BACK in the Saddle
So, over 300 days later….
I am finally finding myself in front of a keyboard typing to get started, while my mind races over all the things to say. Many things have changed, and many more are always the same. I'm struggling to balance how to discuss everything that has happened, and still focus on the calls…the real reason I started this almost 2 and a half yrs ago now. But enough pre-prologue.
When last I posted, almost a year ago, I was Rescue Chief of a large department, enjoying my 9th year of service there. The blogging had suffered from the fact that the position kept me off the street somewhat, and I was NOT about to blog about budget questions and company meeting dramas. I was working on my Master's in System Engineering, and am still doing that today. (This time next yr, it will FINALLY be done!) I had what was by my own, and by others, estimation a very successful year as Chief and was honored to be re-elected to that position for 2008. Unfortunately, due to what I can only characterize as an inexcusable lack of character by the senior leadership above me on a number of critical issues, I found myself unable to stand beside them or see my name alongside theirs in front of the membership or the community. In the early weeks of this year, I made the painful decision to move on to the neighboring department to the south and start running as 'just a medic' again. As a result, I sleep better at night knowing my character is intact, I still get to save lives, and I make a difference in the ways that matter to me. Several others came to the same conclusion, and we have been warmly received by a department that is long on pride, but short on staffing, and we are setting about making the most positive impact we can. The department is smaller, but the calls are the same, and I think we are on a team that is rebounding, and rebuilding. I am as happy as I have been in a while.
Since then, we have run a number of calls of the sort that make Cat and I say, "That one goes in the blog". We started in typical fashion, and while not medically interesting, it is the way we started, and so it is the story I'll share today. We have had a conscious and talking man in V-tach, an 18 month old febrile seizure that wasn't, someone who crawled unharmed out of a car that flipped multiple times and was crushed (did that twice), a lady who "done blowed up", and a lady rapidly filling her lungs up with fluid and the doctor that really let us 'slip the leash' to save her. All in all, it's been great to see the wild ride was waiting for us, as it always has been.
Our first night at the new station came with a lot of anticipation and unknowns. The department was a new one, and here the fire-side is a collocated, but separate department, and we run with a rotation of fire crews, not the same one every night. There was a bit of anticipation from others who knew the group of us from other departments as well, and from the overwhelming number of comments, calls and emails of support, I know that hearing us running again was something that quite a few people were interested in…at least in an "EMS community gossip" way. Cat and I were given a 'new' medic to precept from day one, and we were approaching the night with a strong sense of setting an example, and doing our job professionally. Our preceptee had been a member here for something like 5 years, and had earned her ALS certs about a year prior. She was still precepting due to a lack of ALS personnel, not due to any fault of her own. Hardly a rookie, she had an interesting role in the first few weeks as we learned how to work together. I was the new guy to the department, but every time we ran into another unit on scene or at the hospital, I was greeted with "Hey Chief", and once with "Got a rookie already huh?" I know that created an interesting situation for her, but she handled it very well.
The three of us check out the unit and talked about how we'd get the precepting accomplished, what our schedules were like, running styles etc. All the topics that start to turn a collection of trained individuals into a high-functioning unit. I knew it would take a few months to 'gel', but I knew the sooner we started, the better it would go. I was anxious to get staffed and 'on the books', and was very much ready to make the radio call announcing our return to service…having made the decision to do that over the air, not via the more quiet computer system. (I am a medic, no lack of ego at play here). The weather turned bad fast and a steady rain was falling by the time we had the equipment ready and were good to go. Cat had not driven the model of unit that we now use in quite some time, and rather smartly requested that we drive around a bit so she could get a feel for it before we were off hauling balls to a call in the rain in a new unit. I put Katie, the preceptee, up front with her to show Cat around (it WAS her area for the last 5 yrs after all) and hopped in the back and chomped at the bit to get officially staffed. The rain let up and Cat quickly got her groove with the unit. We resolved to head to Panera to grab sandwiches for dinner, and then staff with food in hand. While not exactly the way we'd normally do things, it did make sense and we were almost there anyway. I'm riding in the back, getting back 'into the groove', thinking that I just want to play my role, stay low key and not try to pull rank on the preceptee much, no waves, just calls, as we come to a stop in the parking lot next to the Panera and Starbucks. I hear Cat set the brakes, and I pop out the side and into my new career.
No sooner do my boots hit the pavement than I hear a woman scream. I whip my head towards the building and see two guys starting to jog along the side of the Starbucks drive-thru yelling "Hey, Hey, You can't do that!" Katie starts to open the door of the unit to get out and I jut my hand out, all but slamming it back on her. "Stay here…give me a radio…something's up". So much for low profile and not pulling rank, I'm already protecting the crew and taking over a call, or situation, or whatever the hell is going on here. I snag a radio, and walk a circular path to get a look at what's going on. There is clearly activity in the drive-thru, but a cinderblock wall surrounding the trash dumpsters are blocking it from my line of sight. I need to get a look at what is up, but know enough to stay back too. As I come clear of the obstacle, I see that there is a woman and a man standing there, the two guys I saw before were workers from Panera on break, and they are standing nearby, telling the guy to leave. He is not acting threateningly, and she is holding her face and walking towards the parking lot we are in, headed for her car as it turns out. This is good, as they are separating. It doesn't look like the two guys from Panera are going to pursue this so all in all, things look like they are settling down…on the other hand, it looks like I've walked smack-dab into a domestic…the most volatile place we ever end up in EMS.
I head back to the unit, and talk to Cat and Katie. They came to the same conclusion from the unit that I did. Katie's day job is with the Communication's Center and she is already calling them on her cell. I walk over to the woman, keeping an eye on the guy, who is walking away, and around the corner of the Starbucks. I'm thinking that if she is hurt, and I can get her into the unit, then at least we can drive off if he returns. As I approach, I see she is holding her eye, but doesn't look obviously injured. She is on the cell phone as I approach, and I can tell from the conversation that she has smartly called 911. I introduce myself as a medic and offer to talk to the dispatcher. She accepts and hands me the phone. Now, I'm not officially staffed, so they have no idea the unit is out and about, or that we'd be there, and the people on the other end of the phone know me as the Chief and Medic from the old department…this promises to be interesting.
"Hello, this is Medic Gardner on M517…yes…yes…I'm on 517…yes, used to be at 12….no, not there now…no, it isn't staffed yet so you won't see it on the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch computer) yet…" I'm not getting anywhere. The dispatcher is a bit confused, but I really can't catch her up on all that right now. "I'm on the scene of a domestic in progress". THAT got her head cleared…there was a pause and I hear her typing. "We are at [address], and there was a domestic here. Scene appears secure at the moment..you may as well show us staffed for the night and on the scene". So much for staffing over the air, probably better, but still disappointing. She says she has us on scene and is starting PD. I thank her and hang up.
I hand the phone back to the lady, now my patient, and ask her if she is ok. She tells me she was punched in the face. I ask her to come with me to the unit where we can look to make sure everything is okay. She agrees and heads over that way. I hand her over to the ladies for evaluation. I'm figuring a guy just punched her a few times in the face, perhaps she's not looking for another one in her grill right now. There is a bystander that comes by in a truck and says he's seen everything. Asks if he can help. I ask if he's willing to stay put for the police and he says yes. I don't see the guy anymore, but I keep an eye in that direction while the bystander and I chat in the parking lot and wait for police.
PD gets there while Katie and Cat check out the patient. I point to where the guy walked off, and show him the two Panera workers and the bystander. He asks them to hold tight and drives off to find the guy. He is not successful, and comes back to interview everyone. I stick my head into the unit and it appears that our patient is fine, does not want to go to the hospital, but will take a cold pack for her eye. They are doing the refusal paperwork and everything is calm. It turns out that the guy's car is parked next to the patient's and they live together. She has another place to go for the night, and he works at a spa right in this area. He lives within walking distance and is probably there. The police are all over it, and the patient is good to go. We wrap up our first call as quickly as we walk into it.
Cat and I share a look and the comment that, "Well, it wasn't the station we were at, must be us" that attracts these calls. I grin ear-to-ear, looking forward to a second career, and she just rolls her eyes. She isn't as stoked as I am, but she's clearly amused that I'm excited. We head into Panera for some sandwiches, and start joking with Katie. The county lets us eat in peace. And things began to feel comfortable. We left Panera, a full belly, and our first call under our belts and head back for the station. Almost made it too…
Good to be back on the blog, the rest of that night next time!