Reflection 2/2

I’m a little disoriented as I sit in the front seat of an ambulance that is foreign to me and the unfamiliar dispatcher sends me to posts in my mostly urban county which are obscured by code numbers that I don’t understand. The computer on the console draws lines on a map telling us where to go as we fumble with the switches trying to find the siren.

“Medic-40, delta level response for a seventeen-delta-three, fall-not alert, switch to fire control three.”

“Uhh, Medic-40 copy.” What the hell is a seventeen-delta-three and how do I switch to fire control three?

Having finally found the siren and switched to the proper response frequency we are following the line on the computer in hopes of finding the call location. Rolling through traffic I see the familiar landmarks and denizens of the hood hanging on their normal corners. It’s somehow comforting to feel a connection with the hood on a day that seems so different in every other aspect.

Pulling up to the corner I see my neighbor, Darren, the lieutenant on the fire crew that beat us to the scene by only thirty seconds. Sitting on the stairs in front of him is Chauntel, a frequent flyer that I recognize from just last week, and her husband standing next to her holding a huge purse.

“Hey Darren, what’s going on?” The rest of the firefighters on Darren’s crew have bailed on taking care of the patient and are poking around my ambulance to admire the equipment and new ambulance smell.

“You know Chauntel right? Looks like she took too many of her Vicodin and wasn’t able to keep her feet under her while walking down the stairs. She’s not altered or anything, just feeling a little dizzy and complaining of knee pain.”

“Cool, I got it.” I kneel down to look at Chauntel as Darren joins his crew in opening cabinets on my rig. “Hi Chauntel, am I taking you to the hospital today or are you okay to go home?”

“I best go to the hospital, you know, jus to get checked out. I don’t think my Vicodins are work’n too well cuz I still got the pain in my knee.”

I help Chauntel onto the gurney and raise it up with the push of a button. Power gurneys; finally a career-extending piece of equipment.

As my partner drives us to the hospital I continue with my assessment of Chauntel.

“How bad is the pain in your knee?”

“It’s a ten outta ten! An’ it feels sharp!” Awesome, she knows our pain scale without having to be prompted.

“Do you want some Morphine for the pain Chauntel?”

“Na, I can’t have Morphine, I allergic to it! You got any Dilaudid?” Classic!

“Chauntel, you know I don’t carry Dilaudid. And when did you become allergic to Morphine? You weren’t allergic to it last week.”

“Well, I is now!” I’m not one to judge her pain level, or her, but the drug seeking mentality is fairly transparent to us at this point. I guess some things never change.

“How do you like the new uniforms Chauntel? Did you notice the shirt’s a different color?” Just making small talk as there’s not really that much to treat on this call.

“Oh, is those new? Now you mention it you got some pretty eyes. Is you married?” Seriously, that’s what you notice. Bloody hell with the eyes again!

“Yeah Chauntel, I’m married, and so are you. As a matter of fact your husband is sitting in the front seat.”

In a conspiratorial, quiet voice. “Well, he ain’t really my husband, I jus’ call him that. You mind if I take a nap on the way? I feeling kinda tired.”

“Go ahead Chauntel, we’ll be there in about ten minutes.” I switch to the captain’s chair to try to figure out how to use the new computer.

Now you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put water into a teapot, and it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash! Be water, my friend.

Bruce Lee, TAO of Jeet Kune Do



Reflection 1/2


1  :  an image, representation, counterpart

2  :  the act of reflecting or the state of being reflected

3  :  mental concentration; careful consideration – a thought or opinion resulting from such consideration

“The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day. On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back. He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person? For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? 

No, thank you,’ he will think. ‘Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered. These sufferings are even the things of which I am most proud, although these are things which cannot inspire envy.’ ” 

Viktor E. Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning

With the top down and cool wind in my hair I accelerate on the freeway onramp to get up to speed and head for home on my last day with the company. But not my last day in the county…

It’s an emotional day, to say the least, and I have time to reflect upon the years as I navigate through the darkness to the normalcy that I call home.  Ultimately, I have an optimistic view of the future and that optimism has its origins in the accomplishments of the past. There’s a lot to be proud of in the work that my tribe of EMTs and Paramedics have done in this county. Through incredible adversity we have advanced street medicine to a finely honed machine. Though the machine sometimes throws a cog we always find a way around it to accomplish the tasks at hand. We have had outstanding leaders at the helm as well as the occasional drunken captain, but in the field we have always pulled together to bring the best possible care to our patients.

My mostly urban county has taken a toll on us yet it has given us so much more than is easy to recount in a single telling. The high call volume gives us a variety of experiences early in our careers. Those that survive the first few years have the mark of a battle hardened soldier on their foreheads. We may bear a few more worry lines and some new gray hairs, but we can also boast of relationships, forged in the trenches, that will last a lifetime. Some of those comrades will ship out tomorrow to take our flavor of street medicine to other counties. I wonder how they will be received when they finally reach their destination. Will they look back with fondness to the mostly urban county of our origin? Will they see themselves as finally having escaped the chaos? Maybe they will be ostracized in their new system and find that coming home is the only tolerable option – it’s happened already and we haven’t even started the transition.

The freeway takes me into the outskirts of the county and closer to home – I’m just one car in a constant stream of headlights and tail lights blurring into streaks reflected in the glass buildings in the empty office parks. As the economy fell the new buildings became empty and now stand as hollow glass blocks, devoid of occupancy; a sea of monuments showing us the economic reality that we all tried to deny until it was too late. In a real estate parody of the Occupy movement they stand idle, refusing to leave, yet their message is lost in obscurity.