Friday, February 10, 2012

Inside the mind of a Paramedic! Wear your galoshes.

All my years as a paramedic were filled with terror, joy, and outright confusion on many days. We never really knew what we were going to run on, dispatch did the best they could to inform us. Knowing the dispatchers I knew they wanted to “Keep their guys” safe.

They had as hard a job as we did, imagine you answer a phone call over and over all day and every call is some anonymous person having for the most part the absolute worst day of their lives. Seriously, every time you say hello the caller is in hysterics, blathering on and on for help.

I couldn’t do it. But they do, they stay calm, they reassure, they coax, cajole and comfort. They know the instant they have a location they are gonna roll “Their guys” into harm’s way, and they don’t take it lightly.

So they work their butts off to gather as much information as possible in seconds under very stressful conditions. I use the term dispatcher as a catch all for 911 call takers and dispatchers; although those jobs are different in action they are very similar in intent. Help us.

They know we are flying blind with lights and sirens into the abyss. We need information. There is nothing more frustrating than being told by dispatch that you are responding to a medical call, that’s it.

We run to the truck climb aboard and roll into the unknown. Then we wait for information as we are getting closer and closer to our destination.

In the cab we chatter back and forth about what might be coming, we do have some clues ourselves. Many neighborhoods have a clear character to them. Some are older neighborhoods and you know many of the residents are elderly, so that gives you a clue; maybe it’s an older person with an emergency specific to their age.

That gives you a chance at having a plan of action if no further information is given. Maybe it’s a rough area with gangs and drugs. Under those conditions, add the cover of darkness and you might prepare mentally for violence of some kind.

If its downtown on a Friday night around the time the bars close you might have someone who drank too much, or a fistfight, or any kind of thing. So we did have a chance at getting mentally ready and you did need to have some plan in mind, or at least I did as a medic.

Most of the time the paramedic is the highest authority on scene if the call is of a medical nature. You are in charge of the scene. Now your officer will control the overall environment and keep their head up to all things.

As the medic I focus on the patient or patients and giving direction to the rest of the crew, so I needed as much information as possible to be ready. If there was a void of information then we had to bring every piece of equipment we had with us and that’s’ a lot of stuff.

Our pals in dispatch might get a tad bit more info and you might hear you have a person down, that’s it. Now you are just a few doors away from the address and no matter your level of information you have to go to work.

In my mind I would quickly go through every possible reason I could think of for a “person being down”. Depending on time of day, weather conditions, time of year, and so on I would try and fit in likely scenarios that could fit the know information

So time of day for example, early morning sunrise. This could be a body or person that has only been detected because of the addition of light. They could have been down all night in the darkness, a drunk, a murder victim, a hit and run accident.

These things could make it a crime scene, so be aware not to disturb evidence as you go in and get the police rolling if they aren’t already. Also make sure you lock all images in your head firmly, you might have to testify in court about this two years from now. Right a good report.

They could be someone that works at that time of day, going to work and in poor light tripped over a kid’s bike in their yard and now has a head injury or broken limb.

They could be an early morning runner that has had an injury related to their exercise, or didn’t eat prior to their run and now has had a diabetic incident due to low blood sugar.

You get the idea; I had to prepare my mind for the best course of action. Nothing worse than getting caught flatfooted with a predetermined action in your mind and have it be something completely different. You might be ready for a drunk because of prior events in this area of town and have a heart attack or shooting victim instead.

For me it was hard to redirect my mind if I had made a conclusion with insufficient information. Jamming the mental brakes on that hard left skid marks through my mind and it took me a few second to readjust.

If you lie this discussion and want me to continue to explain my thoughts I will so let me know.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Calendar concluded

I finished my crawl back to the stage, stood, gave a bow and exited stage right. The applause was very loud and back stage I was greeted with handshakes and pats on the back. Kevin looked at me and shook his head. “I don’t know how you do that man.” “Its easy Kevin, I just don’t give a damn. I don’t stand a chance against guys like you, so I had fun with it. They won’t forget me.”

It was over and I could relax, I grabbed another beer and watched the rest of the Chip-n-Dale show while I redressed. My some of these men had honest to goodness talent at this kind of entertaining, made me wonder what they did on their days off or before life in the fire service.

Each succeeding performance drove the fever of the spectators higher. Some women began to crowd the catwalk; flashes were going off so quickly a strobe effect blinded me from time to time. I began to fear for the safety of some of those boys. Not really that just sounded good.

It was quite a spectacle and I noted with pride no one stole my idea to crawl, maybe that was stupid. I hadn’t given much thought to the photographic evidence to follow.

We had been advised no decision would be announced that night and results would be relayed personally in the days to follow. We had also been informed that subsequent to the last performance we were encouraged to mingle with our fans, take photos, and just enjoy ourselves.

The past years winners were on hand to autograph their now out of date calendars. What a cruel thing I thought. They had had a year to enjoy all the perks of being in the calendar and now were trotted out like Secretariat for one last photo op before being turned out to pasture.

I must admit they didn’t seem too disappointed to be offered up again. Each had a shirt on with their respective month screened on the front, a stack of calendars with them and lines of women waiting to for a signature and picture, all for a price, it was for the kids after all.

I tried on the roll of shark briefly. I circled the crowd, steely eyed, moving slowly. Then bailed out quickly, first it isn’t in my nature and secondly I found myself insulated by an unseen force field. I wasn’t getting approached by anyone.

Not that I was being ignored, far from it. I could not only feel the eyes on me, hell I was getting stared down. A bit intimidating to say the least. Damn it I’m an alpha male not a mouse. Where was the cheese?

I spied the weather girl in a lose gathering of the judges. I thought I’d get a read on my performance. I meandered her way; she saw me coming and to my relief didn’t seek cover.

“So” I said as I stuck out my hand. “Did you enjoy yourself?” She took my hand, hers was warm. “I did Tim.” She knew my name, plus there. I looked the room over; she followed my gaze over the crowd. “I bet this must be a little surreal for you.”

“Not at all, most of my Friday nights are like this, quite fatiguing actually.” She gave a soft smile. “I was impressed by your… showing.” “Showing?” I said. “That’s what you call it?”

“What would you call it?” God I hate people that ask questions in retort to my questions. “I’m not sure really what to call it.” And I wasn’t. “How about charity? What if I call it charity?”

“In what sense?” Again with the question. “I knew coming into this thing I had a very small chance if any at making the calendar. But it was for the kids, right?” “Right.” She offered. “So that was my contribution, I donated my pride.”

“So you gave up your pride tonight?” “I think I can make that statement safely, come on I crawled down the catwalk on my hands and knees.” She continued to smile but the intent of the smile changed. “I think you were the best of the night Tim. So you aren’t as chiseled as the boys, but your heart is much bigger. I admire what you did, you had fun and wasn’t that the point”

Okay I take back the dumb weather girls stereotype I perpetuated earlier. She was nice, smart, and easy on the eyes. “I’m flattered, thank you.” “Thank you Tim, because this really is for the kids. You guys and gals that do this for us, bring in a lot of money and exposure for the children that ultimately on many occasions you have saved. So have some fun with all this.” She indicated the room full of fans.

“Because whether you make the calendar or not, and I hope you do. You didn’t donate your pride tonight, no, instead you showed it. Heroes are like that.” “Well I’m no hero, I’m just a guy doing his job.” “Then thanks for doing your job Tim, you do it well.”

She had a nice touch and I felt better. We spent most of the night talking, she was truly a bright young woman and I found myself watching the Denver news from time to time to remember that night.

By the way when I got the call a few days later I found out I didn’t make the calendar and through the grapevine I learned I was in fact voted the most entertaining performance of the night, but ultimately not right for a firefighter calendar.

I still eat whatever I want with no regrets.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Calendar saga cont.

So here stands this behemoth in front of me. He peels off his tee shirt, dang it this man was a museum piece; Leonardo’s David had nothing on this kid. He says “I can get the front can you just do the back?” “Damn right you’ll do the front.” I said, he laughed, “yeah I’m not that kind of guy either.” We said “that kind of guy” in unison; it’s a firehouse thing.

Where to start on this fleshy piece of marble? I looked around the area to see if I could get any technique pointers from the other man servants. I had given women back massages before, but this wasn’t a massage it was the application of theatrical makeup.

The others were doing it in fireman fashion; slop it on fast with as little actual contact as possible. “Well you gonna do it?” Kevin looked back over one of mountainous shoulders. “Yeah, I was warming up my hands.” “Dude! Just put it on fast, it’s creepy enough having you do it, waiting is even creepier.”

I tipped the bottle upside down and squirted about half of the oil over his shoulders and then just began to agitate the fluid. It was like waxing a car, his muscles were as hard as a tile floor. Oh I’m in over my head I thought again. I finished up and handed him the bottle.

“Damn Kevin. How long you been working for this?” “I don’t know, I started training and dieting seriously about 6 weeks ago. You?” I looked down at my flabby, fake tanned belly. “Bout the same.” He stifled a laugh. “What?” I said. “Nothing dude.” Kevin said his hands raised in a sign of peace.

“You don’t believe me?” “Whatever you say man. You look good for your age.” Now he didn’t have to say that. “Thanks, my age.” “Hey Tim nothing personal man, I’d go in a fire with you any day bro, you been doing it longer than I’ve been alive. So really man you look good it shows you take care of yourself.” He stuck out his paw again, “Good luck man.” “You to Kevin, and thanks.” We shook hands and he dropped to the ground and started doing pushups, I started looking for a cooler.

As I made my way to the beer trough the pushup scene was repeated every few feet by another gladiator, as well as weight lifting, jumping jacks, pull-ups, anything to drive blood into the muscles and swell them. Me, I was doing 18 ounce curls.

I was given the sign, I was up next for the catwalk. For the first time I could remember I actually had a bit of stage fright. I shook it off.

The master of ceremonies was at the mic again. “Once aging let’s give a big hand to our oldest contestant of the night. Not only tonight but in the history of this calendar. Big welcome for Tim Casey, he is representing the Colorado Springs fire department.”

I didn’t hear the crowd all I heard was “history”. At that moment I decided to have fun and take this thing over the top, I knew I didn’t stand a chance of making the calendar, but I did know I could give a memorable performance. That’s what I do.

I strolled out to the mic, there were more questions to come from the judges. I was wearing my turnout pants, my suspenders dangling from my hips and a department tee shirt. I stopped short of the microphone and made the crowd wait. Now I hear them. Pretty loud.

I reached up and grabbed the center of my chest ala Hulk Hogan and just ripped the tee shirt off my body. I shredded it in my hands and walked to the edge of the stage and threw pieces of it to the screaming ladies. They fought for it like I was Mick Jagger or some rock star. Crazy. Then I moved to the mic.

The judges laughed. A lady reporter was first up. “Well Tim that was different, are you different form the other competitors?” She asked. I was going to have fun. “Yes.” Was all I said. She stared at me a moment. “In what ways?”

“Well quite frankly, since my advanced age seems to be a subject tonight I’d like to point out I’ve been a firefighter longer than these guys have had those six packs they’ve been oiling up back stage.” I write textbooks I don’t read them. I can have an educated conversation on many subjects, and I ate lunch.”

Got a pretty good laugh with all that. Now it was time for me to take the runway. I had watched a few of oily brethren give their performances, and it very much reminded of a music video, I don’t know if you have seen it, but it was called “I’m too sexy”.

I didn’t stand a chance, although I had worked the ramp as a model in my youth those days and that agility had long since departed. I couldn’t dance my way out of a speeding ticket.

So I threw caution to the wind, I walked down the ramp in the least sexy way anyone had ever seen I’m sure. When I got to the end and the judges I got down on my hands and knees and did my best tiger impression, pawing and hissing at the weather lady.

She was startled and pushed back a bit in her chair, I smiled and winked at her. The TV news guy just shook his head eyes on his feet. What the hell. I turned and began a slow crawl back up stage. The crowd was only a couple of feet away from me and the women shouted their approval of my show and some their phone numbers. They reached for me and wanted to touch me. Surreal doesn’t come close to a description. I really did feel like a piece of meat, not bad really.

Here I am at 1000 words, so I promise I’ll finish tomorrow.