When I Write

I see it in my head like a movie. This is a very frustrating thing.

It started out that I would think of a word or a sentence. I would obsess over that until I could form a story around it. When I took my EVOC class, this rattled around in my head for a long time: "One light flickers incessantly in the corner, giving the already dim room lighting worthy of a B-list horror flick." I liked the way it sounded, so I knew I wanted to use it in a story. It had to do with the sound, with the images it provoked.

But now, as Sam develops, it has to do with the image and the words that provokes. It's really difficult, because I feel like I'm failing her, and I'm failing myself.

Sam stands shivering in the scalding hot shower, sobbing uncontrollably as she scrubs her body over and over. She's just taken a girl to the hospital her own age who was raped. I can't write this the way I see it. The noise of the water hitting the tiles in the bathroom of the bunk room in comparison to its muted sound outside...I can't write it. The way her mouth stretches into a tragic smile as she sobs because she feels as she is about to burst. The seafoam green tiles that wash her fair skin out even more, making her seem like a ghost as her frail body shakes. I can see it, but I can't write it.

Sam has a vein in her forehead that pops out whenever she smiles legitimately. She smiles a lot, but when that vein makes an appearance is when she really means it, when she's truly happy. I can come up with some dialogue about it, but I can't make it happen the way I see it in my head.

Sam sits in the passenger's seat on the way home from the hospital after a code. Her partner prattles on about it, about how well it went, and he makes some gallows humor sort of jokes. But she doesn't listen, she just stares out the window and tunes him out as she watches the houses fly by the window.

Sam calls her mom after a bad call. I want you to hear it in her voice...the message behind her words. I want you to see the way she hesitates when she dials the number, unsure of whether to bring her burdens to someone else, or if she should just deal with her demons herself.

I want you to see the way Sam sits up in bed, soaked in sweat, fear in her eyes. She's having that nightmare again, and she rocks herself back and forth as she slams her eyes shut. I want you to see the hair matted to her face, the blood rushing to her cheeks. I can write it all I want, but it never comes out the way I see it.

I want to see the pain in her eyes. I want to see the physical interaction between Sam and Drew that I can't write, the inflection in the voices I can't verbalize. When Sam corrects people that call her Samantha, I can hear how she says it. "It's Sam," she says as she holds out her hand as if to stop them. I can hear it, and you can too, but you can't hear it the way I do.

It's frustrating.

I see an image in my head, now, I don't think of words. I'm writing the image, and it's not going the way I want.

Maybe that's why I don't have so many Sam posts as of late. Janice is easy for me to write. I feel a part of myself in Janice, but she is easy to disconnect from; she isn't much like me.

Sam is my hero. Sam is the girl I wish I could be. She impresses me, she humbles me, and she aggravates the shit out of me. I want to shake her sometimes for various reasons, none of them I can really verbalize here.

But the thought of letting Sam down kills me. It doesn't have to do with letting myself down, really, it has to do with the idea of not doing the character of Sam justice.

I want to film Sam. I want to have dramatic lighting, and I want sound to play a huge part in it. I want you to be able to see the way the red lights get trapped in the fog, and I want you to be able to see it bouncing back off her face, bringing color to her pale skin.

But I can't.

So I apologize if Sam is a little absent right now. I need to drop this visual obsession and focus on the words. Maybe she'll come back to me. No, she will come back to me. She's too strong of a character not to.

So that's a little glimpse into my ridiculous mind that you didn't ask for or really need. But I felt the need to explain myself a bit? I may have just needed to explain that to myself, actually.


--The Author.
[I feel weird signing it "Sam," tonight, haha.]


My Brain is Following Me

Epi and I always have the best conversations online. We crack each other up, and we probably shouldn't be allowed to talk to one another for more than ten minutes at a time. This is why:

Epi: I dont talk to him, no worries.
Me: haha that's probably for the better
Me: damn
Me: I almost typed butter
Me: my fingers are failing me haha
Epi: my brain is following me.
Epi: failing
Me: hahahaaa awwww!
Me: I'm sorry, can i PLEASE put that in my blog!?
Me: I literally snort laughed
Epi: by all means.
Epi: LOL

We are seriously wrong in the head.

EMS Couples

The theme of this week's NSR is about relationships EMS providers have with those who are either other types of healthcare workers, family, friends, etc. I've sort of written a post about it before when I wrote a letter to my Favorite ER Nurse. I thought about what I was going to write for a long time, and couldn't think of anything. So, without further ado, I present you with a deviation from the topic.

I have three jobs. I get paid for two of them, but I have three jobs. I'm a private transport EMT, I'm an ER tech, and I'm a 911 EMT. At the present time in my life, I am surrounded by more EMS providers than I am anyone else. It's a blessing: EMS workers understand each other better than most, and our sick senses of humor keep me incredibly entertained. It's a curse: I'm a nineteen year old college girl; I date.

And, who do people date? Coworkers, classmates, friends, etc. When you're surrounded by a certain type of people more than a different type of people...well, put two and two together.

I've dated a lot of EMS types. I haven't been in relationships with a lot, but I've definitely dated more than my fair share. And the relationships between EMS personnel are very...interesting.

So I suppose my question is this: Why do people who understand one another so well do so terribly as a couple?

I have theories. Are you surprised?

There are good things. There are lots of good things, actually, but here are my top two.

If I'm dating an EMT, he's going to understand when I get called in for an extra shift. It's normal, it happens, and it's my duty to go in if I can. Dates be damned, I've got lives to save.

EMTs understand my feelings (for the most part) about certain things. If I come back from a tough call, he's not going to question why I'm so upset or why it bothers me so much. When I tell other friends, I have to explain things in detail before I can get to the "why I'm so upset" part.

But why don't we work, then?

Drama. There is SO much drama, I've found, within EMS organizations. At my private job, there are probably five or six couples. Everyone knows their business, everyone knows their relationships. I don't know about you, but I don't like coming to work and hearing about what I did last night, with whom, where, etc.

Time. You see each other all the time. You have no time to yourself if you see them at work and after work. I love spending time with people I care about. But sometimes, I need to be able to just come home, take a nap, read a book, spend some time with myself. Especially since I love to write and I need to be able to sit down for some extended periods of time to think and write.

Feelings. If I come off of a tough call, and I feel bad, most times they're going to understand. But if for some reason it bothers me more than it "should," they aren't going to make me feel very good when they question said feelings. It's happened more times than I'd like to admit.

Protocol. This is especially true if you work at different stations. I come off of a call, I talk to my boyfriend, tell him about it.
"And then we backboarded him and he was complaining about his arm, so I cut his clothes off and..."
"You didn't cut them off before you put him on the board?"
"No, we were..."
"Well that was dumb. If I had been there, I would have cut them off first."
"You don't understand, you weren't there."
"I'm just saying."
"So then we did XYZ..."
"Why did you do it like that!?"
"It's protocol here."
"That's ridiculous. At my station, we do ABC."
Gah! You can't help but compare yourself and your skills to your partner, but sometimes those comparisons are better left in your own head...

I haven't made it work with a firefighter, EMT, or any other medical provider for that matter. Inevitably, it is something from our jobs that interferes with the relationship (even though there's usually more to it than that). And then you're stuck with them at work, and all you can think about is the stuff from the past. If you're lucky, you can both work past it and go back to being friends, but good GOD it's difficult.

While this has all been the case for me in the past, I have this terribly fear that an EMS provider is the only one I can ever be happy with, because I've had a worse time not being understood by "normal" people. It's this terrible cycle that I don't know what to do with at all.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Have you had a similar experience either as an EMS provider or otherwise? Advice? Words of wisdom?

Sorry that this entry is a bit scattered...very long day at two of the three jobs yesterday!

Take care out there!


Janice (pt. 4)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Taco Bell was glorious. It was in the middle of downtown, and at 9pm, it was a little strange to see a woman walking in to eat by herself in an evening gown. But then again, the patrons of this town had seen stranger for sure.

She sat down, ate her steak quesadilla with cinnamon twists, stood up, and left. The whole affair took little more than ten minutes, but in those ten minutes, she felt more alive than she ever had. All eyes were on her, and even though it was because she was so out of place, it was the first time she had really been the center of attention at all.

She had that plain beauty that doesn't dazzle but doesn't disappoint. Her smile could brighten a room, but you had to be paying attention to notice it at all. Throughout college she had been that girl that everyone knew of but nobody really knew. She guessed it was only Marcus, her former husband, who had ever noticed her.

As she drove home, she thought about how they met. It was a crowed party with a couple of kegs, and she had only come along because her friends needed a designated driver. She didn't drink, so she agreed, but she felt so awkward standing in this stranger's house in the middle of winter.

She wore jeans and a turtleneck while her friends wore mini-skirts and tank tops. She didn't dress for style or beauty, she dressed for practicality. It was cold, so she dressed warmly. It made sense to her, but she thought that somehow the rest of the female population had missed that memo.

His eyes had that sparkle where he didn't have to say a word and she felt beautiful. She hadn't even spoken to him, but she already felt like she knew him for years. Catching him staring, she glanced at her feet as a heavy blush danced its way across her face.

"I really like your sweater," he had said as he approached smoothly; she had barely noticed his presence.
"Oh, um, thank you," she muttered as she stared at her friends and their outfits.
"Don't worry," he said as if he read her mind, "you look far more beautiful than they do."
"That skirt screams, 'I'm easy.' Your sweater whispers, 'I'm smart, interesting and beautiful; talk to me.'"

Already, she was taken. He didn't drink either; he was a biology major as well, and he loved animals. They spoke extensively about religion and music, and when he spoke, she listened to every intonation of his voice.

"'Tis man's perdition to be safe,
When for the truth he ought to die," he said as he spoke of religion.
"Well, yes," he replied a bit stunned, "how did you know?"
"I love poetry."

It went from there. They went out to dinner the next night, and less than a week later, they were an item. She loved the way being with him got her noticed. He was significantly more attractive than she was (or so she thought), and he was outgoing and influential on the campus. She met new people when she was with him--new people that actually listened when she joined the conversation.

They had been dating for months, when she called him one day.
"I need you to come over now."
"Just do it."

And with that, their relationship would be forever changed.

In her hand, she held three pregnancy tests. Dark pink lines taunted them from each one, and he didn't say anything other than "are you sure."

She laughed, but he didn't understand why. Was she sure!? It wasn't like she woke up, thought "hm, I'm pregnant," put her hand on her stomach and said, "yep, sure am." She hadn't made the discovery, the tests had. Each one of the tests was sure. It didn't matter if she was.

He was surprisingly excited about it. He brought her flowers one day while she was on her way to class. The next week, he took her out to dinner just for fun. He'd sit on the couch watching TV with her, and he'd put his head on her stomach, and talk to the baby inside.

One day, he came to her with a very concerned look on his face.
"Marcus, what is it?"
"I've been thinking."
"Well shit," she said, although she had meant to think it.
"I love you very much."
"I know, I love you too."
"I love this baby."
"I um," she stuttered, "me too."
"And I can't be content with this situation the way it is."
"Me t--wait, what?"
"Janice," he said grabbing her hands passionately, "will you marry me?"

She didn't have to think. The "yes" flew out of her mouth as the tears ran down her cheeks.

And the next weekend, they eloped.

She stopped going to college in the middle of her Junior year's Spring term. She was only 3 months pregnant, but she was too sick to make it out of bed most days. Marcus stayed enrolled because they figured one of them would need a degree and a real job once the baby was born.

They moved into a small apartment, and he took care of her as if she were a sick puppy he had found on the side of the road. Always thinking ahead, anticipating her needs, buying her nausea medication, or running out late at night for some food. He was the perfect husband, the perfect father-to-be.

Perfect, that is, until the bleeding started.

"I'm fine," she'd say as he paced around panicking.
"No, you're not."
"It's just a little blood."
"We're going," he glared at her, "now."

So at 3 in the morning, he took her to the emergency room, where the first year resident tripped over his words as he said, "miscarriage."


Janice (pt. 3)

Part 1
Part 2

When Janice came home, she took her shoes off at the door like she always did. She glanced over at the rack where she neatly placed them every day for the past numberless years. She looked at the shoes she held in her hands, glanced back at the rack and smiled as she tossed them carelessly on the floor. Their heels smacked together satisfyingly as they fell, and she paid them little mind as her cat trotted into the room.

"Sanka," she cooed as she petted him gently, "things are about to change around here, sweetie. Yes they are!" She thought back to her former husband and how he laughed at her when she named the cat.
"Sanka? Like the coffee?"
"Yes, I think it has a nice ring to it."
"I think you're bat-shit insane for naming a cat after a coffee, but whatever, it's your cat."

She scratched him behind the ears an extra time, the sting of the memory manifesting itself as a burning pressure in her eyes.

She looked at the clock, and saw it flashing back at her; the house had lost power earlier, apparently. She started to reset it, but then hesitated. Instead, she reached behind it and yanked the cord from the wall. She took off her wristwatch and put it in one of the many drawers in the kitchen.
"There," she said to herself, "who needs to be kept on schedule by a tiny machine? Not me."

She trudged up the stairs and carefully peeled off the layers of her work day, hanging them up in the color coordinated closet. Standing in her Playtex 18-hour bra and half-slip, she sighed. She thought for a moment, and her face lifted as she remembered the back of her closet. She dug deep and pulled out a low-cut black dress. It was heavily padded in the shoulders and had a few too many sequins dating it to the mid 1980s, but she knew it would fit. She had always been built pretty big, but she hadn't gained more than 5 pounds in the past 30 years. She prided herself on that.

Finding her scissors, she cut out the shoulder pads and slid it on gracefully. Her sturdy work bra stuck up from the neckline like a sore thumb. She went to the back of her bottom drawer and pulled out a black push-up that she hadn't worn since the day she interviewed for her promotion. She chuckled a bit as she wrapped it around her chest and smiled, admiring her figure in the mirror.

A figure. She had forgotten she had one.

She was pulled from her trance by Sanka, mewing up at her while pawing at the dress in her hand.
"I told you there'd be changes," she said as she slipped it over her head.
Looking at the zipper in the back, she sighed as her mind flashed back to her first anniversary dinner.

"Can you help me zip this?"
"Do I have to," he asked with a playful grin, "Can't we just stay in?"
"Noooo," she giggled as she wriggled free from his arms.
"Fine, fine, I'll get it."

She slid the zipper up easily and looked at herself from all angles. Perfect.

Pulling on her best heels, she grabbed the phone. She was about to dial the 909 Club, one of the fanciest restaurants in town, but then she set it back down in its cradle. She headed for the door, petting Sanka one more time as she jingled her keys happily.

She started the car, put it in first, and headed for Taco Bell.


Miscellaneous Stuff, per usual

I have a lot more to do with Janice. She's definitely not done yet.

On a side note, to he who suggested that Janice is me in some way, yeah, sure. Every character I create has parts of me, every situation I describe somehow has to do with one I've been in (even in the most cursory ways, or perhaps only in a dream). Obviously, if it comes from my head, it has a part of me in it. For instance, I drive stick-shift. But every character I write (even Sam) isn't me. If I were to write about myself, it would most likely be a diary. I guess I just get a little upset when people automatically assume that a main character is me, or a disguised version of me.

Wow, rant much?

I started writing this entry to say that although I have a lot more to do for Janice, and I need to finish "Magic Touch," I cannot possibly do it right now. Final day of orientation was today (did I really need 4 hours of instruction on how to do glucoses, hemoccults, gastroccults, and urine pregs? No. I've worked in a doctor's office for a long time now, it's all gravy. Incidentally the iStat machine is probably the coolest thing ever. Bedside lab results in <2 minutes!), and I start for real on Monday. I'm back to the transport job tomorrow (and Friday), and...yeah.

So as soon as I get enough time to breathe a little, I'll finish up these stories :) Thanks so much for your feedback and support. As always, you all never cease to amaze me in your kindness.

Take care out there,

p.s.--Just because you don't put your name on an anonymous comment doesn't mean it's anonymous. Keep that in mind.

p.p.s.--Drew is coming back one weekend in early July to run with us at the station. Yay! I can't wait to have some canon characters back in my posts :P


Janice (pt. 2)

Thanks a lot guys for commenting on the last post! I spent all day thinking about Janice, and decided what I'm going to do with her. I hope it doesn't let you down!"

On her way home from work, Janice thought about her cat. She liked to think about going home rather than the work she had to do tomorrow, because she had decided at an early age that she wouldn't bring work home with her.

She passed the same buildings she had passed for years, and as she shifted out of gear to stop for the red light, she noticed something new. Far in the distance, something reflected the sun back in her eyes. She peered at it curiously but couldn't quite make it out. Changing lanes to approach it faster, she realized it was just some graffiti written in silver spray paint.

But before she could write it off, she saw that it wasn't the usual "TITS!" or "Steve Wuz Here!" that she normally saw. The building was covered in colorful writings, but this one stood out. She didn't know why, though, there was nothing special about it. In simple, plain print, someone had written, "Nothing is as I planned it."

She laughed and nodded her head in agreement. "You and me both," she said aloud and switched on the radio. Singing along loudly to "Wanted Dead or Alive," she put it out of her mind. It was back to her cat and his upcoming vet appointment.

For the next few days on her way to and from work, she passed the scrawled message. She looked at it each time, and each time she gripped the wheel tighter as she thought about her own life. But after she'd pass it, her mind would go back to whatever it was on before, and she went on with her day at work or her evening at home.

Thursday night, as she made her late commute home, there was an addendum to the message. "Take this as a sign," was added underneath the original thought, only this one was bright orange. It leaped from the wall into the forefront of her mind and refused to leave. The wall seemed to be speaking to her. This was her wall with her sign, and although she felt silly for thinking it, she knew something had to happen.

It was that Thursday night that Janice decided to change her life.



This is something I started working on during orientation today. I'm not exactly sure where I'm going with it, but please let me know if you like it and if I should develop it further?

Her originality was store bought. She was one of those women who wore styles straight off the mannequins, hanging them accordingly in her closet. Her body didn't look particularly good in any of it, but she didn't have the time to shop for her shape.

She had big southern hair. When she moved, it didn't, and that telltale smell of hairspray became part of her signature scent. A Walmart version of Chanel No.5 with an overwhelming top note of AquaNet--a southern staple.

Her cheekbones were highlighted intensely by makeup every day so she didn't have to smile so hard every day. It was a trick she learned years ago in an effort to save her skin from the wrinkles that threatened her every day. She thought it made her stand out, but really, all it did was make her blend in with the rest of the once southern belles at the office.

She tried to be different. She didn't listen to country or Christian rock, gossip about her colleagues or even go to church. She didn't have children, but she knew that if she did, she wouldn't push them to be in pageants or to be the most popular. She was prom queen, but she thinks it was because of pity, not of merit.

But she did things that were all too normal. She drank sweet tea, talked in a thick Carolina accent, called people "sugar," or "honey," and could never help herself from the cakes and treats in the break room.

Try as she might, she couldn't be who she wanted. She wanted to be Janice the singer, Janice the woman everyone came to, Janice the beauty that men couldn't resist. But she wasn't. She was Janice from corporate who went home at five in the afternoon to an empty house. She was Janice the nobody, except to her cat who depended on her for life. She figured that was something at least.

This part of the story is the worst and kind of depresses me. It gets happier, I promise, but for now I can't write any more of it. What do you think? Is it intriguing, boring, interesting, write-off-able? Please let me know!


Orientation Day 1

Well, somehow or another, I managed to make it through Office Space-style orientation hell (complete with icebreakers, slideshows, cutesie sayings and slogans, and .gif animations) at the hospital.

Best quote of the day would have to be:
"Now I know that some of this may seem repetitive. It's not. We just need to repeat it to get a point across."
Last time I checked, that fit the definition of "repetitive" pretty darn well.

And, via text:
Me: "If someone tells me that the pt comes first one more time...god"
Witness: "Oh, patients come first?!"
Me: "I mean, i guess...news to me!"
Witness: "Sheesh, I thought lunch and whatever I wanted was number one."
Me: "Nah, that's EMS ;)"
Witness: "Fire."
Me: "Oo yeah"

Thank goodness for friends who keep me entertained during breaks :P It was especially good because I was sitting next to a firefighter who leaned over to me and said, "I'm not used to this 'patients come first' stuff...I'm a firefighter." Love it.

Next I get to learn how to lift and move patients! Yipee! At least I know now that I'm not cut out for the corporate world.

H'anyway. I'm currently wrapped up in Twilight. It's awesome. I seriously have a hard time putting it down. So I apologize if my posts are a little scattered between now and the time I finish it!

And if you haven't looked already, please check out Normal Sinus! There are two late additions to this week's post as of an hour ago :) Let us know if you have any ideas for themes!

Take care out there,


This is a shameless promotion of the new blogging project that is slowly taking shape, Normal Sinus Rhythm.

There is Change of Shift for nurses, Grand Rounds for doctors, and now there's Normal Sinus for EMS personnel.

This is the first week that it's been done, and it's been quite a project. As of right now, we have several writers who have agreed to be a part of it, and we look forward to a week where all are able to contribute. Some weeks will have themes, whereas others (such as this week) will not.

Please, go give it a look, leave a comment, and check out the entries if you have the time. If you have any theme suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment on the entry and we'll work to make sure they happen one week!

Thanks so much to Epi, who is amazing even if she denies it, and to all the writers who have contributed this week and will in weeks to come. Look for an email in your inboxes soon with this week's theme, guys!

Take care out there,

p.s.--Thank you all so much for the well-wishes, prayers, and generally good vibes you've sent my way. I feel much better, and I'm prepared for the working week ahead of me! It means so much to me, though, that you all stopped by to wish me good luck and a speedy recovery. Thanks again, guys!



This post is part of this week's Normal Sinus Rhythm, a blog similar to Change of Shift or Grand Rounds. Go check out the other bloggers and leave a comment if you have the time!

She tries to speak, but she's slurring her words. What she wants to tell me is that she took the sleeping pills on purpose because her husband doesn't love her anymore. She told me this earlier, when her speech was clearer, but she feels the need to reiterate, even though her mouth can't shape the vowels and her tongue can't add the necessary staccato to the consonants. They stick in her mouth and I'm reminded of myself as a toddler, my own mouth heavy with impediment.

Sitting next to her on the bench seat, I watch her tongue. It flaps pathetically in her mouth, trying to remember the form it should take, but failing. It flickers up and down like a tiny flame in the breeze. I get lost in its movements, willing it to take shape and tell me she's okay, that it was all just a big joke, that she could run a marathon now.

But instead, I look on helplessly as her tongue gives up, making one final movement. It slips back into her cavernous mouth for the last time, and she closes her eyes.

His tongue is lying on his cheek when we arrive, his eyes glassy and pointed at the ceiling. He's not breathing and he has no pulse.
"One and two and three and four and," I hear my partner say as he starts CPR. The tongue moves with each life-saving thump he receives. Moving his tongue, I insert an oral adjunct to keep his airway open as I breathe for him.

An ALS provider comes up behind me with laryngoscope in hand. He bends the stylet to his preference, and I move as he attempts the tube. He sweeps the man's tongue out of the way, as it has become nothing but a hindrance to him. After the tube is secured, no one thinks of his tongue any more.

We load our dialysis patient into the back carefully, making sure her arms are secured to each other to keep them from falling off the stretcher. She has had dementia for years now, and I wonder if she even knows of her own existence anymore.

Her mouth stays open, her tongue pushed perpetually forward. I always talk to her on these runs. She might not be able to hear me, but it's her tongue that compels me to do so. I watch it as I speak, thinking that maybe if it twitches just a bit, somewhere deep in the recesses of her mind she's trying to answer me. It falls out of her mouth a little bit more, and I pause, waiting for a response. It never comes, so I sigh and push myself back further on the bench like I always do. That stupid tongue.

He can't be more than three months old. As he wails, his tongue stays perfectly in the middle of his mouth, flapping as the pitch of his screams change. His mother looks panicked, but I explain to her that crying is a good sign. A screaming baby is the only kind I like on my ambulance. I watch that little tongue form its perfect shapes and smile as I get him a teddy bear.

His eyes shift into a look of curiosity, and he licks his lips, cooing as he paws at it. His mouth falls open and his tongue sits motionless within his mouth as he explores the feel of the bear's fur as compared to its beady glass eyes. His tongue contorts as he pulls on the tiny ears, and the screaming returns.

Hiatus (pt. 2)

Turns out I have a concussion and the doc expects me to be post-concussive for at least a week, if not two. I didn't get a CT the first time around in the ED, so when I spent the day vomiting, feeling nauseated, sleepy and dizzy, Dr. Dad had me report straight back there.

I'll be writing for sure, but I apologize if parts of it don't make very good sense. Feel free to point those bits out to me (like when Anni noticed that I called "Magic Touch" "Magic Fingers" by accident...I rule!).

Take care out there,

p.s.--We managed to get hit twice in one night because a car hit us from behind and then a car hit them, hitting us again in turn. Or at least, that's how I understand it to have happened. Anni said she'd get me some pictures of the car to post...but don't be disappointed if it's not the large-scale decimation we all have come to know (and love?) at MVAs ;)


(Very, Very Brief) Hiatus

Anni and I were hit from behind twice last night in the pouring rain while driving back to my place. My smart self turned around after the first collision, and when we were hit again, I smacked my head on the plastic seat-belt holder thing and then the passenger's side window.

Everyone is fine, but I have a script for Vicodin and Flexoril, so I'm pretty sure that anything I have to say is going to be ridiculous.

I'm going to finish up the second part to "Magic Touch," (especially since it's the exciting part!), but it might not be until tomorrow or maybe (maaaaybe) Sunday.

In the mean time, you can tell me how suuuuper attractive c-collars make a girl.

Stay safe out there,


Magic Touch (pt. 1)

"We're not going to get anything life changing, like a cardiac arrest," I say to Anni as we get in the car.
"You never know. I haven't done any of this stuff before, so basically anything I get to see will be cool."
"No, I know, but it would be really neat to show you something intense."
"Really, anything will be awesome."

We drive to the rescue squad, rocking out to Panic! At the Disco and The Spill Canvas on our way. When we get there, we start checking off a medic, and I show her everything.
"This is a combitube," I say as I point out the various parts, "and this is suction tubing."
"Ooo, these are the IV boxes, and these are the drug boxes," I announce as I pull them out respectively.
"Oh cool."
"And this is the jump bag!"
"Oh...what's it do?"
"Um...we just kinda carry it inside with us and use the stuff inside of it."

As we finish checking it off, the tones drop. It's abdominal pain, and it's our all time favorite frequent flier. I don't try to conceal my hatred for her blatant abuse of the system, and I can see Anni trying to hold back some laughter as I say, "so let me get this straight: nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, chest pain, shortness of breath, and dizzyness?" Anni and I both scoff when the patient says, "if I say I have chest pain, they won't put me in the waiting room, right?" I make sure to tell the hospital that this one can go straight to triage when I call.

We come back to the station, and eat dinner, fully expecting to sit around doing nothing for the rest of the night. For the most part, we're right.

There are a few uneventful fire alarms, but I shrug them off.

We watch a show about crime scene cleaners, and a woman who works at the body farm.
"I could never do that job," Anni says.
"Dead bodies in advanced decomposition? No thanks."
"Doesn't seem too bad to me," Steve says laughing.
"Yeah, but that's like...what you guys do."

The tones drop, jerking me from my half-hearted attempt at sleep.
"Station 1, possible DOA."
"No," Anni says shaking her head before I can even say anything, "this is all you."

In the medic, we hear that a member from another station is first responding. Soon, we hear that CPR is in progress and that this is a full arrest. I remind myself of our protocols, and crack my knuckles weakly. I'm ready.


How Does It Feel?

Hundreds of bodies tap out their own unique rhythm, a hundred different beats that each match up perfectly with the original. Heat rises up from my bare shoulders and joins that from the rest of the crowd. The girl next to me has never heard this band before, but she moves as energetically as I do, and I've loved them for years.

The guitarist pauses and looks me right in the eyes.
"How does it feel to know you're everything I need?
The butterflies in my stomach
They could bring me to my knees."

He harmonizes perfectly, his gaze never leaving mine. The same girl beside me screams obnoxiously, reaching her hands out to him. He acknowledges her briefly and catches my eye again.
"How does it feel when we get locked into a stare?"

There's no one else around me. I'm all alone, caught in his gaze. My hair is blown back from my shoulders by some invisible wind, and goosebumps race down my arms. His hands leave the guitar, and the music stops. My heart beats loudly in my ears and my hands feel heavy.
"If I had to choose a way to die,
It'd be with you
In a goosebump infested embrace
With my overanxious hands cupping your face."

The vocalist starting in again seems to shock us both, and I stare at my feet, a bit embarrassed.

"How does it feel?"




I step out on to the balcony with Joe Connelly's Bringing Out The Dead and a can of diet coke in hand. The sky is hazy and the air is thick. For a moment I think it's because it's hot outside, but I inhale and realize what's wrong.

The smoke from the wildfire in North Carolina which is burning 40,000 acres is hanging heavy in the air. I look across the street and realize I can't see much. It's as if there is fog, only the smell permeates everything around it. I'm brought back to my first structure fire, as the smell surrounds me.

I close my eyes and think of the firefighters, the flames leaping high above the tree line. I hear the noise as trees buckle and fall, as fire eats away at the land. People are screaming orders through the dark skies punctuated by orange light.

I open my eyes and look inside through the glass door. Images of the wildfires in California flash across the TV screen in the living room and I sigh, even though I can't hear the commentary.

I take a deep breath and cough, my eyes burning from the smoke. Sirens sound all around me, bouncing off of the buildings and echoing as they lose volume. A child screams, and dogs bark. A car alarm goes off below me, and another starts a few blocks away.

I wrap my arms around myself and close my eyes tightly. I breathe slowly and close my book, tucking it under an arm. I come back inside and the smell lingers in my clothes. I shut the door and press my back against the glass.

The world is coming apart at the seams and I can't blame it. I slam my eyes shut again. As another siren carries on angrily, I lower the blinds. I am absolutely terrified.


I show up to my first day of work wearing a tank top, my BDUs and work boots. My hair is pulled back in a tight bun and I keep dropping my keys as I walk up to the door.
"Chill the hell out," I remind myself quietly.

As soon as I show up, I'm handed a shirt.
"Sorry it's a little big," the dispatcher says, "we haven't gotten new ones in yet."
"Oh, no worries, it's just a medium, I'm sure it'll fit."
I pull it over my head and it hits me somewhere at mid-thigh level.
"Oh," I say softly as I look down at myself. I look ridiculous.

I'm taken to meet my coworkers, and I feel the eyes on me. It's like the first day of school; I want to disappear into the cracks of the floor. The girls I'll be running with introduce themselves, and I recognize one of them from an EMT class that was taught at my station.

"It's me, Alyssa, from the EMT class! I took it with Olivia." I remember her very well, and I smile, feeling a little better.
"Guys," she announces to the room, "this is Sam, she basically taught my EMT class." She's not kidding; one of their two teachers was a little...interesting, and wasn't much of a teacher. I came in a lot to help out with practicals, but I didn't realize what an impact I had made. I blush and look down at my feet sheepishly.

They show me the medic and how they check it off and then it's off to our first run of the day. We walk into the dialysis center and I'm aware of how absolutely horrid I look. I stare at the ground the entire time and only look up when we're lifting our patient.

A nurse approaches and looks at me.
"Do you guys take Vinny?"
"Yeah, we take him, why?" I'm so glad to see Alyssa has stepped in and saved me from having to answer.
"During surgery yesterday he coded on the table. They brought him back, but he died last night." There's a palpable silence; it's stifling and the awkwardness I had been feeling is increased tenfold.
"Oh," she says.

We leave with our patient, and after dropping her off, the two girls sit on the back of the ambulance.
"I can't believe he died."
"Yeah, he was so young. Sam, this guy was 30, full of life. He didn't even go in for some life-changing surgery, he just had to get his shoulder worked on."
"Wow, that's really rough," I say strangely.
"He was just so funny," the other girl says.
"I remember last time I took him, he rode up front with me and made my partner sit in the back. He was such a riot."

The girls continue to reminisce, and they even cry a little bit. I panic slightly. I am an incredibly emotional girl, and knowing that most of my patients are terminal scares me, because the thought of losing them on a constant basis is something I can't deal with.

We make it back to the office, and there's a flier posted about Vinny's funeral. Anyone who wanted to go was going to be allowed to go and take an ambulance. There was a murmur amongst everyone, heads bent to the ground in mock prayer as they shared stories about him.

One of the more attractive guys walks my way and I check out the carpet once again.
"Hey Sam," he says, and I nod sheepishly. He puts his arm around me, shakes his head and says as he motions to our colleagues, "One word of advice--don't get attached."

I already know that's impossible.


Best Company Ever

Yesterday, I was paired with a big ol' Vietnam Veteran as my partner, who could probably bench press me with ease. He was really funny and a generally great guy to work with.

Then we got an End Stage Renal Disease patient who had an extensive list of previous history: CVA, HTN, DVT, acute chronic cholecystitus, possible asbestos, dyslipidemia, mental disability, etc. Nicest guy in the world, I love taking him. Only problem is that he's pretty big. The only other time I've taken him, I was riding as a third, so we were able to get him no problem.

Well, yesterday VVP and I had to do it alone, which is usually okay. He was surprisingly able to make it over to the stretcher without being sheeted over, but we obviously had to raise the stretcher back up. VVP sort of jumped the gun and started lifting before he said "three," so I had to catch up and strain to keep him from falling.

I didn't really think much of it until last night when I was going to bed. I couldn't get comfortable because of my right shoulder, but I thought it was just tired.

Today, I can't move my arm more than a few degrees up, while my other arm has complete range of motion. So, I call in to work and say, "Hey, it's Sam, I just wanted to let you know that I pulled or strained a muscle in my shoulder. I'm more than happy to come in, I just want to know if I can be put on as a third so I don't have to lift today."

I'm a little nervous, thinking about MedicMarch's experience with his company after hurting himself. But no, my company is fabulous.

His response is, "Don't come in today or tomorrow, we'll replace you both days. All you're going to do is irritate it if you keep working before it's healed. If you keep hurting yourself, then we'll never get you back! In fact, I know you're scheduled to work Wednesday, but I don't want you back here until Thursday at 6, okay? Now go lie down, put some heat on it, and we'll see you next week."

Then the dispatcher picked up the phone and asked if I had pulled a muscle during a "hot date." Oh boy, this company is fabulous.

Now to go find some moist heat to apply...

Take care out there,


Quote of the Day

Random EMT: "Man, we picked up this guy today, he was a straight up gangsta."

Me: "How so?"

Random EMT: "HIV, Hep A and B, Shot SIX TIMES in the spine, gang tattoos everywhere, history of heroin and cocaine use, crazy stuff."

Me: "That's pretty intense."

Random EMT: "Yeah, I wanted to like ask him for a war story and write it down in a book or something."

Me: "So why didn't you?"

Random EMT: "Oh, because he couldn't talk. Probably has to do with being shot in the spine six times."

It's official. I love my job, I love [most of] the people that work there, and I love the workout I get every day. Not to mention that the battle wounds I get are pretty sexy (they so get me the guys...) and I get a lot to write about (soon, I promise).

Take care out there,


Second Day

By day 2, I am a warrior. I got this hugenormous bruise thanks to a combative diabetic patient with a blood glucose of 37.

Okay, so I actually just slammed it into the corner of a shelving unit while trying to close the door. But doesn't it sound cooler the first time around?

In other news, I work 60 hours this week, so it'll be pretty interesting to see what it's like going from not working at all to working super heavy hours. Yay productivity!


First Day

I started my job at the podunk transport company today. I was late, because I set my alarm for 4:30pm, not am. I am a winner, clearly.

I have a whole post planned about today, but I am just WAY too tired to even process words correctly.

My GIGANTIC uniform shirt (no, like...this "medium" is eating me whole).
It's 40 minutes away from where I am now, 30 from my future apartment.
Ghetto units. Mismatched equipment, etc.

Good pay
Good people
I'm learning a lot already
Weekly paycheck (yessss)
Very forgiving
Good perks (not benefits)
Good workout every day I'm on shift
Flexible company
Easy paperwork

Sooo yeah, I'll have those two other posts up soon I hope. I'm just so wiped right now; I'm too tired to sleep. My body just won't relax. It was a billion and one degrees today; I probably sweat out half my body weight. The AC broke on one of the units, and another had messed up brakes. I had a great partner today, though, and I go back on Monday.

I still need to hear back from the ER as to when they want me to start...

Take care out there,

p.s.--Thanks for your comments on the pictures post! You all flatter me. Oh, and Eric, you actually do look presentable in that picture ;) See, aren't you glad I forced you into it?

p.s.s--Keep in mind that this is after I shrunk it. This thing is gigantic, and until they get some smalls or extra smalls, this is what I'm stuck with. And in 90+ degree weather and navy BDUs, this is not exactly the best shirt to be in...not to mention that I look ridiculous.


The Party

Scott asked if I could post the story I wrote on here. I haven't reread it in years, so it's still a little rough.
Thanks, Mr.Mirabella for encouraging me even years after I was out of your class.
Anyway, here it is, "The Party."

They sat on the couch uncomfortably while the party carried on around them. Cake was being cut, presents unwrapped, but the two just sat, removed from the whole ordeal. She sat on his left, nervously stroking his arm, looking into his wandering eyes for some semblance of emotion. All she found was him looking at other girls who walked by. She was mad but didn’t know why—they weren’t even dating. He caught her staring and kissed her lightly, letting out a little sigh of obligation. He didn’t even close his eyes. She knew it was a half-hearted attempt to please her, but she accepted it like usual—at least he noticed.

A few minutes passed and the enormous silence between them grew despite the loud, raging party. He stood up and she followed him closely, eager to satisfy in her subservient way. He pushed open the door, letting the cold rush in the cheerful house as he possessively wrapped his arm around her, letting his nails dig into her skin slightly. As he unlocked the car door she shivered, but she wasn’t cold. He opened the door for her and it was almost chivalrous—except for the way that he pushed her in.

The leather was cold, the windows were foggy and the air was silent. He knew that she didn’t want this, but she knew that he did. So she appeased him in a last-ditch effort to salvage what she thought was a relationship.

A few minutes later he pushed open the door and told her to go back inside. He said he’d come in after he had smoked a cigarette. Her weak smile showed him that she believed what he said, but as she disappeared, her face fell.

Thirty minutes passed with no sign of him. She looked outside and saw that his car was gone. Suddenly she understood and felt utterly alone, despite the number of party guests with her.


In Memory

Stephen Mirabella (who will always be Mr. Mirabella to me), you will be missed more than I think you could ever understand. In fifth grade, you changed my life. In fact, I am certain that if it weren't for you, I wouldn't be a creative writing major, I wouldn't be writing a book, and I wouldn't have made it through middle school alive. You are one of the few people I can say truly changed me in a real, tangible way, and for that I am grateful beyond belief.

You taught me more than English. Although I remember vividly your lectures on Richard Cory and The Lord of the Flies, there was always more to your classes. You taught me about life and the lessons we learn all throughout it. You were one of my biggest sources of comfort all those years, and one of the few people outside my family I felt comfortable talking to.

You told us in 6th grade that you were writing a book that would be dedicated to our class. I don't know if you ever did, but the first book I publish will be in your memory. It only seems right, even though you won't know.

You read the first short story I ever wrote, "The Party." I was 17 years old, and we were talking at my graduation party. Even with all my friends and family around, I ran out to the car to get a copy of the story. You were glowing after you read it, and you said, "You write that book." I kind of blushed, but you stopped smiling, looked me square in the eyes and said, "you write that book. You're going to change the world with your writing, and I'll be able to say that 'I knew you when...'"

Thank you, Mr. Mirabella, for everything you have done for me and everyone else who was fortunate enough to know you. I hope one day I can pass on what you taught me.



We get bored, Jeremie has a camera, fun ensues. The following pictures are all (c)Jeremie Gibbs.

Eric and Me in the bay

My hair suffering from the humidity.

Hamming it up, per usual.

This is the ambulance, folks.

I'm really bad at doing posed radio reports :P

It is seriously too hot to have my hair down.

Oh Jeremie, you always catch me at my...finest.

Hope you enjoyed this little glimpse into our boredom. We've had a lift-assist for a 400+ lbs. woman, and two back to back MVAs (one with minor injuries and one with none). We'll see...I'm still predicting that COPD later tonight. And thanks Gertrude for that wonderful prediction.

Take care,

Attention All EMS Writers

Halifax EMS in Halifax, Vermont, is sponsoring a Short Story Contest. There are great prizes for the top three winners.

Go give it a look and submit your story! Entries are due by September 1, 2008. Half the proceeds will go to Halifax's fundraising efforts for equipment and other expenses.

I know a lot of great EMS writers out there, and it would be wonderful to see them published!

Take care out there,

p.s.--Today, a partner predicts an MVA or a shooting. I predict some sort of COPD issue. Epi has graced us with a prediction of a breach set of twins. Anyone else have any thoughts on the matter?


Things I've Learned

I've learned a lot on the ambulance that has translated into my daily life. Hell, it probably goes the other way around as well. But in the parking lot of Walmart today, it sort of dawned on me that I should write about them. I don't know who to thank, but I'm grateful for everything I learn and continue to learn.

1.Take Some Time.

You have to take some time to listen. Sometimes, what you hear when you listen gives you clues about what a person is really thinking or feeling (a la "Jill Tracy" from that episode of Scrubs). Sometimes listening is all a person needs to make them feel better. I've found that with geriatric patients, "loneliness" is often their chief complaint, whether they'll admit it or not.

In my real life, I've learned to be more patient as well. Today in the parking lot I was approached by a man collecting money for his church's ministry which is helping put drug addicts in programs. It was legit, and I listened to his spiel. When he was done, I thanked him for what they were doing and said that I didn't have anything I could contribute. He was simply happy that I had taken 15 seconds out of my life to listen to him and take him seriously. It made him feel good, it made me feel good.

2.Everybody Lies.

Okay, so this one isn't as optimistic. I also learned this from House, but didn't really believe him until I got exposure as well. Regardless.
Patients do not tell you the truth. They omit things, they flat out lie, they tell half-truths, etc. I don't think I've ever had a patient be 100% up front and honest about their stuff. People lie for different reasons, and if you can find out why, it can help a lot.

People lie because they are embarrassed. Diarrhea is not something people like to admit they have. Neither is herpes. Letting them know that you're not going to think what they have to say is weird or gross helps a lot.

People lie because they don't want to be treated differently. HIV+ patients often don't admit that they are because they don't want to be thought of as a lesser person. Once again, the whole "I'm a medical professional and I need to know this information so I can take better care of you and protect myself" thing works, along with gently letting them know that their answer won't change how you think of them.
People lie because "you didn't ask." This annoys me to no end. Oh, you're 12 weeks pregnant? Thanks for telling me right as we arrive to the hospital. Glad you didn't need any meds. I've learned to ask the "right" questions. My preceptors told me to ask "story questions," ones that have to be answered with detail, not just "yes" or "no." Lies of omission are the worst, though.

And the last reason I feel like getting into on why people lie is because they are trying to be considerate. On the ambulance, this is white-lies-gone-bad. Yes, my dress looks pretty even though you think it's repulsive. Yes, my new haircut is great. But when I ask you if you're finding any relief from the nitro I just gave you, don't say you are just because you want me to feel like I'm doing you some good. When I ask if you're dizzy after falling and hitting your head, don't say you aren't just because it's 3am and you feel bad that someone called the ambulance. This is my job, this is what I do. You call, we haul. I'll never forget a pregnant patient we had who had lacerated an artery in her right arm while working in the packing plant. I applied pressure and held it over her head the entire way to the hospital. The EMT in charge of that call would ask if she felt better and she'd nod and try to take her hand from me. Finally, she says "I'm so sorry, your arms must be so tired from holding mine." Yeah, they were burning from pain, but I smiled and told her that this was my job, and she shouldn't worry about me.

3.Don't Treat the Machine, Treat the Patient.

You have got to touch your patient to know what's going on with them. For the love of God do not get every pulse from the Pulse Oximeter. Are their pulses equal? Bounding, thready, strong and equal will not show up on the Pulse Ox, just a number. So your patient is satting at 92. Is this normal for them? COPD? Elderly? Not all low readings require oxygen. Likewise, if they're satting at 100 but they're struggling to breathe, why the hell don't you put them on some oxygen?

In my daily life, this has helped too. Just because someone is smiling and saying they are fine doesn't mean that they are. Consider what they've been going through recently. Refer back to point 1 and take time to listen to what they're saying behind the smile.

4.Parents Are Crazy.

And rightfully so. Their child is hurt, sick, etc., and you have shown up to take care of them. Suddenly they look to you to be the one to take their child and become responsible for their wellbeing. But at the same time, they won't relinquish that duty. It's usually a power struggle all the way to the hospital, and sometimes the parents are the ones that need to be taken care of more than the child. Realizing this ahead of time can prepare you for the stress, and save you some of it.

On the other hand, some parents aren't crazy enough. Your child had a seizure for no apparent reason and you sort of just hand him over to us when we show up as you continue watching The Price Is Right? Something's not right here. Your kid was just involved in a high-speed collision, and when you arrive on scene you tell her to "stop crying about it." There are times when I want to take these parents and physically shake them. Then again, I often want to do that with the crazy ones too.

I don't think I have a real-life application for this, other than that I'm sure when I have kids I'll be the same way. But as my family always says when someone mentions me having children, "Not for a long time, God willing."

5.It's All About Respect.

Aretha Franklin wasn't kidding. Respect is something that I want as a medical professional, and it is something I give to my colleagues. Mom always told me that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I always wondered why you'd want to catch flies in the first place, but that's beside the point. My Partners, my patients, ER Nurses, Doctors, family members--you all get my respect. Yes, even you Favorite ER Nurse get my respect. I hope that in return I will have yours. But once you lose my respect (and it takes a lot to do so), it's probably not coming back anytime soon. But that doesn't mean common courtesy goes out the window; I will still be as polite as I can be; just because I don't respect you doesn't mean I want to piss you off.

Real life? Be nice to the people that serve your food, clean the buildings, and issue tickets. Don't assume one person to be more deserving of your respect than another. Perhaps this is just a personal belief, but I think that every human being has inherent worth and dignity. Every person is basically good, and by looking for the good in a person I can see what is respectable about them. Mom was right about the honey; I've caught a lot of flies thanks to it. But now I'm not really sure what to do with them. (Read: unexpected discounts, free food, verbal warnings [not tickets], and lots of favors that I can call in. I definitely know what to do with all that.)

Okay, so I've written a lot more than I had originally planned. I thought I'd spend one to two sentences on each point, but that's obviously not the case. I'm way too superfluous for my own good. So that's it for now, but I have a few more I'd like to post at a later date. So expect more of Sam's Ramblings on this.

I'd love to hear what you've learned from your life/job/interactions with other people. Leave me a comment or feel free to email me (whygomad@yahoo.com)

Take care out there,


Dear Mom, Dad, and everyone else who knows anything about me,
This is just to say that I, Sam Montgomery, made orange cinnamon rolls at 5:30 in the morning. You all know that I usually look like this when I bake:
Well, this morning without prompting, I made myself some rolls. I feel a little bad because I don't have anyone to share them with, but then again, I don't know how much I'd want to share. In any event, feast your eyes on these babies:
That's basically all I have to say about that.


p.s.--Sunrise on the balcony is beautiful. Now, I'm not saying I'm becoming a morning person, but I am enjoying being awake in the morning. But I still don't like waking up.

In other news, I have my second interview at a local hospital today for a tech position within their ER. Yesterday, I went to middle-sized transport company for an interview and it went really well. The director said he's making a case to "corporate" to get me on as a driver even though I just recently turned 19. My supposed lift test (150 lbs. on a stretcher, in and out of the ambulance) never happened. So I don't really know what's going on there, but needless to say, I didn't remind him.
In his words, "you got your stuff together, girl!" Best compliment ever, haha!



Even if this Sam is the one who needs saving in her dreams, she shows up a lot cooler in other people's dreams. It's good to know that her dream-Sam is a lot more collected (and has more backup) than my dream-Sam.
(By the way, you should definitely check out her blog. She's a talented girl with some great stories to share. And she's the girl I took under my wing during high school. Check her out and tell her I sent you!)

For those of you who have already commented on that post from earlier this morning, thank you so much for all your kind words. I'm doing okay, but I keep having to remind myself that it didn't actually happen. But it really means a lot to me that you all are here supporting a girl you don't even really know--thank you.

Also, Eric (oh yes, he has a blog), if you wear this for an entire shift I'll buy you dinner. Maybe even two dinners.

Stay safe,

edit: Epi says "If he wears it for an entire shift and we get photographic proof I'll chip in a dinner as well." You've got at least three dinners here, bud.

This Is Unit 322

[I know, two posts in such short succession? Forgive me. But after having this dream Friday night(or Saturday afternoon...), I called a good friend of mine to talk about it, and even though he doesn't know it, he inspired me to write this post in order to kind of...sort things out. I woke up from this dream crying, and I was seriously disturbed. I guess there are some things that can really get to you sometimes.
Be forewarned, there is gratuitous use of the word "blood," and some pretty nasty images (even though I edited out some of the really graphic stuff). Just so you know.]

I stand in the wings of the theater with Olivia. It's the black-box, the one I haven't performed in since my first junior year. The audience is level with the stage, and as we head out to perform, I realize I'm in the wrong costume. Olivia looks at me in horror as she notices her own costume, and the director stands up from the crowd.

"Get out of here. Go back home and get your proper costumes. Then I'll let you back on stage," he says angrily, throwing the dog-eared script at his feet.

The disappointment is palpable. I haven't forgotten a line or missed a costume change in so long, but I obviously messed up here. The audience laughs as we walk out the door, and I hope it's at something in the play--not us.

We run home and change, and before I know it, we're biking back to the building on the same bike, the tires having gone flat. Olivia sits strangely on the back of the seat as I try to pedal through flat tires.

The building is massive, one I've never seen in real life. It stands there with marble columns and matching stairs; it reminds me of something from my ancient history text book of sixth grade. "Virginia Institute of Fine Arts and Performance," the placard out front reads, and my subconscious knows no such place exists.

I hear sirens and radio chatter. I look around and see police everywhere.
"Unit 302, central, we need ambulances," one of them says. I look down and see that I'm in uniform for some reason.
"Unit 393, central, there are at least two dead, don't know much else right now."

I jump off the bike which promptly disappears. Gloves appear in my hand, and I pull them on as I run up the stairs. I motion for Liv to follow me, but I never look back.
"I can help, let me help," I say frantically as I turn into the first room I see.

Paintings lay in disarray around the room. Some are ripped and some are simply tipped over. A statue stands stoic in the middle of the room, splattered in blood which runs down to the base. The walls are covered as well, and I move my focus back to the floor. I see two girls slumped over some paintings, staring at me with the same empty gaze. Their deaths are artistic, their hands posed in matching attempts at self-defense, their mouths twisted in horror.

These must be the two they were talking about, I think to myself, watching blood run down the walls.

I turn and run into another room, desperate to help someone. I see no one there, just more blood-covered artwork and walls.

"Unit 322, don't look behind the painting."
I look at the radio in my hand and realize that I am unit 322. No one tells me why I shouldn't look, and I don't bother. I already know it's a girl I went to grade school with, staring at me blankly just like the others.

In another room I find another girl, her eyes pleading for me to help. She's alive, and gasping for air.
"It's okay, I'm here," I say more to myself than her as I turn for my jump bag. I realize I have nothing. No partner, no equipment, nothing. I can't help her like this, and as she goes into arrest, I pathetically try to do compressions, hoping back-up will arrive. When nothing happens, I give up and run back into the hall.

I look for Olivia to help. She's gone. The officers, too, have left. There are no bystanders, no sirens, no noise. There is nothing but me standing in the grand hall, looking into the rooms without doors, seeing nothing but destruction.

"This is Unit 322," I scream into the radio.
There is no response, just radio static playing back at me.

"This is Unit 322, please, somebody help me!" I break into sobs as I collapse on the floor. I can see blood pooling in little puddles, making their way into the hall. I press the button on the radio, and I can't say anything. I cry into the open mic.

The blood reaches me, and the smell of iron is heavy. I try again, desperate. "This is Unit 322." I pause and take in a deep breath.

There is nothing. "This is Unit 322," I say calmly, "over and out."

Structure Fire

We never seem to get a call at a good time, one where I'm not sleeping. I contemplate this phenomenon as I stumble into the hallway trailing my boots behind me. I come to the conclusion that this might be doable if I weren't always sleeping.

"Hey Sam," the medic greets me, "ready to go save the world?"
"Like always," I reply with a smirk.
On the way, I realize that I've never been to a real structure fire. I went to a fire on the kill floor of the pork packing plant once, but I didn't go inside.
"So uh, what do we do at structure fires?"
"Well, we stand around and look pretty," he winks, "or at least you do."
"No, come on, what do we do," I ask laughing.
"Seriously, all we do is stand there, ask if we can help, help if we can, and then check vitals of the firefighters after they come back out."
"That is," he pauses, "unless there's a patient."

I scrunch my eyes tight and sigh. I forgot that there could be people inside burning buildings.

"This is Engine 2, central, can you expedite the medic unit responding?"
My heart sinks and flashes to terrible images.

We arrive on scene and I can see flames from down the street. The smoke spirals into the sky and I realize I'm holding my breath in quasi-excitement. The fire apparatus is parked neatly in a line, lights flashing in chaotic disorganization. I love it.

"No patient," the chief yells at us from down the street. I glance at the radio on my hip and the one in his hand, and I laugh, saluting him from afar.

I stand awkwardly against the fire SUV and watch it all unfold. A man in a Dominion truck shows up to cut off the power to the downed line. I laugh to myself a little bit, remembering my run in with them before.

Flames lick at the siding from out the window, and pieces of the roof slide off as the fire eats away its support. I can see firefighters standing in the doorway and water shooting out of the holes made by the fire.

I close my eyes and breathe in deeply. I put myself in the house. It's dark, since there is no power. The only light is that of the fire and I can feel the oppressive heat.

"Hey, Sam." My name pulls me from my daydream and I look around.
"Yeah, what's up?"
"We've got three firefighters out. I'm going to go get some water for them, can you check them out?"
"Yeah, I've got it."

I kneel down next to the first one. I blush a little bit, as he's taken me out on a date before and never heard back.
"Samantha, how's it going?"
"Actually, it's Sam. I'm fine, you?"
"A little tired."
His pulse races and he's breathing heavy. I nod as I put the stethoscope in my ears, pumping up the blood pressure cuff. I lean in to read the meter, and I breathe in. He smells heavily of fire. I'm reminded of my days at Girl Scout camps, or roasting marshmallows with my family during the fall. It smells warm and familiar; I get lost in it.
His blood pressure is through the roof, but he shrugs it off when I tell him.

"Your name is Sam," the next firefighter asks me.
"Yeah, why's that?"
"It's actually what I want to name my daughter," he laughs.
"Oh wow, really?"
"Yeah. I like Sam, but my wife insists on calling her Samantha."
"When are you expecting?" I watch him breathe as I check my watch.
"Is this your first?"
"Yeah, we're pretty excited."
"That's really awesome, congratulations."

The blaze goes out, and I make my way to more tired firefighters. Each new one learns my name and I make some small talk, learning a bit about each of them.

We get canceled from the scene soon after, and head back to the station. I smell my clothes and that thick smell lingers. I really like it, and I imagine myself coming home smelling of fire on a more consistent basis, soot smeared on my face.

A few hours and a hamburger later, the tones drop again.
"Station 1, Station 2, Station 5, structure fire. Smoke and flames showing." The medics look around figuring out the crew, and I hop out of my seat, finishing the last bite.
"Can I tag along," I ask, realizing that trying to swallow and speak at the same time doesn't work out too well.
"Sure thing, kid, let's go."

This one's nothing much, it's out in no time at all. I stand under a stop sign and watch the ones inside and the ones at the engines. It really fascinates me, and I inspect the gauges more closely.

"Oh hey, Sam," I hear from my right. I turn and see one of the firefighters I met earlier in the day.
"Andy, right?"
"Yeah, good to see you again!"
"You too. So tell me about these knobs and dials," I laugh.
"Oh, sure!"
He tells me what each one does and why the hose diameter matters. I'm drawn in to his world, and I don't want to leave.

Carrying some water bottles in my arms, the firefighters approach me.
"Sam, what's up?" I smile and extend my hand with a bottle.
"Sam, it's good to see you again." I nod and offer him one too.
"It's Sam, right? How's it going?" I look around and another one tips his helmet at me. I smile to myself and revel in the glory that is being remembered.

I see the medics waving me back to the ambulance. I trot back out there, and as I do, yet another firefighter waves at me.
"Thanks, Sam, we appreciate it!"

I pull out my phone in the back and call home.
"Yeah, what's up?"
"I am so ready to be a firefighter."