country great.

But while poring over my visual expression of my beliefs, you had to come across two things. One was my license plate that clearly states that I am a member of a Virginia Rescue Squad. The second was a magnetic ribbon asking you to support the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads.

If while speeding off past me, fingers extended out the window, you had hit the car in front of you (which, I might add, you almost did), I would have stopped to help your stupid ass. Do you know why? Because I am a good person. Because I am a person who believes that people are inherently good, and even though I deal with assholes like you even when I'm not on the clock, I refuse to allow myself to become jaded.

So to you, dear sirs, I say this: be careful next time. I know lots of EMTs, firefighters and paramedics. And I know that if you pulled that same stunt with them that you did with me, not all of them would have stopped to make sure that you were still breathing.

Yours most truly,

p.s.--I'd like to add that my bumper stickers aren't even that radical. They don't say anything like "I'M GOING TO KILL MY UNBORN FETUS!" or "JESUS HATES GAYS!" They don't touch on the war in Iraq, gun control, abortion, the president, or any of those hot-topics. They're mainly cute, humorous expressions of my thoughts (many of which I'm sure the occupants of that car didn't quite grasp). Goodness.


Just Checking

"Station 1, bleeding from the head, 637 West Springlake."
"Medic 1 is en route," I say, flipping the master switch on the lightboard.
We take off towards the scene, and my partner wonders aloud if perhaps this could be due to an assault. If it is, we need PD to meet us there.
"Car 1 is en route," we hear as our chief marks up. He lives much closer to the incident, so he's going to respond first. Less work for us, so that's perfectly fine by me.
"10-4," central responds.
"Central, do you have any more information?"
"Caller states that a chair fell on the patient's head."
"10-4," he replies.
I think for a moment, and after we turn the corner, I pick up the radio.
"Central, was the chair falling on his head secondary to an assault?" My partner laughs.
"That'd be a negative, Medic 1."
"10-4, just checking."

I got a few giggles when I got back to the station, that's for sure.


In Memory

A year later, I spend the day thinking of Nicole White, an EMT killed in the Virginia Tech tragedy of last year.
Nicole was a volunteer at my rescue squad, and it is believed that when she was killed, she was trying to save the life of another student.
I know that her absence is felt every day, and it is an absolute shame that such a kind and caring person was taken from this earth so prematurely.


Oh, by the way

I got the job! I found out over the weekend that I got the private transport job I applied for. I couldn't be happier.

I have to schedule my lift test and occupational health screening and all that craziness, but this is so exciting. It's the first thing I've ever gone after myself. I said "hey, I should get a job," and I went out and got one. It's a pretty cool feeling.

I'm going to have so much to write about, I'm sure.

Alright, now it's off to class. So close to finishing out this semester. Just got to stick it out a little longer!


Six Word Memoir

Nobody tagged me for this, but I really, really liked the idea. I knew immediately what I wanted to do for it, but it was going to take me a while to compile it and make into one picture.

The Rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir.
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you want.
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to the original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere.
4. Tag at least five more blogs with links.
5. Leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play

In order to de-stress, she napped.

This is a conglomeration of pictures taken by my parents during our trip to Spain and Italy after my high school graduation. They took pictures of me sleeping in strange places, strange positions and during strange times of the day, and then showed them to me after the trip. I can fall asleep in almost any position, place and time, except for supine, my bed, and night time. It's a curse, really.
Mind you, this is only a set of 12 pictures...there are more.

I tag Epi, Anni, Scott, Tori, and Danny, if you guys feel up to it :)


They Grow Up So Quickly

Drew is done precepting his EMT-B. He finished his nice little packet, got all the right signatures in all the right places, and turned it into the powers that be. I remember when he was just a little EMT student after his first few classes, excited about vital signs and airway adjuncts. I remember them after test day and the phone call I got.
"We failed."
"You didn't fail."
"We absolutely failed our practicals."
"Yeah, well, I thought I failed my trauma practical, and it turns out we nailed it. And now look at me!"
"You think we're going to be okay?"
"I know you'll do great."
I remember when he ended up passing and getting his card in the mail. I got to do the whole "I told you so" thing (it rocked!). I remember seeing him precepting for the first time and being really, truly impressed. This kid has some serious skill. And now he's about to be able to tech calls all by himself.

We just had this conversation on instant messenger, and like my Jewish grandmother, it made me kvell:
Sam (12:47): Awww, Drew, I'm so proud of you!
Drew (12:48): Thanks for helping me
Drew (12:48): Throughout the class
Drew (12:48): And through precepting

Drew is roughly two years older than I am, but I still felt like I should be wrapping him up in a big hug and ruffling his hair and things of that nature.
So congratulations, partner. I can't believe how quickly things change. You're going to make a great provider--I'd trust you with my life, that's for sure.

p.s.--Sorry for embarrassing the hell out of you, but I know you'd do the same to me if you had a public forum that lots of people could access. Now just be glad I didn't tell them about the time you punched yourself in the face! Oops ;)


Only God Can Judge Me

"Can you stay here with me," he asks me, his big brown eyes looking up at me helplessly.
"I can't, I'm sorry." I soak another four by four in sterile saline and start the tedious process of wiping the blood off of him over. This is the second time I've seen him tonight. The first was at the accident, when he put his car in a ditch and hit his head against the window.
"You're the only one who's nice to me; everyone else is yelling at me and staring me down and stuff." He uses his sleeve to scratch his face, raising both of his cuffed hands up slowly so as to avoid hitting me in the process.
"You're my patient," I say softly, "it's my job to take care of you." He smiles at me as I wipe the blood from under his eyebrow.
"I didn't mean to drive drunk. I didn't know I had," he falters, trying not to cry. He starts over, looking me right in the eye. "I came home from work and had a few beers, but I didn't realize how hungry I was. I guess I had too much to drink and not enough to eat, and when I was going to go over to my mom's house, I was drunk. I'm so sorry."
Lifting his chin to wipe the blood off of his neck, I stop him. "Hey, Matt, you don't have to apologize to me. You messed up, you realize what you did wrong, and somehow or another you're going to pay the consequences for what you did. It's not my place to judge you, it's just my place to treat you as my patient with kindness and compassion, just like I do all my patients." The cut above his right eyebrow won't stop bleeding, so I grab some gauze and cling wrap from the bag and secure it in place. "Matt, I'd like to take you to the hospital to get that stitched up."
"I...I really don't do hospitals, and I don't have health insurance." I squat down to his level and grab an ice pack. I smash it to activate it and hand it to him so he can put it on his eye which is swelling nicely.
"Matt, please. These officers here don't want you bleeding all over their jail; that's why they called me here to clean you up. I really, really want to take you to get seen."
"I really don't want to go."
"I can't make you, but promise me that if you start to feel worse you'll call me back and let me take you?" I wipe some remaining blood off of him and use a new dressing to dry his face.
"I promise. Hey Sam?"
"Yeah, Matt." He motions for me to come in closer so that no one can hear, but it's obvious that no one's paying attention anyway.
"Only God can judge me, right?" I pause to think for a moment and then I nod.
"Well, I think so anyway." He leans back against the wall and puts his hands in his lap and closes his eyes, looking almost as if he's in prayer.
"Thanks, Sam." I look up to see him frozen in the same position as I pack away my equipment silently.
"Oh, no problem, just glad to get you cleaned up."
"No, I mean...you taught me a lot." I sort of ponder this as I head back out towards the ambulance, but I shake it off like it's nothing.

"He was totally hitting on you," Eric says, "I can't believe you were so nice to him."
"What do you mean?"
"He was a drunk driver, Sam. You shouldn't have been so nice."
"That's how I am with all my patients, why should I have been any different with him?" He pauses and looks at me, puzzled.
"He was a drunk driver?" At this point, I'm getting frustrated, and I'm not in the mood to deal with this.
"It's not my place to judge my patients! It doesn't matter who you are, if you're my patient, I'm going to take care of you. If you're a single mother, a wealthy lawyer, a crack addict, a pedophile, a drunk driver," I say with a sneer, "you're still my patient. It's not my place to decide who gets good care and who gets the shit-tastic care of the day. You can hate the sin and love the sinner." I pause, and think. "Only God can judge me."

Taking a deep breath, I apologize briefly, muttering something under my breath.

Thanks, Matt I think to myself, you taught me a lot.


The ol' one-nine

According to my parents, I'm becoming a fire hazard when it comes to lighting candles on my cake...I'm only 19 here, guys, I could be doing a lot worse! I'd like to point out that I was the youngest person in the room during said candle-lighting, by the way... Regardless, we managed to avoid major catastrophes and setting off the smoke detector, so it would seem that my birthday was a success! I'm not exactly sure how one gauges birthday-success, but this seems to work okay for me.

So here's to another year of learning, another year of mistakes, and simply another year.

Thank you Mom and Dad for never giving up on me before I was even born. You guys are basically amazing.


p.s.--I will be making a massive post over here just as soon as I get a few more pictures. The birthday party/theme was great, and I got at least 4 things done in one day!


Jason Pts. 1 and 2

Many of you may remember "Jason" and his saga. I took the posts down in October because I was afraid. But then I changed my mind, because it's really okay for me to express myself. I hold no grudge against him, and even though I hardly ever see him, when we do we get along great. This happened a while ago, too (longer than the blog lets on, by the way), so it's not nearly as awkward as it might seem.
In any event, I decided to put the story of Jason (Part 1 and Part 2) back up. September was looking kind of sad with only two blog entries, too!

I swear that new post is coming, by the way. This is my birthday week, though, so I have something planned (along with class) every day. I'm even missing out on duty! I'm sure Drew and Eric will keep the county safe in my absence! Too bad I don't get any slice-n-bizzles.