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Showing posts from 2015

A Belated "Thank You"

Twenty-two years. Some people don't live that long. I've been working in EMS for twenty-two years now. I've seen the typical paramedic's share of horror and happiness. Addiction and acrimony. Fear and fortitude. I won't bore you all with a million war stories because you've all lived them or have done me one better. And I can't convey to the uninitiated the true emotional cocktail that I'm served every time I show up at or remember one of these scenes I am called to. It's much like telling a pregnant couple that their lives will change incredibly once they have that baby - they think they can understand, but they can't until that first moment when they open the door to their home for the first time after the delivery, set their hospital bags on the floor, stare at the baby sleeping in the car seat, and say "What the hell do we do now?"

I'll channel Mr. Johnny Cash - I've been everywhere. There are few images that I would be su…

Giving Thanks as an EMS Provider

"Mom.. Everything is going black."

This is the thing I recall best from her presentation. Annette Adamczak, CPR Instructor and advocate for required CPR training in high schools, spoke those words seven times the day I helped her teach hands-only CPR to Phys-Ed classes at a local high school. Seven.

Annette takes this show on the road and teaches CPR all across the region in a crusade to decrease the dismal statistics on out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival. Her motivation is a pretty, 14-year old named Emily Rose. Emily Rose is Annette's daughter who died six years ago after suffering a sudden cardiac arrest on a soccer field in Akron, New York. As Annette tells the story, Emily Rose approached Annette while running a drill at soccer practice and said "Mom... Everything is going black."

The story is just as heart-wrenching as you'd expect from a mother whose daughter literally died in her arms. Annette tells it again and again and again in gymnasiums, c…

Being a Tree

In the movie "Back to the Future," the villain, Biff Tannen, famously butchers a classic simile: "Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here."  (If you have not seen this movie, you're a butt-head)

Far less famous, but far more prolific was this quote by Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton: 
“A tree gives glory to God by being a tree. For in being what God means it to be it is obeying [God]. It “consents,” so to speak..."
Those who know me know that I am neither a religious man nor a Trappist monk. Yet I appreciate wisdom whether it derives from religion or from Peter Griffin, and this quote contains wisdom. It also really applies to our work in the field, especially as we pull together with other providers and other agencies to handle challenging incidents.
When I played college basketball, our team had a thing called a "break pattern". I am still under the impression that this was created by our coach, the intrepid SUNY Legend…

I Don't Save Lives

When I tell people what I do for a living, I generally get one of two responses. The first is the nodding head accompanied by some form of the phrase "Oh, that's cool." I generally assume that these are the kind folks who, for the sake of social norms, asked me about myself without really wanting to know the answer. It's the same as when you ask someone "How are you?" Unless you are a medical provider, you aren't really looking for them to tell you about their hemorrhoids and how they're having difficulty getting an erection.

The second response, however, goes something like "Oh, wow! You save lives!" That's far better for the ego. I've thought about this many times throughout my career. "Saving lives " sounds so noble and so heroic. Upon hearing this phrase I picture myself shirtless with six pack abs and bulging biceps (neither of which I have ever had) standing atop a mountain of smoldering debris. The near -lifeless b…

"Much Ado" - Throwback Short Story.

I move among others in the pre-dawn haze. We are many drifting within this shroud of heavy, wet air, haunting the darkness that hangs thick all around us. I cut it first with glances, then with fear, then with focus.

My life is really about cutting. Years ago I cut my emotions away, carving them out of myself with more recklessness than skill. I disemboweled my soul as if with a dull spoon. It bled bitterness and confusion onto the floors of bars and clubs, and all over the unwitting attendees of many wild midnight parties. I cut until the pain went away, when the cutting neither hurt nor required any effort anymore. My heart, like Pandora’s Box, held the messy, vile emotions of life, and at long last I carved into the soft sides of it, too. I released torrents of sadness, anger, joy and fear. The ruptured receptacle rained insults and prejudice and indifference, soaking all who stood by with the steady drizzle of weeping psychological wounds – until the box, once filled with eve…

Welcome to paramedicine!

Perspiring foreheads, stressful grimaces, and the occasional trembling hand were bedfellows in rooms all across New York State this past Thursday. The 2015 crop of paramedic hopefuls arrived with their knowledge, their test ticket, and a couple of number two pencils in their scabbards to slay the dragon of the State Paramedic Exam.

The people at the agency I work for all passed - as we expected. They are good people. Driven, motivated, and looking to better themselves. I congratulate them and every person in NYS who attained a passing score. It's well deserved.
And now that I have congratulated everyone, I want to share some principles of paramedic care. They are messages that probably didn't appear in your textbook. They may or may not have been broached in your didactic sessions. They may be things you've thought about or even discussed indirectly with colleagues and classmates. They're a part of a philosophy of EMS practice that has worked for me, that I trust, and …