Service 2/4

As we drive from call to call and post to post in the Big City, Brittany is a constant source of questions and enthusiasm. Despite the poverty stricken streets that are ripe with urban violence, gangs, drugs, and everything else – I actually like my Big City and enjoy the opportunity to play tour guide to the underbelly of urban street life.

This is Brittany’s first visit to this state and only the third state she’s ever been in. Having grown up in Maine, she lived a rather sheltered life up until now. She’s loving every minute of the day even though we are getting the less than emergent – some might even say annoyance – calls all day long. We call it “third man syndrome” – it seems that every time we get a rider we get the nuisance calls and seldom get the dramatic high profile calls that the rider is hoping for.

Brittany was a good sport when we got called for the fifty year old lady who had a headache for the last three days. There’s really nothing to treat here yet it was a chance for Brittany to practice taking a history and get used to the frustrating reality of how difficult it is to take vitals in a moving ambulance.

From the mouth of babes come the rational observations, and Brittany made a very apt one after the call as we’re cleaning up the rig. “Why didn’t she just take an aspirin?” I don’t have any good answers for that one except to say that calling 911 is a learned pattern from her environment and when someone demands that we take them to the hospital we are obligated to do just that.

As if to hammer the point home our very next call is to an address that I am familiar with as I’ve been there many times. It’s a woman with every chronic problem you can imagine, taking all the regular medications, with the same complaint every time. Yet today we’re here for her twenty two year old daughter – I’ve never transported her before.

It turns out she has a back ache because she slipped yesterday. Of course she’s wearing five inch stilettos – my keen diagnostic abilities tell me they may have contributed to the slip. Dressed like a prostitute in tight pants, high heels, and a skimpy halter top she struts to the gurney and plops down so we can transport her to her favorite hospital.

It’s an interesting situation that boarders on scamming the system. Her mother is considered disabled by the state due to so many chronic illnesses. In conversations with her over the years I come to find out the daughter is listed as her “home health care provider” despite having no medical training. The state pays her $800 dollars a month to live at home with her mother. And the daughter has apparently learned from the mother that you call 911 whenever you have a problem because it’s cheaper to let Medi-Cal pick up the tab than to call a taxi – and a taxi is exactly what we are on this call.

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