Time Warp

Time Warp

By Thom Dick Sep 09, 2011

Sometimes you’re called to crash scenes that are bigger than their physical elements: the bent metal; wet pavement; the belongings scattered like secrets. The crying kids, sweet odor of hot coolant, noise, and the busy movements of other rescuers. You can’t help noticing, for instance, that the woman in front of you is 33 years old. Her eyes say she’s at least 50.

She’s a single mom. The sign on her little car says For Sale. Now, uninsured and nearly out of fuel, it’s worthless. She and her two kids have been living in the car, eating frozen vegetables and some birds they’ve caught at a nearby farm. Winter’s coming. Caught in your area without coats, the three of them cling together on the curb and shiver under a thin blanket. They all have minor injuries, but she’s adamant: no hospital.

Your partner, Mary, has been on the phone with her husband Bill. “Come on,” she tells you, “I’ll attend. Take us to my house.” The expression on her face is all business.

Mary’s crazy; got to be. You want to remind her the ambulance doesn’t belong to us; this isn’t in the protocols; this isn’t our job; we can’t save the whole world. But Mary’s adamant, too. She shushes you and tells you to stay off the air. You drive the three miles to her address and carry one of the kids up the front steps. Mary uses the portable to inform dispatch you’re available, no aid necessary. She spends a few minutes in quiet conversation with the lady, hugs her, embraces Bill and ushers you out the door.

“I want you to call for a supervisor,” she says. “This is on me, not you.”

I’m a good person, but I didn’t sign on for this. I’m just a new medic, and I really need this job. Still, I don’t want to rat on my partner. What am I supposed to do?

Count yourself lucky. Your partner’s a master. She’s probably saved the lives of three people who have nothing and nowhere to turn. And she’s protected your career in the process.

What are you talking about? She’s way out of line. I feel sorry for this woman, but how did Mary help her, other than to make her dependent on Mary?

 You may not recognize it, but this little family’s story has unfolded before—some 75 years ago. The photo that appears with this article was originally shot in 1936 by Dorothea Lange, a depression-era photographer, and is now in the public domain. The lady’s name was Florence Owens Thompson, and, according to Library of Congress records, Florence’s plight was almost identical to your patient’s story.1 There’s no telling what eventually happened to Florence and her children, because there was no 9-1-1 system to catch her. But so many social support systems are failing all over the world today that medics just like you are meeting people just like Florence everywhere. EMS was framed to address realities much smaller than the ones we’re facing today. As a result, too often we find ourselves wondering what to do.

We’re all pretty fragile financially. And just as you say, none of us can save the whole world. But your partner sounds like she’s practicing at a quantum level above most of us. And she’s not alone.

Continue Reading

OK, but how does Mary’s solution really help this woman for more than just a day or two? Obviously, the solution isn’t for us to personally support everybody who gets in a jam.

Sometimes I think our society takes better care of lost kittens than we do lost people. People do get lost, don’t they? We’ve all encountered them. A few of us learn to sense their predicaments and fewer make it their business to intervene. When they do intervene, even the smallest, most unnoticed act of kindness can mean the difference between somebody’s next breath and a silent, inner collapse of their soul. I think your partner may have averted just such an emergency in the life of this woman.

I still don’t understand how Mary helped her in the long run.

Mary made sure this little family’s immediate needs were addressed. They’ll probably get something to eat, sanitation, some clothing, access to a phone and a little rest. In the course of protecting you, she’s also forced their situation to the attention of your agency, which can access other resources (including the media). That may not be all this family needs, but it’s a ton more than they had.

Reference
1. http://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/128_migm.html; August 13, 2011.

Thom Dick has been involved in EMS for 40 years, 23 of them as a full-time EMT and paramedic in San Diego County. He is the quality care coordinator for Platte Valley Ambulance Service, a community-owned, hospital-based 9-1-1 provider in Brighton, CO. Thom is also a member of the EMS World editorial advisory board. E-mail boxcar_414@yahoo.com.

?

Heavy traffic forces a childbirth in a familiar location.
The funds will be divided between the State Firefighter Association, the State Fire Marshal Association and the Assist the Officer Foundation of Houston in gratitude for their public service.
DMI announces the launch of EndZone, a cloud-based platform for mobile-centric situational awareness, delivering increased responsiveness and efficiency in emergency situations.
First responders are encouraged to link the website to their pages, as the service allows users to reconnect with loved ones in the aftermath of a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Maria.
The city of Twin Falls wants to place AED locations on its online public map after first responders informed officials of the importance of immediate AED use in a medical emergency.
First responders and legislators from Niagara County are saying too many areas are underserved and have to be covered by fire companies, calling for the need for additional ambulance services.
IV Tylenol, Motrin and Toradol will now be added to the options of ice and fentanyl for patient pain treatment during hospital transports to prevent opioid addiction.
Patients from the Caribbean islands in need of hospitals are being sent to South Carolina, where it's the first time the SCFC Incident Management Team has been activated for a disaster assistance response.

After the service atĀ Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee had ended, a man wearing a ski mask drove up to the church and shot its attendees, killing one woman and injuring six others.

NHTSA's new video follows EMS data from its collection through its use to improve future care.
First Priority Global, one of the country's leading suppliers of public safety, emergency response and clean transportation solutions, announces the opening of a new facility inĀ Flanders, NJ.
Christopher Wimmer was sentenced to jail time and probation for taking photos with 41 unconscious patients in a selfie competition he was in with another paramedic.
Students say the mock DUI accident was a very realistic learning experience, especially when firefighters, EMTs and police arrived at the scene.
The Columbia County EMS provider oversees emergency efforts from Lake City EOC during the latest storm.
EMTs, firefighters and police officers dealt with a car accident causing the release of sulfur dioxide and an active shooter in a hospital.