The Perfect Emergency? Well, almost

So a while ago, I went to an emergency medical call that was about as perfect as an EMS call could be.

Picture this if you will. Our ambulance was in service. The system was at normal operating levels which are well funded and are adequate for our response loads 90% of the time. I had thoroughly checked and cleaned my ambulance and the equipment inside of it at the beginning of my shift and I had even gotten a chance to have a cup of coffee or two before the call came in. When the call did come out over the radio, it was merely a short walk to the ambulance for my paramedic partner and I. We climbed into our dual paramedic staffed, well maintained, state-of-the-art ambulance, and rolled out to the scene of the emergency which was about 8 blocks away through light traffic. We arrived within 4 minutes of the 911 call and were informed by our dispatcher that the residence was equipped with a “Knox Box” entry system so we could quickly gain entry. We retrieved the key from our ambulance, were able to open the Knox Box, and easily entered the residence using the key inside of it. While entering, we noticed that the resident had a “Vial of Life” sticker on the front door, which signified that the patient was most probably participating in our “Vial of Life” program, meaning that the patient had all of their medical information written down properly on one of our stock forms. In fact, we found the “Vial of Life” right in the refrigerator door, where it was supposed to be.  The patient, an elderly person, had used a (Non brand-name specific) home emergency call button to summon assistance, which we also had recommended to him/her during the public outreach that convinced her to have everything else in place for our arrival.

In short, this patient had done almost everything right. He/She had paid taxes throughout his/her long time living in the district and had supported us in order to allow us to have quality, state-of-the-art equipment. He/She had supported us so that we could get good training as well. He/She had listened to us when we suggested that He/She wear an emergency call button as he/she got up there in years, had written down his/her medical information in the “Vial of Life”, had put the Vial of Life in the correct place, and had even installed a Knox Box on the home so we could gain access quickly.

So what wasn’t right with this call? The patient had been experiencing symptoms consistent with a stroke. In fact, it was an easy diagnosis from across the room type of stroke. The patient had noticed that he/she was possibly having stroke-like symptoms and had decided that it would be best to get cleaned up, get dressed, clean up the house a little, and call a neighbor over to see if he would take him/her to the doctor’s office before the neighbor convinced the patient to press the button and call us out to help. By that time… well let’s hope the doctors can work some magic.

With all of the bloggers, paramedics, EMTs, and everyone else out there harping about “BS” 911 ambulance calls, one would find it easy to overlook cases like the one above. I for one will come right out and say that I will gladly run 100 nonsense EMS calls rather than miss just one of the above… I don’t want someone to die or suffer further morbidity simply because they were too scared, or polite, or timid to call an ambulance.

I don’t know how to fix the problem, I’d just like to remind you all out there that our job is indeed to take care of people when they’re scared, when they’re sick, and when they’re just plain-ol’ stupid. We’re healthcare providers and it’s our duty. No exceptions.

Remember that.

  • http://twitter.com/in_the_city Angelo

    Amen

  • http://twitter.com/in_the_city Angelo

    Amen

  • SeanEddy

    Excellent post! You really hit the nail on the head with this one. While someones “emergency” might not seem very emergent to us, it may to them. I really don't believe that it is our job to decide whether or not someone needs to to go to the hospital. We just respond, transport and treat accordingly.

    I have seen many patients that were harped on by EMS and Hospital staff for their “non-emergent” complaint. It's no surprise that people eventually become discouraged from calling 911. We have to remember that our patients didn't go to paramedic or EMT school.

    Great post.

  • http://thehappymedic.com the Happy Medic

    Amen indeed Brother. The only reason I can still smile after all my bloggable runs is because I know I'll have at least 1 or 2 a day where I can make a difference. That is what drives us indeed.

  • Dina Scharnhorst

    It never fails to amaze me, how, even when a person is informed of the latest devices out there to help in case of emergency, human nature will take over: I have to clean up, I have to feed the pets, etc. My very first cardiac arrest as a paramedic was the same: the address was virtually behind my station, my paramedic partner and I got there in less than 4 minutes–during which time I was in back, putting backboard, drug box, monitor/defibrillator, airway kit on the cot–only to discover the family not giving CPR, but a BATH! Patient had soiled himself when he arrested and they weren't going to send him out dirty, you see.

    What is that saying, about the best-laid plans of mice and men?

  • Dina Scharnhorst

    And I appreciate your phrase, “Make a difference.” Something I try to tell the Newbies in the field: we don't often save lives, but we CAN make a difference with each and every call.

  • http://firstduemedic.com The Gate Keeper

    You are most correct sir. If one has an over-exposure to true abuse-of-911 calls, they very well may have acted with total disregard to the patients presentation. However, it sounds to me like she was well into her “window” for treatment and most like needed a healthy dose of supportave care at this point.

    This may have been her life altering moment, even after all her foresight, and careless providers don't need to aggrevate it by overlooking the obvious.

    (a duel medic truck…really?…must be nice)

  • msparamedic

    *raises glass* i very much agree with you on this topic, sir. as usual, you put into words better than I can!

  • msparamedic

    *raises glass* i very much agree with you on this topic, sir. as usual, you put into words better than I can!

  • Excellent.

  • Excellent.

  • http://twitter.com/Jeramedic Jeremiah Bush

    Well said CK! First off, allow me to commend you and your service for it's community out reach and education efforts. This is a very good example of why we all should be doing this, and proof that it works!. We can give them resources and teach them the signs and symptoms of things like strokes, but getting past the feelings of embarrassment and the modest nature of a sweet old woman is a whole other science fare.

    As for our role. Yes it is our “job” to take care of the scared, sick and stupid. But it is also so much more. You, as well as I know that our role in EMS and the community is expanding into realms never even dreamed of 20-30 years ago. (And don't get me wrong, that's a good thing) A Paramedic is an interesting creature indeed. We are not doctor or nurses or cops or firefighters (well, some of us) or teachers or social workers or plumbers or therapists or space ninjas……*breath*….. We are everything…All the time… and we are still expected to do even more with even less. I give the soap box back to you sir. Good post and point as per usual CK.

  • http://twitter.com/Jeramedic Jeremiah Bush

    Well said CK! First off, allow me to commend you and your service for it's community out reach and education efforts. This is a very good example of why we all should be doing this, and proof that it works!. We can give them resources and teach them the signs and symptoms of things like strokes, but getting past the feelings of embarrassment and the modest nature of a sweet old woman is a whole other science fare.

    As for our role. Yes it is our “job” to take care of the scared, sick and stupid. But it is also so much more. You, as well as I know that our role in EMS and the community is expanding into realms never even dreamed of 20-30 years ago. (And don't get me wrong, that's a good thing) A Paramedic is an interesting creature indeed. We are not doctor or nurses or cops or firefighters (well, some of us) or teachers or social workers or plumbers or therapists or space ninjas……*breath*….. We are everything…All the time… and we are still expected to do even more with even less. I give the soap box back to you sir. Good post and point as per usual CK.

  • CBEMT

    Ah, the generation gap. Frustrating EMS and killing seniors since…. well, a long time ago.

  • http://www.medicthree.fireemsblogs.com medicthree

    Where I get frustrated is the BS call that makes it so that I am even later in getting to this call, which likely came in code 1 due to it coming from the 3rd party service.

    We have a very large homeless population and a very large population of people with cell phones who call for people lying on the ground in the park, or bench, or bus station. Rarely do they even want our help, let alone need it. So when I complain about BS calls, it is ONLY because people who need it (and often are reluctant to call us) get pushed by the wayside.

    Public outreach and education is the only solution, and my ginourmous private ambulance company has deemed they'd rather not deal with the hassle. Ugh.

  • http://www.medicthree.fireemsblogs.com medicthree

    Where I get frustrated is the BS call that makes it so that I am even later in getting to this call, which likely came in code 1 due to it coming from the 3rd party service.

    We have a very large homeless population and a very large population of people with cell phones who call for people lying on the ground in the park, or bench, or bus station. Rarely do they even want our help, let alone need it. So when I complain about BS calls, it is ONLY because people who need it (and often are reluctant to call us) get pushed by the wayside.

    Public outreach and education is the only solution, and my ginourmous private ambulance company has deemed they'd rather not deal with the hassle. Ugh.

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Chris Kaiser aka "Ckemtp"

I am a paramedic trying to advance the idea that the Emergency Medical Services can be made into the profession that we all want it, need it, and know it deserves to be.

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  • Comments
    Ckemtp
    I Got Attacked – A Paramedic Speaks About Public Trust
    I somewhat agree, though I assure you I didn't set out to waste your time. I probably should have broken this down into two separate points as the second point was the one I most wanted to emphasize. My bad on this one, I'll do better next time. Thanks for the feedback. If you'd like,…
    2014-12-16 20:25:00
    hawk4080
    I Got Attacked – A Paramedic Speaks About Public Trust
    Wow. That was a total waste to read.
    2014-12-16 19:20:00
    retired ems medic
    I Got Attacked – A Paramedic Speaks About Public Trust
    The radios should have had a trouble button to eliminate the need to key the Mike and talk. Maybe the dispatchers need to be rotated out to the streets to get out of the mode of just getting the calls out and only half listening to the radio.
    2014-12-16 14:50:00
    HybridMedic
    I Got Attacked – A Paramedic Speaks About Public Trust
    We use "Signal C" as a code to relay a crew in distress. Takes a second for the dispatchers to confirm it, but it sends the nearest engine, battalion chief, fire investigator (who are sworn LEO's) and makes an officer in distress call to Memphis Police. The arrival of all those resources is quite... Dramatic.
    2014-12-15 14:29:00
    exmedic
    Welcome to the Club
    Not me anymore
    2014-12-15 09:17:00

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