Once the bathroom duty was completed I slid into the passenger seat of the ambulance and pulled up the address on the map program. My partner pointed the ambulance South while I clicked on the siren. Wailing into the night we went, lights flashing, adrenaline pumping, morning breath so bad I could slay a walrus. “Where did I put that mouthwash?” was my thought. So focused on the job were we.
Arriving at the address just behind the engine company from the first due station we hurried to gather up our gear for the battle ahead. Monitor? Check. Airway and drug bags? Check and Check. Backboard? Check that too. We hurry up to the front door and are met by a middle aged female saying “I couldn’t wake him up! He was fine when we went to bed!” We enter the bedroom and I see the middle aged male on the bed. His lifeless eyes were fixed and unseeing as we approached him. His mottled skin was cool to the touch. Long gone was any fighting chance at life. I knelt on the bed next to his torso to check a pulse and apply pads to get a strip and immediately know what is going to happen next.
“I’m freakin going to have freakin dead guy pee on my freakin knees for the rest of the freakin shift! Dang it! Dang it! Dang it!”
EMS people kneel a lot, and not just when we want a raise or need to get state-to-state reciprocity from an EMS office. At one of the departments I work at we did a big action photo spread of all of the EMTs and Medics in action. EVERY SHOT was me kneeling. Kneeling at a patient’s head working on the airway, kneeling at the patient’s chest starting an IV, kneeling next to a patient to assess them after an injury, I kneel so much that you’d think I have a promotion by now. We all do.
But you’d think that by now I’d know enough not to kneel in poo, pee, blood, vomit, or whatever vile substance is on the bed, floor, or surface that I have to kneel on. I mean come on. I’ve been doing this over a decade now. I have thousands of calls under my belt. I live, sleep, eat, breathe, blog, and study EMS as much as I can stand to (and that’s a lot) and I *still* am stupid enough to put my knees in poo on a somewhat regular basis?
Right now, I’m on the 2nd day of a 48hr shift a half hour away from my home. Last night, around late evening I knelt in a poo/pee mixture. I was really trying not to here, but the patient began to vomit after we got (the Pt) on the backboard in the cramped, carpeted bathroom (the Pt) was in. I couldn’t log roll (the Pt) without kneeling and the carpet was just saturated with a vile mixture of hours old poo/pee. My knees got soaked in it. And no, if you are asking, I ran out of the house late and didn’t think to bring an extra pair of pants and the pants that I had kept at the station had been taken home for laundering after another like incident.
For times like these, I recommend the “Ckemtp” method of knee disinfection. It applies for those times where call volumes don’t allow you to actually take your pants off to clean them:
- Put on gloves. No sense in contaminating your hands. Chances are your knees won’t have broken skin on them unless you’ve been trying to get that promotion (Enough with the “on your knees” jokes! This is serious!)
- Take and put a towel or washcloth (a smaller wash cloth works better) in between your knees and your pants.
- Spray the ever-loving bejeebus out of your pants, saturating your knees with disinfectant spray. DO NOT use bleach-based spray. The milder the better. (see “Clean EMS” for advice on contact times)
- Press another towel on the outside of your pants, soaking up as much poo/pee laced disinfectant into the towels as you can. Rub them together a bit.
- Re spray with disinfectant and let it air dry.
- Remove the towels from your pants.
- Call your wife and beg her to drive you up a new pair. Beg. Hard.
Just for the record, my lovely wife was unable to drive me up some new pants. Awesome ..