We have a prison in our first-in district. Actually it’s called a workhouse but that’s splitting hairs and don’t ask me what the difference is. Medic 22 responds there about once a day and what we find when we arrive can be anything imaginable.
Because prisoners want reasons to get away from their cells, they often cry sick when, surprise, they really aren’t. To combat such abuse, the prison staff usually waits until the last minute to call us which means if the prisoner is really sick, as in heart attack sick, we’re starting behind the 8-ball and playing catch-up.
Prisoners “fall from their bunks” all of the time. I put fall from their bunks in quotes since it isn’t typical to have red footprints on a person’s chest and black eyes from falling from a bunk, even the top bunk.
When the women’s section of the prison calls for a woman in labor, we know we’d better haul ass or we’re likely to deliver a baby in the back of our truck. I can’t begin to describe the mess that creates not to mention the panic that washes over a lot of paramedics. I’ve delivered two babies as a paramedic and I still cringe at the thought.
Before I blog about the blog that I came here to blog about, let me give you a quick warm-up story. On one ‘woman-in-labor’ call, the prison nurse met us outside of the infirmary door.
“Sorry for bothering you,” she said. “We have a lady who is faking labor again.”
“Again?” I asked.
“Yeah, she did this two weeks ago and was sent back.”
The nurse followed me into the room where the mother-to-be’s face was as red as our fire engine and the veins in her neck were about to burst.
“Aaaaahhhh,” she wailed and I was no longer convinced she was faking.
I yelled, “How far apart are the contractions?” and the nurse answered that she wasn’t sure. “When’s her due date?” I asked.
“Uhhh…” the nurse paused. “November seventh.”
The problem was that the date was November eighteenth. She wasn’t faking, the law of averages told us that much. We gently threw her onto our cot and raced like hell to the hospital. If I said she delivered a new baby boy two minutes after we moved her to the hospital bed, I’d be lying. It was more like thirty seconds.
Is everyone following the importance of fast action at this point? Good, now I can get to the story that I brought you here for.
Less than a year later, we sped to the jail on what we call an ‘OB’ run. That’s important because an engine company doesn’t get dispatched on ‘OB’ calls like they do on ‘woman-in-labor’ runs.
We were met by the prison nurse (not the same nurse as before) and she looked like I must look before delivering a baby. You know, wide-eyed, ready to quit my job on the spot -- that look.
She said, “Our patient is 8 ½ months pregnant and this will be her fourth kid.” That basically means when the kid is coming, he is likely coming fast. My pucker-factor went from a 4 to 8 on a scale of 10. She continued, “The contractions are 1 minute apart and I think her water broke.” Again, more signs that I should have called off.
“Ma’am?” I asked. “Do you feel like you need to move your bowels?” Now I know that’s a disgusting question but bear with me; it tells us a lot. If she said yes, it tells us we aren’t going anywhere and we’re doing our business right where we were. If she said no, we might have a few minutes. Of course, she said she didn’t know which didn’t fill me with much confidence.
I called for an engine company for help and we loaded her into the back of the medic. My partner and I prepared for delivery while we waited for Engine 22 to arrive. When they pulled up, I opened the back, let my eyes tell the lieutenant we needed to go, and hollered for John to drive.
It’s important that you know that John isn’t a paramedic and that he pretty much trusts our judgment on EMS calls. When I let him know that this baby was on its way, he didn’t hesitate and hopped into the drivers-seat.
I leaned between the seats. “Lights and sirens, John. We’re gonna deliver a baby,” I said in all of my confident glory.
The hospital ride was iffy. Our patient’s contractions grew longer and closer together. And when I saw the hospital, I gave myself a little hope that we might make it after all. My partner started an IV, I gave her some oxygen, and we watched for the baby to come. The hospital labor and delivery department was on the fourth floor and I grabbed our OB kit just in case.
That reminds me. Let me tell you about the baby I helped deliver in the hospital elevator seven years ago...
Scratch that; I’ll save it for another day.
Floor after painfully slow floor, the elevator reached our Valhalla and we tore through the halls. The nurses raced into the room behind us and I was relieved that we made it.
We gave a report and headed back to the truck. I yapped about how close we had come, and how the baby was likely breathing its first breath at that very moment. All the while John took in my every word, probably thinking to himself how lucky he was to not be a paramedic.
And that’s my story on how close I came to delivering a baby that day…
Wait a minute. I can’t end the story there. This is a blog about the strange, funny and amazing things that I see working on Columbus Fire Department.
Three weeks passed. I was on Medic 22 again and we were sent, with the engine this time, to the workhouse on yet another woman in labor. I met our patient while the engine crew brought in the stretcher. Our patient was close to delivering so I wasted little time.
John lugged the cot into the infirmary. He hesitated for a split second and asked, “Have we run on you before?”
Come to think of it, she did look vaguely familiar but I see a lot of patients and sometimes I have a hard time remembering each of their faces.
She answered, “About three weeks ago. You took me to the hospital.”
I froze and glanced at John’s smirk. My mind raced. What did we take her in for? Quick, think. Was she sick? Trouble breathing? For the life of me, I couldn’t remember but I had a deep nagging, oops feeling in my gut.
But John remembered. There was no way that he didn’t since I swear his job is to be there when I screw up. He pointed to me. “Didn’t he say you were having your baby at any minute?”
She chuckled and said that I had.
“Didn’t we run lights and sirens to the hospital?”
Great, now even our patient thinks I’m an imbecile.
John shook his head in a condescending way that only John could. I thought about blowing him off, coming up with some kind of BS excuse, but there was no hope. The damage was done. I was an idiot.
I kicked the engine loose (sent them back to the station) and we took our patient to the hospital.
We didn’t deliver her baby that time either but that wasn’t the focus of my story. You see, John is a grade A, ball-buster if ever there was one and I dreaded my return to 22’s. Mostly, I dreaded my return to John.
He met me at the kitchen door. “Hey, Doug, I’m not a medic or anything but isn’t three weeks awful fast to get pregnant and have another baby?”
Laugh it up, John. Laugh it up.
Heck, he still does.