Of Cats and STEMIs

The cat is the first thing I notice when we come in the door. Scrawny and motionless, it peers up at me. It's perched contently on the back of a recliner, and as I move closer it tilts its head slightly.

I swear it's animatronic. It looks like some weird statuette of a cat covered in fur that someone would find at a bazaar. In fact, most of the things in this room look like something I'd find at a flea market or carnival.

I introduce myself with the same tired words.

"Hi, my name is Sam, I'm an EMT with the rescue squad. Can you tell me what's going on tonight?"

The cat opens its mouth as if to respond, but I hear a woman speak instead.

"It's my mom. She's having this weird pressure in her chest. Aren't you, Mom?"

I look over to the recliner with the cat and see a woman sitting comfortably. She doesn't seem in any distress, other than a hand placed carelessly on her breast. She doesn't speak.

"She just got like this about thirty minutes ago, and I figured I ought to call." A baby lies fast asleep on the couch next to the daughter.
"Alright, what's your mom's name?"
"You know, I was thinking about this because the other weekend I had kidney stones, and they hurt a lot, but mom had kidney stones and didn't really complain, and--"

I let the paramedic hear the rest of the story as I start addressing our patient. She speaks to me a little bit, lets me take her vitals, and tells me that she wants to go to the hospital. That's fine by me.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Drew looking at the cat suspiciously. He moves his finger towards it, and it extends its head to smell. His eyes grow wide, and I stifle a giggle.

I ask Alice some more about her symptoms once we get into the ambulance. She says it only hurts a little bit, but she just feels uneasy. Her blood pressure is sky high, and she does complain of a headache. She says she just doesn't feel quite right.

I look over at the monitor after I finish setting up the 12-lead for the paramedic. It's suddenly quite clear why she's not feeling right. As the strip prints, I set up an IV. Alice's heart muscle is dying, and she needs to be at the hospital now.

Without alarming her, my partner informs Drew that he needs to get us to the emergency room post haste. The red lights flash in the deep blue night, but the siren remains silent in this rural town.

I'm fixing to insert the drip set into a liter bag of saline, when I find myself planted firmly in the IV box.

"Hey Drew," I call up to the front sweetly.
"Yes ma'am?"
"Could you tone it down just a notch? You found me a new home in this pretty orange box."
"10-4, my bad!"

The IV is beautiful, and I do my best to maintain my balance while I hand over the tubing. I've never run a truly emergent call with this paramedic, so I'm trying to get used to his style while effectively help Alice. It proves difficult at best.

My partner gives her four baby aspirin, a sublingual nitro, and a little bit of morphine IV. This is the first obvious ST Elevated Myocardial Infarction (STEMI) I've run, so I try to keep my excitement to a minimum.

Alice says she's feeling much better as he calls the hospital to speak with the doctor. It's weird the way she acts, though. Her movements are small, and she remains relatively motionless on my stretcher. She only speaks when spoken to, and her voice is soft.

A statuette of a woman, Alice is something you'd find in a bazaar. Alice is her cat.

I shake the weird images from my head as we wheel her into the hospital. It's five in the morning, and my mind is playing tricks on me.

"Do you think I can go to work today," she asks the doctor genuinely.
"That'd be a resounding no," I hear someone reply as I make my way back to the EMS room.

"Sorry about the IV box," Drew says as he pats my shoulder.
"Not a problem," I say as I dust my self off dramatically.
"But dude...what was with that cat!?"


tracy said...

You writing never ceases to touch me. Your descriptipns of everything from the cat to the house to Alice to the 12 lead made me feel like i was there with you (and i wish i were!). Thank you so very much!
And, w h a t was with that cat?? The "Silent Meow"? Well, we all know that cats are Changlings and can become any animal they want...maybe it was getting ready to "change"...

tracy said...

.....and if anyone believes that last part...

VA FireMedic said...

You've never run an emergent call with Peter (if you get the family guy reference then you rock) because nothing is emergent to him. Por ejemplo, we had a patient that was clearly stroking out (BP over 200, slurred speech and the suchlike).

Me: "Hey, you want me to run hot?"
Him: "Nah, nice and easy"
So i'm doing like 55 in a 45 approaching the JRB (in front of the sonic)
Him: "Hey, do you know what the speed limit is on this road"
Me: Rolls eyes and thinks, "you wanna get your fat a** up here and drive?

Anonymous said...

You still have it! funny...

Anniforscia said...

Haha was it a grey CAT?

Welcome back.

Jeff B said...

Glad I found your site. Your descriptive writing of the action makes me feel like I'm standing next to you watching it all unfold before my eyes. Well done.

Walt Trachim said...

Very nice post....

As for the cat, my mother has two - one of them acts just like this one. The other, well, she's a clown on four legs :)

Did this patient go to the cath lab after arriving? Sounds like, based on what you and the medic you work with saw that she needed to.... It's a strange thing to say, but there is nothing like a good STEMI that is cut and dried. Makes the doc's life easier, too, I think. JMO, of course.....

Herbie said...

That's because cats are just little women dressed in fur coats.

Blue Ridge Medic said...

Nice post. I like your style..and by the way..I'm back from the dead...


kat said...

it's a nice post