Monday, April 20, 2009


a lot of what i've written so far deals with the gritty aspects of this profession. guy kills himself, guy get's his arm ripped off, kitten eats a face. but there's a bit more to this work that probably isn't all that obvious to those curious about paramedicine. here are a few things...

one of the weirdest aspects of this job isn't seeing crazy shit or dealing with a lunatic partner. i think some of the most bizarre experiences i have is intimately viewing the various ways in which people live. i can go to one call in a beautiful 10 million dollar mansion with 100,000 dollar paintings with someone asking me to take off my boots before entering. everyone so polite, thankful, and gentle. everything so clean and in its place. and i have to speak to these people in their language so as to put them at the greatest ease and so to get my best diagnosis of the problem. i speak softly, i smile. i posit information this way. i take them to their favorite hospital and then i clear this call and immediately go to the most desperate part of the city inside of a residential hotel room literally full of shit and piss and creepy videos.

and that's what's weird. i have to immediately change gears from a clean and pure and nice environment. now i'm watching where i step and there's no amount of money you can pay me to take off these boots because i'm avoiding needles and human excrement. my language has to change, and my demeanor has to change, because i need this same information so as to get my best diagnosis of the problem. these residential hotels all have one thing in common: they're putrid... cigarette smoke and urine and unshowered 1/2 dead, drug-filled bodies. it's the mangy cat and the negelected litter box. it's the piles of newspapers from '87 and onwards. it's bizarre, it's real. but you have to adapt. adaptation with a good dose of common sense are the keys to doing this job well. the person living in the mansion and the person living in the hotel room... they're both people, but their lives are so different that you'd think they'd be living in two different continents speaking very different languages. thing is, they are literally 1.5 miles away from eachother, but they've never seen eachother. the neighborhoods are named differently, but you wouldn't know it by distance. the romantics would say that we are all the same, that we have so much in common just by being people, living the human experience. but i disagree. these two people are worlds apart.


i've heard that when you are in a romantic relationship you can test its longevity by taking a long road trip. if you can sit next to eachother for hours on end in this tiny car and still love eachother, well, then you've got a good thing. on the ambulance, you are on the longest road trip of your life.

you probably get a glimpse of working partnerships from tv shows glorifying police work. ponch and john... great partners. you spend ten hours a day, four days a week with one person. that's way more time than anyone spends with their family. and this person, you have to depend on them, sometimes with your life. and sometimes you fight. and sometimes you can't stop laughing. and the stories you tell while you're posting up waiting for a call... they can get deep. you learn things about this person you never wanted to know... and you never asked. and after a while, you get pretty damn close to this person. or, after a while, you may want to murder this person. but there's always compromise, there's always love, there's always dispute... you're in a full-blown relationship with your partner. you can get to be pretty tight.

in personal relationships what can bond people is going through tough times together and coming out okay, you can be bonded by commonalities, you can be bonded with your sense of humor, or perhaps you're bonded by knowing that when you need it, you can depend on this person. in ambulance work, this happens all the time every day... these bonding moments. when you are both on scene on some crazy bat-shit call where people are shot and the scene is out of control but you both manage to get things back in order, well, you did it together and maybe one of you did an impressive job and you admire that and, well, you bond. you're both interested in the same shit, you have the same career, you bond. you're waiting for a call, you're shooting the shit, you are both being particularily funny, and you bond. your partner may be the most important facet of the job. it can make the job great, and it can make you want to quit. many people have over this... a good friend of mine changed departments because of his asshole partner.


the last aspect of this job that might not be so apparrent to those outside of this work is that everyone seems to assume that this career must give you instant satisfaction because everyone must be so happy to see you, as you are there to help them. while this does happen from time to time, it is actually rare. the job itself is actually a bit thankless. and this isn't any sort of criticism on the manners or kindness of our patients, but the reality is that pretty much everytime we deal with someone, they are having a really bad day. it's not going to be in their nature to be incredibly miserable, and then be gracious about the help rendered. and i don't blame them. it's hard to imagine being shot in the arm and then saying, "hey, thanks guys, you really helped me out!" or someone with really bad asthma who had thoughts of dying for the last ten minutes... it's not going to run through their head that they should shake our hand and say, "hey, thanks for the albuterol, buddy!" so what you do is take the thankful people, the one's who probably weren't that bad off to begin with and blow up their appreciation and remember it for a day or two, because the next thank you might not be for another couple of weeks.

the job... it's pretty rad. but it's not packed full of gratification like you may think. you can get people swinging at you from drugs, alcohol, or low blood sugar, you can get people coughing in your face after you've told them to cover their mouth five times, you can be cleaning vomit out of your ambulance because someone didn't ask for a basin. i just figure that if i work hard, i'll get my own satisfaction out of that.

anyway, the next post will involve brain matter if this one bored you.


Anonymous said...

Twisted yet fasinating! i just spent the last 45 minutes reading this stuff. You have a knack for making it both gritty and humorous. Good luck in all future edeavors. PS - I followed the link from Mark Watson AI site.

navanita said...

you blend them all together very well..thumbs up