Friday, September 19, 2008

Good News

I had to stop in at headquarters on my way home from work this morning to fill out my time card and such. As I was leaving, actually pulling out of the parking lot, my boss flags me down and calls me into his office. This was unusual and he was looking pretty severe.

I stepped into his office and thankfully he didn't close the door behind me. He turned to me and said, "you remember that call in December, during the storm?"

"Yeah..." The Great Coastal Gale of 2007, not something I'll easily forget. I wrote about it here.

"Well, it sure made for a good story. I wrote it up and sent it into the state for a Meritorious Service award."

Great! I'm thinking, my partner and I are going to receive a Unit Citation.

"Turns out," my boss keeps going, "they thought it was worth a Medal of Valor."

That's right, my partner and I are receiving the highest honor for EMS uniformed service personnel in the state. According to Oregon's EMS awards handbook:
The Medal of Valor recognizes acts of personal valor or heroism in the delivery of emergency medical care, which results in the saving of a life under extreme conditions and in extraordinary circumstances.
Just as cool, the Pacific Power & Light utility worker that helped clear the highway for my partner and I will be receiving the same award. We'll all be going to the Oregon EMS Conference in October and receive our awards at a banquet dinner. I can't tell you how excited I am to be receiving this award.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

What did you do tonight?

I just got home from fighting a very large, fully involved structure fire.

Lots of flames, lots of hard work. I am very tired and I think I pulled a muscle in my left shoulder.

I'll write more later.

It was a good night.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


... I didn't forget.

Seven years ago, I was asleep in the upstairs loft of my parents place. I had just graduated high school a few months before and was sleeping in late until I had to work my shift at the movie theatre later that day. There was a knock on the door, then it opened. "Jeramy, wake up," it was my mother.

"What is it, mom?"

"Hun, you need to turn on your TV. Planes just flew into the World Trade Center."

"Hmmph. Okay." I started to roll out of bed as my mom closed the door. What the hell is the World Trade Center? I thought.

By the end of the day, I knew.


That day, I saw my father cry, after the realization struck that 9-11 was 911. My dad to me is a stoic guy, I'd never seen him cry before. As my family sat around the TV that evening, watching CNN, and the estimate of FDNY firemen lost went to over 300, I couldn't hold it in anymore. I sobbed, shoulders shaking and tears streaming my face. Dad got up from his chair, set a hand on my shoulder and said to me, "son, it's okay. We've all got to be strong, okay?"


Today, I didn't forget. Never once have I forgotten, not the 343 firefighters, 23 NYPD officers, 37 NY Port Authority Officers, and K9 Sirius, 8 private EMS workers, and the 2,564 civilians and military personnel killed at the Towers and the Pentagon.

I have to say how proud I am of my fellow blogging community for the 9/11 tributes that I've read today, they have truly lifted my heart.

Everyone, take care today and keep those that were lost in your hearts and thoughts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

New Years Eve, 2005

It was a Saturday evening and I had only been working in the company full time for 6 months. I was partnered with a new paramedic because I was “a strong EMT,” as my boss put it, “someone who can keep an eye on her.” She was green, but so was I, and in that way we kind of balanced each other.

Around midnight, we were dispatched to a person fallen through the roof of a downtown highrise. The buildings occupied a whole city block; an old hotel, an office building, and the old city hall. Five and six story buildings, separate, but all interconnected in strange ways. There were abandoned, condemned, and used mainly by squatters and vagrants.

We pulled up to the block, police were on scene already, so were the fire guys, both the paid and volunteer boys. My partner and I grabbed our kit and a flashlight and climbed up the front steps of the reported building. We climbed up dust covered stairs, old newspapers and trash scattered about, ascending towards the roof. I pictured walking into a room and looking up, seeing a pair of legs dangling from a hold in the ceiling.

We were met by a cop on the third floor, telling us he’d met with the reporting party and that an 18 year old had fallen into some kind of pit on the roof. We hustle up the roof access, looking across rooftops towards where a teenager is waving us over. He’s on the next building over, with a roof one story lower than we’re already on. My partner and I, followed by the fireman, make our way over to the roof edge, then clamber down to the next building using the pipes and ductwork.

We followed the teen to the edge of this building, where a ten foot wide, narrow pit separated this roof from the next. He told us he and his friend were screwing around on the roof when his friend tripped into the pit. Shining our light down, we could see another teen looking up from four stories below. He was propped in the corner of the pit, sitting in stagnant water up to his waist. He was awake and alert, but said he could move his legs.

The firemen were at our side now, and we began discussing options; setting up the ladder truck and an elaborate rope rescue sounded like the most fun. But as we examined the pit, we could see the walls were lined by the windows from the hotel we had just come up. Telling the kid to hold tight, we headed back inside.

More firemen had brought up our back board and had found the hotel room closest to the pit. The small, square window in the kitchen opened into the narrow trench between these buildings, and we could see the teen at the far end. The pit stunk, full of standing rain water, trash, and the carcasses of dead birds. All of us—the firemen, cops, and my partner and I—looked at each other, asking the question who’s going out there? And while it made the most sense for the firemen with their water proof boots and bunker pants, it was my partner and I, along with two cops, who rolled up and pant legs and waded into the knee deep fetid water.

Our backboard we floated towards the teen between us as we slogged the 30 feet towards him. The water was cold and most likely very, very unhygienic. The teen, Jay, was shivering when we got to him, with back pain, and the inability to move his legs.

We had already activated the trauma system for limb paralysis, and now we were trying to be as gentle as possible as we packaged him. My partner and I talked the cops through floating the board under the teen as we picked him up, then we strapped him in well enough to half float, half carry him out to the tiny hotel room. We passed him through to the firemen still waiting in the hotel room, and continued packaging Jay in the dark.

The evening was just starting to warm up, though.

We were still packaging Jay when we were dispatched to shots fired, possible GSW in the next town over. Our other units were busy taking other calls all over the county and we had a trauma system, paralysis patient to take care of. With cops lighting our way down the creaking grand staircase of this old hotel, we hustled to our ambulance and loaded Jay inside.

He was hypothermic, having been unable to get himself out of the water for over an hour, he had no sensation or motion in his legs, and he was lethargic. I was working on base line vitals while my partner was working on IVs, when we were dispatched to our 2nd pending 911 call, a bar fight downtown with injuries. “Screw it,” my partner told me, “lets go.”

We were only 12 blocks from the hospital and it was time for just quick patient turnovers and turnarounds. Rescue was already responding to the shooting, and now the fire guys who were giving us a hand with Jay were on their way to the bar fight a few blocks away.

I’m sure that when my partner and I rolled into the ER, we looked quite comical—both of us were leaving a trail of dirty, wet boot prints, our pant legs were still rolled up to our knees, and we were making that slurp-slurp sound with each step we took.
I had taken my uniform sweatshirt off and was only in a white t-shirt with a backwards-turned company cap. I know I looked like a fool.

We tried to be as quick as we could with the turnover, letting the staff know about the pending calls and to expect more patients. Our turnaround I was proud of, phenomenally fast considering. We rolled down our pants legs and set out he door. As it turns out though, the GSW was an unable to locate and the bar fight was some guy that pissed off the wrong person and took a punch to the face. He was fine, of course—only some hurt pride. Jay, as it turns out, wasn’t paralyzed. Just really, really cold and weak.

My boots however, didn’t fare so well. They weren’t water proof and became water logged. And oh my god, the smell. Even after soaking in a tub of disinfectant and bleach for 8 hours, the smell still wouldn’t go away. My boots didn’t survive the night of New Years Eve, 2005.

Monday, September 8, 2008

So Very Excited, Again

I just found out that a third Ghostbusters movie is planned. I loved the Ghostbuster as a kid, I even dressed up as one for Halloween, complete with a jumpsuit my mom made for me and a proton pack. It was the coolest thing ever. Just thought I'd share. You can check out a short article here at

Thursday, September 4, 2008

iPod Woes

I got off the phone with Apple Tech support a few hours ago and I'm dealing with iPod troubles again. My iPod touch dropped the right audio channel a few weeks ago. I did all the restore stuff (as if it might be a software problem) then had to send it in for service. I got it back at the end of last week and it worked fine--for about three days.

The right audio channel is out again. So I called tech support, and now they're telling me I'll be getting a replacement. But it means I have to send my current iPod back to tech services, which means I'll be without my iPod for another week.

*heavy sigh* Oh well.

Stress and a Brick Wall

Last night I tried putting together an entry about how I'm really getting unhappy at work, how my partner stresses me out, how I work over half the shifts in a month at a station 35 miles from home (while the supervisors don't work there at all), and how I feel like I'm beating my head against a brick wall about this stuff. I was complaining about how working in Little Fishing Village was giving my nothing in the way of calls, how working in a station the supervisors didn't have to be at was bullshit, and how I was tired of getting up a 5:30 in the morning to make it to work on time. Then I deleted it because it was too negative, too whiny.

I put the laptop away, then rolled over to go to bed. Thirty minutes later, I was being dispatched to a baby just born, not breathing. I had never worked an infant code by myself before, and it was not a call that I was looking forward to.

The Fire guys were there ahead of us, upstairs in the second floor, rat-hole apartment. There was a definite air of calm as my partner and I lugged our gear up the stairs in into the apartment. The Fire Medic was right inside the door as we walked in and told me right away, "this is Sylvia and she's miscarrying."

Right then, I had a guilty surge of relief. I wasn't going to be working a newborn arrest, but I still had a very difficult call ahead of me. I'll say it right now though, thank God that the Fire Medic was there--he kept his newer EMTs calm as well as the cops, and I leaned on him an awful lot during this call. He's been a Medic for over 20 years and I have a lot of respect for the guy.

The Fire Medic gave me a few more notes about Sylvia before I entered the bathroom to talk with her. She was young, sitting on the toilet, anxious and upset. She was hispanic and her husband was next to me, kneeling on the bathroom floor mat, and holding a small basin between Sylvia's legs. She was 16 weeks, had a number of miscarriages in the past, and seemed to be holding herself together fairly well. She had a lost a lot of blood, though. The husband reported she had been bleeding for about two hours prior to the 911 call, at least a litre had been lost.

I tried to talk with Sylvia, using the husband and one of the police officers as translators. My partner was brining up the stair chair and I just wanted to get her out of that apartment and into my ambulance before I did anything. I had questions to ask, and after everyone I felt this sick, empty pause. Normally, I can small talk with patients and be comfortable with them, with the scene. This was different though. I knew that Sylvia and her husband felt helpless, and I admit I felt a little helpless as well.

We had to walk Sylvia to the stair chair, then carry her down the stairs. All the while, we did everything we could to keep her covered and comfortable. I called the radio report in the phone, no need to give out too many details be radio, I thought. She was tachycardic and pale, and little hypertensive. I started a line and gave her fluids, then we transported the short mile to the hospital.

For a few minutes, Sylvia and I were in the back of the ambulance alone. She was wimpering now, partly becuase of the pain, but more I suspect becuase of her loss. I felt horrible that I couldn't say anything to her, or do anything to comfort her. And I felt terrible for Sylvia, this incredible sense of sympathy.

My partner and I turned her over to the ER staff, who went to work on Sylvia right away. I spoke with the husband briefly before leaving, who thanked me for helping. We then returned to quarters and I wrote my chart.

When I was working so much time in Little Fishing Village, this was definatley not what I was looking for in the way of calls. I told my supervisor about the call this morning when he relieved me. He's a medic with 15 years experiencing, a very calm level headed person who doesn't let anything phase him. What he said summed it up for me: disturbing.