Saturday, August 4, 2007

all in a day's work

i work the graveyard shift, weekends. most people look at me horrified and empathetic when i tell them my hours, but i actually like them. it's a different world out there at night. there's no traffic, all the clinics are closed, and while there's still tons of bullshit calls ("i have a headache," "i twisted my ankle,") at least at night people are drunk and weird and high and entertaining. their bullshit is better. plus, most the chiefs are sleeping, the captains only show up on major calls... there's much more autonomy. the nurses are way cooler... basically, you're all in the shit together at night. i like that.

so the other night i get a call for the 'long fall > six feet.' you never know what you're going to find before you get there, and i never assume the worst. so i arrive on scene and i see two well dressed women giving cpr to someone on the street, below a 20 foot tall bridge. i exit the ambulance, walk closer, and see a black male on the ground, with an enormous amount of blood quickly exiting the back of his head. this usually means, 'i'm dead.' this guy is on the street, face up, all kinds of nappy dreadlocks... oh... and he's NAKED. okay... i hope i painted this for you, here's this guy, totally screwed, and these two nicely dressed ladies are giving mouth to mouth and i'm like, "STOP! (please, for the love of god... stop...)" i check for a pulse, there isn't one, place the leads on the patient, print a strip, call base... time of death, 0130.

so now i have this scene, where there's this naked black guy with dreads layed out on the street, blood coming from his head, congealing, two completely freaked out, well heeled women crying and screaming at their boyfriends on their cell phones to, "COME THE FUCK OVER HERE AND DRIVE ME HOME YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND FUCK YOU JUST COME OVER HERE YOU DON'T GET IT OH MY GOD!!!" when they get off the phone, i try to calm them down. then i try to convince them to go to a hospital and let them know that they might have been exposed to something nasty because they were giving cpr to a DEAD, BLOODY, NAKED HOMELESS GUY... no good deed goes unpunished.

i grab a yellow blanket, cover the body, and start paperwork. this day i have a ride-along, a young girl who is in paramedic school and who needs to be exposed to this nonsense as part of her training. i look over to her, and she is wide-eyed, stunned. i realize that she has never seen anything like this before, and i ask her, "this must have been pretty weird for you, huh?" she looks to me, and she quietly answers, "yeah..." i tell her, "you know what's even weirder than you seeing this and reacting this way?"


"the fact that i'm not."

and so it goes... the stereotypical detached paramedic... the dichotomy of doing something for the public because you want to help and because you care. but not too much.