Friday, October 9, 2009

Man, I'm tired

Spending nights awake on a medic truck in Columbus can beat on a person.

I was tt’d to Medic 24 on the city’s north end. TT meaning assigned to work a shift at a different station than the one I call home. Now the following scenario isn’t unique to 24’s, as I’ve experienced it plenty at my regular house of 22’s, but this particular night, it happened while I was working at 24’s.

First, you have to understand that a typical run at 24’s, from the time the call is dispatched to the time we drop a patient off at the ER and return back to quarters, is about 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic.

With that in mind, some of the runs can be as short as 15 minutes if, for example, no one is injured in an auto accident or something along those lines. That day we had 12 runs in the first twelve hours. Pretty busy, huh? Well that’s where my story starts.

From 8 PM until midnight, I didn’t bother lying down. It wouldn’t have done any good if I had. At 10 o’clock we were called to an injured person.

We pulled out of the bay and into a fresh rain. The dispatch was to an apartment building but when we arrived something in the darkened front yard caught my eye. I grabbed my partner, Warren’s, attention before he could head into the apartments.
As we came closer, we could see a woman lying in the wet grass, crying. We approached. I asked her what had happened. She sobbed that she fell getting off of the bus and then crawled into the grass. She cried that no one would stop to help her as traffic continued to whiz by unfazed.

I asked her what hurt and she said her ankle. She said that it felt wet inside of her knee-high boot. She didn’t say knee-high, I added that. I looked down as the rain poured onto my head, down my brow and off of my nose like the downspouts of a gutter. Her toes pointed behind her.

Ah, shit!

Warren saw what I saw at the same time and he had pretty much the same reaction. I wondered what we could do for her out in the dark rain, deciding the best course of action would be getting her into the truck. But that wasn’t going to be easy.

Or painless.

Warren went for the cot while calling for an engine on his radio. I did a quick evaluation of her neck and a rapid secondary exam which made me comfortable that she hadn’t any other injuries. I told her we had to move her because we needed to get her boot off and make sure she wasn’t bleeding too badly. I also told her that we didn’t have time to give her an IV and morphine and that I was sorry.

As Warren lowered the cot next to her, I said, “Honey, you’re going to have to help us. I’m afraid that it’s going to hurt.” She cried.

Warren braced her foot and leg so her foot wouldn’t be left behind. I lifted her under her arms as we had her scoot onto the cot. It must have been excruciating; the grinding of her lower leg bones assured of that.

The engine arrived as we loaded her into the medic.

“What do you need?” the Lieutenant asked.

I said, “Someone to drive and someone to hold her foot on.”
He ordered someone behind the wheel and hopped into the back with us. Another EMT followed him. We had him hold her foot.

I said, “We gotta get her boot off,” and he agreed. Warren started searching for an IV site while the lieutenant and I started cutting her boot. Once we reached her ankle, we were stuck. The scissors couldn’t squeeze past the tight boot.

“We’re going to have to wiggle it off,” the lieutenant said, though I already knew.

With the boot mostly cut, we could see that her bleeding wasn’t severe and decided to wait for Warren to finish the IV and let the morphine have a chance to kick in. It did. But morphine in the amount we are allowed to give doesn’t stop the pain, it only dulls it a bit. With some screaming (her, not me), we slid her boot off. I told her not to look. She asked if her foot was still there. I wanted to say, “barely,” but simply told her that it was.

Her shinbone was sticking through her skin like a spear. Luckily for her, she still had a pulse and blood flow into her foot. But that could quickly change with the wrong movement or a bump in the road. Her foot hung from her leg by little more than skin and ligaments.

We raced with lights and sirens to the hospital. By the time I had finished with the report, the nurse told us that our patient was already going into surgery and that she was going to keep her foot. We dried off and got back in service.

I was already tired and this unbelievable night had only just begun.

Stay tuned for the next part of my crazy night in the coming weeks…

That’s called a tease by the way.