Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Thanks, Dick

It is a dark and stormy night. Nights are always dark, but here in the desert, it is rarely stormy. When it actually does rain, the poor driving habits of us dirt people come frothing to the surface and we crash our cars in alarming numbers.

Our patient, Richard, is sitting in the back seat of a passers-by Escalade. Richard's truck is blocking the number one lane, its front end severely damaged after impacting the center divider. The other involved vehicle is parked on the shoulder of the highway a quarter of a mile farther down. It is minimally damaged with no injured occupants.

We have shielded the scene with our engine, as per district policy. Richard is telling us he is in tremendous pain but he isn't sure that he wants to go. As we only have one patient at most, I cancel the other engine and the truck.

Richard is oriented and alert. He denies neck or back pain and also denies hitting his head. His pain is primarily to his upper torso, bruising from this seat belt is already plainly visible. After some discussion, he agrees to be transported. As he has no spinal complaint and it is raining heavily, we decide to wait and place him in full precautions when the ambulance arrives. There is no practical way to keep him out of the rain and we are concerned that drowning, hypothermia and being washed away are less desirable that having him seated quietly in the Escalade with his head stabilized while we await the ambulance.

After 15 minutes or so, a Trooper walks up to us and asks us how long we are going to be. As we don't have an ambulance on scene yet, any answer from me would be a guess. I ask dispatch for an ETA on my ambulance and am told that the ambu is almost on scene. I look up and see nothing or hear nothing.

Another 10 minutes pass. Still no ambulance. I can hear several incidents working on the command channel, some are in our area, most involve ambulances. I know they are busy, but still. I can tell dispatch is hopping, so I decide to wait a few more minutes before bugging them for another ETA.

Finally, at about the thirty minute mark, I can hear the sound of an electronic siren and I know that the ambulance is mere minutes away. I tell the crew to start placing the patient on the backboard as the rain intensifies.

As the ambulance approaches our scene, I signal them to park in front of the Escalade. They stop short and advise me that they are not my ambulance, but that they have been assigned to another incident a couple of miles down the road.

The incident that they have been assigned to:
A. Occurred after my incident
B. Has one minor injury
I know this because I heard this go down on the command channel. The other engine originally assigned to my call came upon this on his way back to the barn after being released by me.

As a result, I am not a happy Schmoe. I was might have been a little less than polite when I stated suggested that they should take my patient and arrange for one of the other ambulances to respond to the minor. After all, mine did occur first.

The ambulance makes contact with their dispatch, I look over and still my patient is not strapped onto the board. My frustration level is on the rise as my medic advises me that the patient now does not want to be transported. He is trying to con convince the passer-by whose Escalade his ass is parked in, to give him a ride to an auto parts store where his brother will come and pick him up.

This guys car has major major front end damage. There was no air-bag and the steering column has broken loose from the mount. This guy really needs to go, plus he was just telling us how much pain he was in. My medic grinds on him a few more minutes while I tell the ambulance medic about Richard's reluctance to be transported. This news is received by the ambulance crew with some incredulity. I feel like an idiot.

My medic is unsuccessful, so I take a shot. Despite my mastery of verbal communication, my mad persuasive skills (after all, I did convince The Saint to marry me) and my firm command presence, Richard refuses to be transported and signs AMA.  While my medic gives the proper advisement and obtains the proper signatures, I look for a crow to shoot and eat. Finding none, I am forced to apologize to the ambulance crew for my boorish behavior.

Fortunately, they are a forgiving crew. They call their dispatch who tells them that my original ambulance had arrived long before we did and had determined that there were no injuries. The ambulance dispatch had either not advised our dispatch or our dispatch had not properly recorded the cancellation. Regardless, there was no ambulance coming to our incident and it would have been a while before things would have been sorted out. They would have found our skeletons out by  the side of the roadway in a few months. Sometimes, stuff like this just happens.

Many thanks to you, Richard, for signing AMA after I stuck it out there to ensure your medical needs were met. I hope the car that hit you didn't have insurance.

Thanks for reading,


  1. Wonder how that original "speedy-release" medic crew would feel if he was found on the sidewalk in front of the auto parts store by his brother, dead from an aortic tear.

  2. Dear Captain Schmoe,
    Sometimes bravery and good will is not rewarded. But you were right.

    I wonder if the patient didn't want to go because he had a high blood alcohol or perhaps something else in his system. That just makes it even more short-sighted on his part.

    Honor is yours, however delayed,
    Ann T.

  3. Thank you Dick!
    were it not for you being a bit of an ass we wouldn't get to sense the angry steam blowing out of the good Captain's ears. All while remaining perfectly cordial, naturally.