13 Things that Drove Me Nuts

 

It took me a few months to figure out that the EMS system was not even close to what I thought it would be.

Mass casualty incidents, beheadings, eviscerations and delivering babies in a speeding vehicle sometimes take a backseat to the daily minutia.

Here are some of the things that drove me nuts:

1. PARENTS WHO CALL US WHEN THEIR KID WON‘T GET OUT OF BED AND GO TO SCHOOL

‘The first aid team has the day off.’

Little Johnny refuses to get out of bed. Why you ask? Because he is sick, he says. What‘s a frightened parent to do? Call 911, have the medics do an evaluation and PRESTO! No more excuses. Works every time, except when the disgruntled medic shows up, decides that Little Johnny needs fluids and breaks out the large bore needles.

2. THE WELL-BEING CHECK.

Auntie isn‘t answering her phone. You‘ve tried three times, and now it‘s three in the morning and you are scared. She lives so far away, nearly fifteen minutes by car, better call 911 and let somebody else do the checking! More often than not, Auntie is just fine, and was tired of answering the phone so she let it go to voicemail so she could get some rest!

3. THE PATIENT WHO CALLS US BECAUSE THEY WANT TO GET SEEN FASTER AT THE ER.

This is the oldest trick in the book, one that has plagued medics since they brought patients to the infirmary in horse-drawn carts. Worst part? It actually works a lot of the time, regardless of how vociferously we explain to the patient that it won‘t.

4. MEDICATION ADMINISTRATION.

Asthmatics need inhalers. Children need Tylenol. Diabetics need sugar. People with heart conditions need nitro. Medics need to rush to the homes of these poor souls; dispatched for “difficulty breathing,” child seizing,”  “female unconscious,” and “chest pressure,” only to be told that all the patient needs is some medication.

5. PROVIDING PSYCH TRANSPORT.

The police have a perfectly insane individual properly handcuffed and in the back of their fortified, gated, electrified and deadbolted backseat. Said person goes bonkers.

Do the police drive this safely restrained individual to the ER for a psych eval? Hell no, they call for EMS assistance, free the lunatic, put him in a cubicle full of glass, needles, potential projectiles and an unarmed medic and move on to the next child who refuses to go to school.

6. CHECKING THE WELL-BEING … REVISITED.

Hmm, haven‘t heard from dad in a month or two, better call 911 and see what he‘s up to. Last I remember he was really sick and refused to go to the doctors. So, the medics arrive, stuff Vicks up their noses and enter the hot zone. In a week or two the smell of the dead and decaying body will be just a memory.

7. RESPONDING TO ABDOMINAL PAIN CALL.

This has got to be the holy grail of dispatcher lingo. Can‘t figure out what the heck the person on the phone is complaining about? Ask them if their belly hurts. Everybody‘s belly hurts, especially the medics who have responded to thousands of abdominal pain calls, 99.9 percent of which will be rectified by the person‘s next bowel movement.

8. BEING SENT TO THE MYSTERIOUS NATURE UNKNOWN CALL.

And speaking of dispatchers, how in the world can they send an ALS unit for a “Nature Unknown?” You would think they would be clever enough to ask the person on the phone if their belly hurt!

9. THE LANGUAGE BARRIER.

Any medic who cares about helping people and works in an area with mixed ethnicity knows the basics of a few languages; where is the pain, how long, mucho or pequena, ARE YOU BLEEDING! Any person who cares even a little (pequena) about the medic responding to their emergency knows the basics of English, what is your name, date of birth and where is your pain. It is absolutely mind-boggling the number of people who have lived in the US for years who cannot answer those questions without an interpreter.

10. BEING DISPATCHED TO AN ASSAULT IN PROGRESS.

Dear Dispatchers, please don‘t send us to an assault in progress. We are not armed, trained or willing to do a damn thing about the reported assault in progress. If somebody is injured, by all means send us. We will be happy to respond.

11. RESPONDING TO A TOOTHACHE.

People calling 911 for a toothache is not an urban legend. It happens every day, everywhere. The person doing the calling is no doubt in pain, toothaches really are a pain. Sadly, there is nothing a medic can or will do about dental problems, other that bring the complainant to the ER, where he or she will be seen faster than if they had driven themselves.

12. BEING THE MATERNITY TAXI.

Everybody loves a baby and an expectant mom absolutely glows. Being the bad guy on the date of a scheduled delivery is never fun. Arriving at the destination of a 911 dispatch for “a maternity,” to find mom and baby-daddy, grandma or friend waiting for a ride with bags packed and smiling faces is enough to make even the most gregarious medic put a damper on the big day.

13. PEOPLE WHO BRING THE REFRIGERATOR WITH THEM.

Medic: “So, where is your pain?”
Patient: “Hold on while I take a bite of this pastrami with swiss on rye.”
Medic: “You can‘t eat that in here.”
Patient: “It‘s almost gone.”
Medic: “So, where is your pain?”
Patient: “My abdomen.”

So there you have it, 13 things that will drive a medic nuts. I believe I have barely scratched the surface with this list. Please feel free to add your own in the comments, and stay safe and sane out there!

2 Comments

  • Erin says:

    I’m an EMT, and one of the things that bugs me most is when patients change their answer to a question way after it’s been asked. Such as someone saying they have *no* medical history, then 10 minutes later casually mentioning they had open heart surgery 4 years ago.

    Side note: I absolutely love reading your stories! I can’t wait for your new book to come out. Stay safe.

    • Michael Morse says:

      Hi Erin, thanks for the support, those folks love changing their stories, usually after we get them to the ER and are talking to the doctors.

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