Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I did say I would post more stories...

Here is another work story for you. This one is not one I would place in the miraculous category; but then, one can't ALWAYS be seeing miracles, or people will start to wonder.
11 or 12 days ago I did a night shift, and we were up all night. We had the usual calls; some transfers, a fall incurred while running from security at the grocery store with a stolen pumpkin, some cross coverage in Abbotsford, 'seizures' that turned out to be an elderly woman's wild-eyed reaction to her newly implanted pacemaker firing off in her chest (it IS alarming if you don't know what it is), a kid with high blood sugar, and a few false starts to calls that are cancelled by police or the calling party. By 4:30 we were headed back to Chilliwack for one last transfer, and then home to bed at 6 a.m. At 4:45 dispatch cancelled our transfer and sent us out on a major burn call. They hauled ALS out of bed and sent them screaming behind us, and started a helicopter which was later cancelled due to foggy conditions in Chilliwack (you know it's a big one when the helicopter is dispatched), 2 fire trucks, and a police cruiser. We were the first ones to arrive. I LOVE being the first to arrive, but I have to admit that for this one I didn't want to be first. I had not seen burns this bad yet, and until I see a 'type' of call I'm not 100% comfortable in my skin dealing with that type of illness or injury.
Here's the lowdown (which I pieced together over the hour and half we spent with these people). This couple was in an upstairs bedroom of this rundown house, converting cocaine to "rock" which I guess is smoked as crack, when some of the methylhydrochorothiazide (or some other hideously long chemical name) spilled on the mattress and the woman. This chemical is unstable and caused a flash fire, engulfing them and the mattress in flames. When the man called 9-1-1 he lied and told the dispatcher it was a mattress fire caused by a cigarette.
That's right, save your ass from jail, and make your paramedics sick. In fact, it doesn't really save your ass from jail, because as soon as people get there SOMEONE is going to figure out what actually happened and you are going to wind up arrested. If you survive.
So we arrive and I was thinking "fire" but not "drug lab" per se, though I did take a quick look around for obvious signs before stepping inside, and I asked if the mattress fire was out. Our first job is safety. But damn, I was kicking myself after this call for not being MORE suspicious. Some days my job is very dangerous. I was VERY glad I'm not pregnant, although it turned out to be quite safe for us to be on the main floor, and the upper floor was cleared for HAZMAT by the fire department so everything was safe in the end. But the potential was quite high for danger. Low lives who risk MY life for THEIR illegal addictive shit are a whole other post.
I walked into the kitchen and saw two burn patients. One sitting on the floor, and the other pouring water over her as she screamed "Pain! Pain! Pain!" That's all she ever said to me. Her hair was burned off, her skin was white and shiny in some places, and white and leathery in others. We estimated 40% of her body to be covered in third degree burns, but later the hospital rated her 60%. Anything over 15% third degree burns generally do not survive, though it takes awhile for infection or shock or respiratory complications to set in. Burns are the most painful injury one can sustain, by far.
Was I ever happy to see ALS come in a few minutes behind us. All I had time to do was put oxygen on her, and flounder a bit trying to assess the extent of her injuries. Her boyfriend spent the entire time screaming at us to help her. Whew! ALS is here, they will tell us what to do! And they did. They started an IV and we got our sterile burn kits on the beds, and we loaded the more critical, female patient into the ALS ambulance and they intubated her. ALS took my partner with them and left me in charge (by myself! yikes!) of one patient with 15% second and third degree burns, 6 firefighters, and one police officer. Another ambulance was on its way to help me. I slammed an IV in my patient and started cooling his burns, assessed him as much as I could, and gave him something for pain.
They were both so high on cocaine that our pain meds didn't touch them.
The woman's skin kept coming off in my hands as we tried to load her onto our bed.
Then, hooray! The second car was there and we took off for the hospital.
I felt upset at myself for missing the clues to the drug lab, but we turned out to have a Get Out Of Jail Free card on that one; I'll not miss them again. I also felt pumped because I learned SO MUCH on that call! Not having seen burns this critical before, every minute of this call I socked away new information, new tricks of the trade, and new experience. Awesome!

I went home buzzing. I really needed to debrief this call! Brent, my ever present ear for post call debriefing, was obviously not present, nor available as I don't have any way of calling him and must wait for him to call me. He doesn't usually call me at 8 o'clock in the morning! Especially after a night shift! So I went to turn on my main computer so I could debrief on my blog, but the computer had died. No problem, I'll just go use Brent's Mac laptop instead, so I fire that up and try to connect with the internet, and it won't work.
Mwwwaaaaaaaaaa!!!! I'm stuck with this call in my head and no one to talk to! I considered using my handwritten journal but all of a sudden I was just too tired. So I crawled into bed and slept for 8 hours, instead.
There you go, another story. Hopefully not too graphic for you all.
Life is graphic. I live for graphic. I hope it's not too raw for you!


Jen & Andrey said...

Not too raw for me! I love reading all the details of stuff like this so keep 'em coming.

Jen & Andrey said...

oh yeah and by the way. i've very impressed with your paramedic abilities. You're so brave. Great job, Mel.