Please see parts 1 and 2 below if you haven’t read them yet.
I was pretty excited to have delivered a baby but I think I was just as excited to get some sleep. It had been a long day and even sleeping from 2:00 until 7:00 would seem like a dream come true. I laid my head on my pillow, already dreaming of the next hopefully couple hours of sleep. I no sooner closed my eyes when the medic tones blared again. I lay motionless on my back, listening to the entire dispatch message while hoping that by some miracle, it wasn’t for Medic 24.
Please be the engine. Please be the engine.
No luck. I sat up, slipped my boots over my feet, my sweatshirt over my head, and stumbled wearily to the truck. The call was for a cardiac arrest which meant sleep was at least another hour away. While walking to the truck, I prayed that word of another medic crew taking the call for us would come over the radio.
The closer we came to the scene, the more I realized that those prayers were not going to be answered. I concentrated more on trying to keep my eyes closed until the last second than I did wondering what we were about to get into. As we pulled into the apartment complex, I stretched a pair of our bright blue gloves over my hands. I figured now was the time to start getting my mind right.
A 20-something-year-old shirtless man stood in his doorway, frantically waving us into his apartment. I grabbed one of our 30-pound emergency kits while the guys from the engine grabbed the other kit and the cardiac monitor. We made our way into the apartment. The young girl on the floor was about the same age as the man at the door. She was dolled up with makeup, nice clothes, and heels evidence that she was just getting home from a night on the town. She was unconscious. Her lips were blue. She wasn’t breathing. I reached for her carotid artery along the side of her neck—she was pulseless.
One of the guys began chest compressions. I’ve done and seen CPR more times than I can remember but the first couple of compressions still make me a little queasy. When the cartilage between someone’s ribs loudly crack, I have an irrational fear that my hands, or the hands of whoever is doing the compressions, are about to plunge through the victims chest.
“Does she use drugs,” I yelled at the man from the front door.
“I d-d-don’t know. I don’t think so.”
“Come on, man. Tell us what she took,” I insisted.
“I don’t know. I was in bed when I heard her come home. I came out and found her like this.”
Warren dug through the airway kit until he retrieved a bag-valve-mask and began breathing for her. One of the engine guys removed patches from the pouches along the side of the cardiac monitor. We cut her shirt away and stuck the patches to her chest, ready to shock her heart back to life.
I looked to the nervous young man again. “We’re not the police. You need to tell us what she took.”
“I don’t know.”
Bullshit! “Who is she? Is she your girlfriend?”
He shook his head that she was.
“Then you know if she does drugs. What’s she take? We can’t help her if you don’t tell us.”
Deep down I think I knew what his answer was going to be but there is some sick satisfaction in making him tell us. We’re working and sweating to save her from herself, we sure as hell weren’t going to play around with a bunch of secrets.
“Heroin,” he whispered.
“Alright. Now we can help her.”
While having our exchange, I tied a tourniquet around her arm. One of the EMTs from the engine prepared an IV bag and passed me the IV supplies. I rubbed my finger over the soft part of the inside bend of her elbow until I felt the slight bump of an unseen vein. I swiped it with an alcohol prep before jamming a needle into her arm.
She didn’t flinch.
I’m so tired. Why couldn’t she have done this shit at 10:00?
Blood flashed into the hollow window of our IV needle telling me that I’ve struck paydirt. I advanced the catheter into her vein and attached the IV line. After taping it down, we were ready to deliver our anti-narcotic medication called Narcan. I ran through the Narcan dosages in my mind just to make sure I gave the right amount.
The girl’s boyfriend built up the courage to ask, “Is she going to be alright?”
I heard our Lieutenant answer him rather harshly. “Right now she’s not breathing and she may die.”
Her boyfriend didn’t seem as upset as one might expect which, combined with her late night out on the town without him told me that this love affair was closer to the end in more ways than one. “I’ll come to the hospital in a little bit,” he callously said.
I pushed the Narcan into her vein and we lifted her onto our cot. We loaded her into the back of the medic. I asked the lieutenant to give us a driver and we would be on our way. I thought about the incredibleness of back-to-back runs in which we brought a person into this world and were about to watch someone leave it. But since it was heroin that tried to kill our patient, we had a shot.
She took a breath on her own. Then she opened her eyes, disoriented. Her lips pinkened up. She looked around and I felt bad that her first sight was my ugly mug. That was a joke—really I didn’t feel bad at all.
She asked what happened. I told her she had just died and that we had brought her back to life. Dramatic, huh? I don’t usually pull many punches with ODs. I believe addicts need to know what they’ve done to themselves without sugar coating. I asked her what she had taken.
She said, “Nothing.”
I said, “We gave you medicine that only helps if you’ve taken narcotics so don’t give me your bullshit lies.”
She ignored me.
I said, “If your boyfriend hadn’t found you when he did, you’d be dead right now.”
She kept quiet for the rest of the ride to the ER. She was obviously done with me, or maybe just pissed that we killed her wonderful high which is a common reaction in just such situations. I didn’t care either way. I was tired, grumpy, and felt like I had just cleaned up another person’s mess… Again.
I couldn’t wait to be back in bed.
A twenty-something-year-old kid quickly saw to it that I wouldn’t be going to bed anytime soon. He had been smoking weed and cigarettes all night when his chest began to hurt. He was afraid that he was having a heart attack. We checked his vital signs, put him on a heart monitor, and determined his pain was clearly not cardiac related. We told him such. But he didn’t believe us, instead insisting that we take him to the ER just in case.
By 4AM I was ready to crawl into a hospital bed beside him. I gave the nurse a half-assed report so we could rush back to station for the precious 3 hours of sleep that awaited me.
As we backed into quarters the medic tones, those damn medic tones, taunted me again. This next guy needed a ride to the ER for god only knows why. He said his tooth hurt but he didn’t seem to be in much pain. I told him that the ER would only refer him to a dentist but he didn’t much care.
Since his home address turned out to be near his hospital of choice, we later concluded why he likely called. He probably left as soon as we got him to the ER. And with no insurance, he had managed to swindle a free taxi ride home. We felt like we’d been suckered.
But it wasn’t over yet.
Another call for chest pains.
I give up, game over, somebody shoot me.
By the time we returned from the chest pains call (a lady with said chest pains for the past three days) it was 7:00 in the morning. Our dispatcher announced to the stations that it was time to get up as if mocking me. And to top off our night from hell, we had an hour before I could drive my tired ass home. Plenty of time for another dire emergency.
The report of an auto accident at 20 minutes ‘til eight assured that my shift had gotten longer by at least a half hour.
The day that never ends.
I don’t know if Warren was as tired as I was but I imagine he had to be. I was finally able to get the hell out of there and head home to my four-year-old ball of energy. In my twenties, I dreamed of nights like those. But now that I’m nearing forty, let me tell you—man was I tired.