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Patient Care

Stories from the Streets: Today's Heroes, Yesterday's Quotes


"To know one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded." —Ralph Waldo Emerson 

"Engine 10 to Rescue 1, eighty year old female, respiratory distress, possible CHF.”

“Rescue 1, received.”

We turned the corner onto a narrow dead end street. The door of the last house on the left was open with frenzied activity just beyond the threshold.

“Get the chair,” I said to Adam and entered the home.

“230/115, pulsox 68%,” says Ted, as I approached the patient. She was struggling to breathe, as her lungs were full of fluid. The oxygen mask covered the bottom half of her face, and her eyes were panicked.

Adam set the chair up next to her. The guys from Engine 10 picked her up from the couch and got her ready to move. Seven or eight family members stood nearby, some worried, some afraid and some near panic.

“What is her name?” I asked.

“Auriela,” one of the women answered.

I took a nitro from the bottle I had in my pocket and had the woman tell Auriela to put it under her tongue and let it melt. She struggled for a while then understood. A minute later we were in the rescue. Ted was applying EKG leads, and Adam was starting an IV. I  was preparing an albuterol treatment.

“I’ll give you a driver and an extra set of hands in back,” Frank, the officer of Engine 10 says, closing the rear doors of the rescue.

“Let’s roll.”

We began our journey toward Rhode Island Hospital with three of us in the back with the patient, a firefighter from Engine 10 driving the rescue and Frank and Paul following with the engine. Another nitro en route, 40 ml of Lasix and the albuterol treatment seemed to be effective. Auriela’s eyes stopped darting, her breathing slowed as her lungs cleared and she managed a little smile. The frantic activity in the back of the rescue slowed in rhythm with our patient’s breathing. There wasn’t much more to do but comfort her and let her know she would be all right. She didn’t speak a word of English, and we barely spoke a word of Spanish, but all of us knew she was out of the woods.

We arrived at the hospital. The rear doors of the rescue opened and there stood one of our guys, an off duty firefighter from Engine 11. I looked at him for a moment, confused.

“That’s my grandmother,” he says as he helped us wheel her in.

Twenty minutes later he shook my hand as we were preparing to leave.

“Thanks, Mike, you guys were incredible,” he says.

I can’t imagine a more satisfying job than the one I have.

How do you like them apples, Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And speaking of Ralph, here’s another;

"Every man is entitled to be valued by his best moments."

Entitlement and reality are far different entities. While I'm in a scholarly mood, I figured I would mention William Shakespeare addressing reality in a speech from Julius Caesar;

"The evil that men do lives long after them, the good is oft interred with their bones."

So it is in the fire and EMS business. We are only as good as our last act. Today's hero is tomorrow’s villain, and tomorrow’s villain will still be a villain even if the day after tomorrow he becomes a hero.

It takes time to erase a major mistake. For some strange reason we love nothing more than to focus on people's shortcomings. Perhaps we feel better about ourselves when others are exposed as having human frailties.

Just keep in mind, everybody gets a turn, and ours is coming. It's just the way it is. So relish those moments when everything goes as planned, and savor the fleeting seconds when you can bask in your own greatness. Keep striving to do great things, and maybe you will be valued by your best moments, and the dumb things we do will be interred with our bones.

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