Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Ramp Rants - Welfare Queens, Drag Queens & TaySean

Ramp Rants - Welfare Queens, Drag Queens and TaySean

Many moons ago, when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I was in paramedic school. It was fascinating learning how to treat the cavemen after the saber-toothed tiger attacks, or how to extricate a neanderthal from the horns of a triceratops. It was always exciting to see the pterodactyls swoop skyward when they were startled by our lights and sirens.

One particular day during my paramedic precepting, I was assigned to work with Lisa, one of the crusty old-time paramedics who still managed to make it seem like she cared about people. I was also partnered with Gretchen, another paramedic student who I did all my precepting with. She would ride with me and we would both get the required hours on the ambulance for class. Lisa’s task was to educate us on paramedic work with hands-on experience.

In those days, the St. Bernard housing project was a thriving mini-metropolis, sparkling with drugs, murders and welfare babies. On this particular day, our little team got a call in the St. Bernard for a female with “abdominal pain.” Dispatch didn’t tell us she was pregnant; they didn’t need to. It is automatically understood that any female in the projects between the ages of twelve and fifty is pregnant. It is one of the rules of EMS.

We arrived at the address and hauled our cookies up, up, up to the third floor of the tiny, twisting stairway where the apartment was. Sitting on the floor was our patient, a female of 18 years and about the same girth and weight of a grand piano. She was hollering as labor pains struck several times. Around the patient were several family members. The sister held her hand, the mother stood across the room drinking a beer and smoking a cigarette, encouraging her, specifically saying “Girl, you bettah have dat baby quick so you can get yo’ welfare check! I needs some o’ dat too!” The grandmother sat on the couch watching her soap operas. A male flitted about down the hallway, ducking in and out of one of the rooms like a nervous butterfly.

The patient felt like she needed to push, a sign of an imminent delivery. Upon inspection of her nether regions, after hauling the fat rolls away from her crotch, we could see the amniotic sac protruding from her cavernous vagina. None of us had seen a pregnancy where the sac was protruding out. We were worried that it may have involved placenta previa, the placenta blocking the cervical opening, which would necessitate a cesarean section. I got on the radio to medical control. “Doc, I have an 18 year old female, prima gravida, full term. Contractions are about a minute apart and the amniotic sac is presenting, still intact. I’d like to go ahead and deliver here.”

“Negative,” the doctor countered. “Get her to the hospital ASAP.”

“Doc, we’d really like to deliver here. We’re on the third floor of the projects and it’s going to be tough getting her out.”

“Do not deliver that baby in the field. Get her to the hospital immediately!” he reaffirmed.

Lisa, Gretchen and I quickly went over the logistics in our head of moving the patient’s ponderous bulk down the stairs. We would have to carry her, since walking her would likely hasten the impending birth. Lisa and Gretchen each grabbed a shoulder; I carried her by the knees. Halfway down the steps, another contraction came and she shrieked with the pain of it. It made me acutely aware that I, standing between her legs, was in the direct line of fire should she choose to launch her bundle of joy at that moment.

We finally made it downstairs and got her onto the stretcher. It was Gretchen’s turn to ride with the patient and Lisa in the back. I didn’t even get into the back of the truck to assess vital signs or start an IV; it was time to leave. I hopped into the driver’s seat as the male that had been flitting about alighted in the passenger seat. He wore regular clothes, but his eyebrows were carefully plucked and he had the remnants of fingernail polish still on, apparently from his last night out in drag. “Are you family to her?” I asked. It was not uncommon for complete strangers to jump into the ambulance as if they were kinfolk so they could get a ride into town.

“I’m her brother, Mister,” he said with a lisp so heavy that I thought it would have been more likely to assign him the relationship of sister, if you know what I mean.

“Okay,” I said as I pulled away. One block down the street, Lisa hollered from the back, “Sean, pull over!” Aw, crap.

I was glad I had the good sense to put a fresh pair of gloves on before I got out of the truck and came around to the back. The moment I opened the back doors to the ambulance, there was a massive explosion and a baby came skittering down the stretcher directly at me. I caught it, football-style, just before it shot out the back of the vehicle like some sort of James Bond weapon. Up until then, I had no idea that an umbilical cord is long enough to stretch from the gurney out the door. I now know that it is.

The baby was a healthy boy. I clamped and cut the cord, Gretchen assessed it while Lisa tended to the female. After a few minutes, we were ready to go again.

Back in the front, the brother was beginning to have a nellie fit over the goings-on in the back, with a similar intensity as if he had broken a high heel or he suddenly discovered that his purse didn’t match his miniskirt. “Oh, mister! What’s going on? Is she all right? Oh, my nerves is bad; I cain’t take this!” he exclaimed, fanning himself like Aunt Pittypat in Gone With the Wind.

I didn’t want him to have a full-blown conniption in the front of the ambulance as I drove. I reassured him that everything was all right. “Look, your sister’s fine and the baby’s fine. Just relax. It’s a boy. You can name him after me if you want,” I said jokingly, hoping to lighten him up a bit. Even though he was light in his loafers enough.

“Really mister? What’s your name?” he asked.

“I’m Sean.”

He turned to the little doorway to the back of the ambulance. “Shaniqua!” he screeched at his sister. “The paramedic say we can name the baby after him! His name be Sean; we can call the baby TaySean!”

“Ooh, I likes dat!” she answered back.

I sat in my seat unable to speak. I carefully reviewed the conversation in my head. “I’m Sean” were my exact words; I was sure of it. ‘TAY Sean? Where the HELL did that come from?’ I wondered, flabbergasted.

I flashed the queen next to me an inquisitive look, one that I hoped would convey the proper amount of ‘What the fuck?’ He just shrugged his shoulders and said “well, you know...”

At the hospital, Gretchen and Lisa brought the female and baby inside. I stayed and cleaned up the back of the truck. Amniotic fluid, blood and baby-birthing gunk had gotten everywhere from the mighty eruption resulting in the birth of little TaySean. As I wiped everything down and threw away half our equipment that had been soiled, I pictured TaySean growing up in the St. Bernard projects. He would ask his mother where he got his name. As she cashed her welfare check at the liquor store, she would explain about the circumstances of his birth, the trip down the stairs, the Richter scale reading on his delivery, and why his uncle is dressed like that. And she would mention me, Sean, the paramedic who offered his name. Later in life, I was sure I would have TaySean in my ambulance again, when he got shot from some drug deal gone bad or something.

There are some things you do in EMS that you’re proud of. There are some things you do you’re not proud of. The idea of my namesake growing up in the St. Bernard with his gigantic mother, welfare-money-hungry grandmother, drag queen uncle and my name made me cringe. Between pride and humiliation, where does TaySean fall in?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Infallible EMS Dispatch Gets Balloon Boy Call

Emergency Computer Aided Dispatch system is put to the test...

Operator 1: “911, What is your emergency?”

Caller: “My 6 year-old son just drifted away in a helium balloon!”

Operator 1:“Can I have your phone number in case we get disconnected?”

Caller: “Yes, its 555-1234.” Oh, please, I don’t know what to do! It’s starting to drift away!”

Operator 1: “You say your son is floating away in a balloon?”

Caller: “Yes!”

Operator 1: “Hmm, I don’t see that in any of the emergency dispatch responses in the computer. Hold on a second.”
To Operator 2: “Hey, this lady says her kid's floating away in a balloon! Where is that in the computer?”

Operator 2: “Kid in a balloon? (scrolling through computer choices) I don’t see that either. Just go with “Generalized Weakness.”

Operator 1: “OK ma’am, I have it now. Is he conscious and breathing?”

Caller: “I guess so, he just climbed into the balloon. I can’t really see him right now. He’s a thousand feet overhead. Please send help!”

Operator 1: “I’ll send someone out. Is his breathing normal?”

Caller: “What? I don’t know! He’s breathing HELIUM!”

Operator 1: “Is he having any chest pain?”

Caller: “Are you kidding me? He’s in a freaking balloon!”

Operator 1: “I understand you’re anxious ma’am, but I need you to try and stay calm. I need you to answer my questions so we can get the proper response crews to you.”

Caller: (calming down) “OK, I’ll try. Please send someone; the balloon is drifting out of sight!”

Operator 1: “How old is he? Does he have any medical problems?”

Caller: “Six. And no, he’s perfectly healthy.”

Operator 1: “How long has he felt weak?”

Caller: “Weak? What are you talking about? Haven’t you been listening? He climbed into an experimental balloon I was building with my husband and it drifted away with him inside it?”

Operator 1: “Oh that’s right. Sorry, I’m trying to use the computer script for ‘Generalized Weakness.’"

Caller: “WHAT?”

Operator 1: “So the balloon drifted away with your 6 year-old husband and he’s feeling weak?”

Caller: “Oh my God!”

Operator 1: “OK ma’am, the ambulance is on its way. Do you want me to stay on the line till they arrive?”

Caller: “An ambulance? Why are you sending an ambulance? He’s in a freaking BALLOON! Thousands of feet in the air! What is an ambulance going to do?”

Operator 1: “Ma’am I need you to try to stay calm so I can send the proper response crews...”

Caller: “Oh sweet Jesus! Never mind, I’ll call CNN!” (Click)

Operator 1 to Operator 2: “What a bitch! Some people just don’t know how to speak to another human being.”

Operator 2: “So she canceled the call?”

Operator 1: “Yeah. Says she’s gonna call CNN. Freak. Like they’d be interested.”

Operator 2: “Hmph!”

(By the way, here is the ACTUAL 911 call: http://mp3.911dispatch.com.s3.amazonaws.com/fortcollins_balloon_911.mp3)

An Experiment in Sleep Deprivation

I just got home from work a few minutes ago. Nothing remarkable, eh? Well, to tell the truth, I am currently hallucinating. I’ve been awake since 4am on Tuesday,; it’s 12:47am on Thursday. In a few minutes, that’ll be 45 hours straight with no sleep. I wantred to write this blog post under the influence of lack of sleep and the wierd things I keep seeing out of the corner of my eyes. I am not going to edit or correct what I write. I am just going to type and type like that dude what’s his name did. Oh yeah Jack Kerouac. He wrote “on the Road” on one hugely long continuous sheet of paper at one sitting, keeping himself wawke with drugs and God knows what. I loved that book.
Anyway, what’s ther eason for my 45 minute stint awake? It’s my own fault. I effed up my schedule and doub;e booked myself. Long story short, I worked a 12 hour EMS shift, then went to a 12 hour overnight nursing shift, then followed that up with another 14-hour EMS shift. I am exhausted. I was driiving home and caught myself wondering if I was driving in a dream or driving for real. When You;re this tired, everything takes on a distinct aura of unreality. You can talk and watch and eat and drink and work and read and whatever, but tghere is a odd sense that none of what you do matters, as if you are in a dream.I find it similar to lucid dreaming, that is, when you are aware that you are asleep and dreaming, but continue to dream anyway. With this wonderful knowledge, you are free to do whatever you want, because you know it is only a dream and will hold no consequences in real life when you wake up.
In a strange sens, being 45+ hours exhausted is something of the photographic negative of lucid dreaming. You get the impression that you are living in the real world, but still nothing matters. Same picture, but colored by different means.
\I hope I wasn’t a dick to my partner today. Jeremy is an excellent EMT, someone who I’d not mind being permanent partners with. I’d watch his back and I’m pretty sure he’d watch mine. I have no idea if I said or did anything to piss him off. When you’re lucid dreaming, or dreaming reality, it soedn’t realy matter. Whay tou do/,. I hope I dodn;t piss him off.

Oh by the way, I have a nw bottle of vordjka to help me on my way to the promised land of sleepy-byes.
I was hoping to type and type a la Jack Kerouac but I don’t have the same good drugs a s he had and i think I stopped making sense a coupel paragraphs ago. It’s so tempting to hit the backspace button! To be honest, I have hit it a few times, like maybe you wouldn’t know who Jack Kreouwac iswas. Waow I just glancesd at what I’m writng. It Super sucks!
Ok 45 hours is the limit. I’m so totally going to bed. allright- Laterz!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Glad I Could Help

So just recently I was sitting at the coffee shop while on duty, enjoying one of the main food groups - caffeine. A man sat near me and we struck up a conversation about local news and my job as a paramedic. A few minutes into talking, he grew pensive, almost as if he was lost.

"Is is me that's just crazy, or has the whole world gone insane?" he asked.

I wondered what brought on such an abrupt shift in the conversation. I was unsure what he meant or how to answer him. As I pondered my next statement, the radio crackled to life to dispatch me to a call. "You're responding to a man with no legs who fell off his motorbike," the information came across clearly to me and the man I had been talking to.

The man repeated what he had heard over the radio, "A man with no legs riding a motorcycle?"

I confirmed it with dispatch. "Yes, that's correct," the dispatcher said.

I looked carefully into the man's eyes. "Does that answer your question?" I asked him.

"Yes, thank you. That makes me feel much better. It is the rest of the world."

"Glad I could help."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

So Delightful to Meet You!

9:30 am: I’m asleep in bed. I had gotten home from work at 4 am and was dead asleep from a long shift.

{Knock knock knock} on the door.
I’m sleeping in my underwear. As I get up to answer the door, I consider how embarrassing/fun it would have been to answer the door buck naked. My groggy head can’t be bothered with too many calculations, tired as I am, so I open the door in my boxer briefs. On my porch is a man, about 50, but looks closer to 65. He has scraggly, shoulder-length graying hair and a matching beard surrounding a mouth that houses gray, broken teeth. He is wearing a dirty t-shirt over his rotund torso and shorts that proudly display the cellulitis infection in his lower legs.

“Hi, I’m (whatthefuckever- I don’t remember). I’m moving into the house next door and I wanted to know if you mind me putting my boat in the public alley between our houses.

I briefly remember the “a
lley.” Back in the dinosaur days before the Interstate was built a few dozen yards from my house, there was an alley that divided the city block. Almost every block in Lakeview still has such an alley in use for people to park their cars in their rear driveways and the trash is picked up in the back alleys. However, the street layout on my block was rearranged when the interstate was built. My driveway runs right next to the land that is still technically designated a public alley, but the fence to my property effectively makes it my yard, and I’ve always thought of it that way.

“How long do you w
ant to put it there?” I ask, expecting it to be parked there only as long as it takes him to move into the house.

“For as long as I need it,” he answers.

I envision his boat, currently on a trailer behind his pickup truck in the street, parked in my driveway forever. “Um, no, I’m sorry, I can’t let you park it there,” I respond in my just-woke-up voice.

He is prepared for just
this situation. “Well, you know that that’s actually a public alley, so I CAN use it.”

I briefly consider his line of reasoning as best I can while my bed is calling me to co
me back to it. “I understand, but I really would rather you not park it there.”

“But it’s a public alley, so I can park it there.”

I have not the logic nor the will to continue too much farther in this circle, so I change tacks. “Well, then why did you bother asking me about it?”

“Out of courtesy,” he responds.

I courteously answer “Still, I’d really rather not have you park it there.”

“I am going to park it there.”

I shut the door. I climb back into bed. I’ll figure something out later. I really can’t be bothered right now.

10:00 am. I’m just about fully back to sleep.

{Knock knock knock}
Back out of bed, back to the door in my boxer briefs. “Now what?” I wonder, hoping it’s just the postman or Mormons.

“Hi, I’m Mrs (whatthefuckever). You were just talking to my husband about parking our boat in the public alley [she makes sure to refer to it as the “public alley” rather than “your yard”] and I think we may have gotten off on the wrong foot. That was his mother’s house; we renovated it and we’re moving in.

“Oh, you mean Mrs. Newman?” I ask.

“Yes!” she says, her smile revealing her own set of urine-colored teeth that match her urine-colored hair. She glances at me up and down, no doubt appreciating in the panorama of virility that is me, standing on the porch in my underwear. I return the favor and take in the view of her white shorts that reveal varicose-veined legs and the “SeƱor Frogs” tie-dyed t-shirt covering up her wizened, leathery 96-pound torso.

“That boat is my one source of serenity in this world. And Lord knows I don’t get to be serene very often. We certainly don’t use it as much as I’d like to...” she goes off on a tangent.

“I heard,” I answer. “I understand that the alley is technically public land, but it’s pretty much part of my yard, and I’d really rather not have you park it there.”

“Well, I understand, but it IS a PUBLIC alley and I don’t want something bad to happen to the boat or have it stolen,” she says.

“What difference will that make?”I try to reason. “How do you know it won’t get stolen or whatever from right there?”

“Well, there’s that phone pole right there.”

I consider the security functions inherent in a phone pole. I see few.

“Look, isn’t there some sort of compromise we can come to?” she offers.

My brain, in a fit of logic, comes up with a possible solution. “Yes, I think so,” I respond brightly. “There’s an empty lot right behind my house. The house that used to be there was torn down, so now it’s just an empty lot with an old slab and a perfectly good driveway. Why don’t you just put your boat in the driveway on the empty lot?” I point out the empty lot, its own driveway butted against the continuing “alley.”

She is unimpressed with my suggestion. “No, I don’t really want to do that. I don’t know who owns that property.”

I almost yelled “But you DO know that I own THIS property, and you don’t have a problem taking up MY yard.” But I didn’t. The husband was watching our exchange from his yard, muttering psychotically to himself. I had no doubt that I was already making myself look like an idiot simply talking to Mrs. Whatthefuckever, who looked like she had spent too many summers turning tricks at the beach while I stood on my front porch in my undies. A shouting match under the circumstances wouldn’t be... seemly.

Instead I calmly repeated my statement, “I’d really rather you not park your boat in my yard.”

She took up the circular argument that her husband had. “But it’s a public alley, so we CA
N park it there.”

I chose not to continue a fruitless line of reasoning. “It seems that no matter what I say, you’re going to do what you want. So why did you bother asking me about parking it there?” I inquired for the second time this morning.

“I asked you out of courtesy. So we don’t get off on the wrong foot,” she repeated.

“Courtesy implies that my thoughts would be taken into consideration, but you haven’t done that. You seem prepared to do whatever you want to do regardless of what I say, so I don’t really see the courtesy in that,” I explain quite honestly.

“Well, we are going to park it there. I just didn’t want to get off on the wrong foot...”

“I see. Okay,” I sigh as I go back into my house and close the door.

Ah, having white trash neighbors is going to be so interesting! I'll have so much to write about! Let the games begin!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stir Crazy

This is NOT a chapter of my ongoing story "Found Wanting". Merely an intermission. This is from a dream I had recently. I laughed myself awake during the little girl's rant, so I'm not sure of the ending. Enjoy.

Stir Crazy

Manny and Marilyn noticed the kids were getting restless. It had been four days since they arrived. The boat that Manny’s boss had offered him to use for their summer vacation hadn’t left the dock. Marilyn had enjoyed going for dinner and cocktails at the yacht club, but cocktail parties wore thin rather quickly on the 11 and 7 year-old.

That morning Manny cranked up the motor and rigged the sails when the boat had cleared the harbor. They cruised up the shore, rhythmically bumping along as the waves rolled against the hull. Marilyn sat on the foredeck catching some sun while Manny took the rudder.

After a few hours, Manny set the autonav and went below to check on the kids. Ricky, the 7 year-old was busying himself with a puzzle. Stacy, the 11 year-old, looked sullen as she worked on a coloring book, having abandoned her dolls and jewelry-making kit earlier that morning. “What’s wrong, kids? It’s a beautiful day and you're sitting in here moping like it’s the end of the world!”

“We’re bored, Dad! There’s nothing to do! We’ve been here for four days,” Stacy complained. Ricky looked up briefly from his puzzle, saying nothing, childlike disgust clear on his young face.

“But we’re moving now,” Manny offered hopefully.

Stacy held her hand to her ear and spoke into an imaginary phone. “Hi Stephanie! You’re on vacation too? All your friends are there? Really? An amusement park? Rides? Shows? Parties at night? Wow. Me? Oh, we’re moving. No, not that kind of moving. We’re just moving. In a boat. Nope, nowhere in particular... just... moving around.”

“Stacy...” Manny tried to interject.

“I can’t wait to give my report next semester on what I did for my summer vacation. ‘Well, Mrs. Kirschenblatt, I moved. I didn’t move anywhere in particular, just moved from point A to point B in a boat. Of course there wasn’t really any point B, since we just went back to the same dock. So basically I just took a cruise in a big washing machine.’”

Manny looked dejected. He went back to the deck and took the rudder again. Marilyn passed him on her way to refill her drink. “What’s wrong?” she asked.

Manny looked up at her morosely. “I’m bored.”