Back When I was Young

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“CONTENT WARNING: Some of the language in this post is a bit more graphic than I generally use in blog posts. I considered censoring that language out, but a professional writer friend of mine looked at it and advised me that doing so would ruin the message. You’ve been warned, take due notice thereof and govern yourselves accordingly.

I wasn’t always the all knowing paramedic (I think that’s what people mean when they say I’m a know it all) that I am now, I was a young, relatively inexperienced EMT. We all have to start somewhere, and I started as a volunteer in mid-state New Hampshire in my college daze. Which is to say I wasn’t exactly a grizzled veteran when Big City EMS hired me back in the late 1970s. In fact, I was probably a bit raw in the center, to use a baking analogy.

Still, I was adjudged to be ready for prime time by the seat of the pants standards of the day, so I was set loose on the inhabitants of the city. If only they knew…

My first day on the ambulance was with a grizzled veteran (he had about five years on the job, plus whatever time he worked with a private company), who being the grizzled veteran drove. Which left me to be the technician, or technically the attendant or “tech”. Kind of a carry over from the Ambulance Driver and Medical Aid days of the service.

The day went along pretty well. We took care of the important things, like coffee, early on in the day. Then my partner gave me a tour of our area and brought me around to the various emergency rooms to show me where they were and introduce me around. We did a couple of calls, but nothing all that exciting. Which, come to think of it, describes most days in EMS. A few calls a day, generally nothing too exciting and once or twice a year, you really do have to earn your pay.

About half way through the shift we were dispatched to meet the police who were with an injured person. That was all the information we got, other than that it was not a priority call. So, we drove over to the designated address and saw a police officer. This was a “street call” so the patient would be outside, not in a building. One nice thing about streets calls, generally, is that there are no stairs to lug someone down or less frequently up to get to the ambulance. That’s always a plus.

As we exited our trusty response steed, I saw two things that even to a relative novice like me were not quite normal. First, was a young black man bent over double and supporting himself against a stone wall. He appeared to be in considerable pain and was holding his groin area with one hand. The police officer was also doubled over – with laughter, not pain. We walked towards the officer and asked him what was up. Barely able to stop laughing to answer, he told us that we had to ask the patient, he just couldn’t tell us. Quite odd, that.

We walked over to the young man and I asked him what happened. “My girlfriend bit my dick,” was the answer. Now, if you’re a man and you’re reading this, you’d be quite correct in thinking that there is little humor in something like this. I mean a playful nip might be OK, but serious biting of the love gear is bad business. We helped the poor unfortunate victim into the back of the ambulance where I had him sit on the squad bench.

In retrospect, I think at this point my partner decided to put me on, just a bit. “You have to take a look and see how bad he’s hurt.”, said my partner as HE exited the back to get up front and drive.

Somewhat hesitantly, I told the young man that he needed to, uh, expose himself for examination. Which he did, although somewhat reluctantly. Upon visual exam, sure enough, there was the head of his penis with bite marks, which broke the skin, around the circumference of his member.

“Do you think I’ll need stitches?”, he asked. I of course had no idea, not knowing how this type of injury was treated. In fact as I flipped through the text book chapter on “Injuries to the Genital/Urinary area” in the book I couldn’t recall one word about bite marks thereto.

Then came the real question, as only a young man could ask, “Am I going to lose my dick?”
I told him I didn’t think so, since the bites weren’t that deep. He’d probably need some antibiotics and wound cleaning, but nothing else.

“Better dress this wound, somehow.” I thought to myself. How was the question as I was far less than eager to actually touch the wounded area. Remember that this was back in the days when gloves were not the norm in pre-hospital care. I grabbed a 4×4 and gingerly, and I do mean gingerly, wrapped it around the head of his penis. I then asked the young man to hold that in place while I taped the dressing in place. The entire uh, package, was then placed back in his pants, which were now zipped up.

I swear I heard laughter from the front of the ambulance.

Then came the part we refer to as “History of Present Illness/Injury”.

Not having learned that some questions are better left unasked, I asked. “How did this happen?”

“My girlfriend bit me, like I told you.”

“Uh, why?”

Well you see I’m a born again Christian and I decided to stop having sex until I get married. My girlfriend is a hooker and she likes to have sex. I told her that until she stopped being a whore and we got married that I couldn’t fuck her no more. Then she told me that she wanted to give me a blow job, and I know it was wrong, but I said OK. She got down there and was going strong on me when she said she wanted me to fuck her. I tole her again, I couldn’t do that because she’s a whore and we weren’t married and that’s when she bit me. Hard, man. And it hurt like a motherfucker. Man, I thought I was going to die, so I hit her on the head so she’d let me go and then I ran out of the apartment and saw the police.

“Oh.” That was all I could muster in response.

“Can I ask you a question?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Well man what would you do?”

“Well, should I stop seeing her?”

Now, you have to put yourself in my place. My patient was 17, I was a few years older, but not a whole lot. I’d lead a pretty sheltered life in that I never had a girlfriend who was a prostitute and never had a girlfriend who had bitten me in anger. I was a bit out of my depth, advice wise. A bit of a cultural gap existed. Still, I gave it my best shot.

“Well, if this is going to keep happening, then maybe it’s for the best if you don’t. This kind of backsliding isn’t going to help you get back to being a Christian”.

Totally on the wing, that part.

“Yeah man, I guess you’re right, thanks.”

I wish I had kept a copy of that report, it would be interesting to re-read it after all these years.

It was a difficult call for a young EMT, but at least I didn’t cry at the end of it.

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After a long career as a field EMS provider, I'm now doing all that back office stuff I used to laugh at. Life is full of ironies, isn't it? I still live in the Northeast corner of the United States, although I hope to change that to another part of the country more in tune with my values and beliefs. I still write about EMS, but I'm adding more and more non EMS subject matter. Thanks for visiting.

12 COMMENTS

  1. No direct pressure?No tourniquet?I’m surprised that you did not end up with your own advice column. TOTWTYTR’s Advice for the Born Again/Hooker Couple. Think of the audience.

  2. This was in the works before I read AD’s column. Just know that we are close friends and share material from time to time. RM, a tourniquet would have only made things worse in ways I won’t explain. 🙂

  3. TOTWTYTR – To cry you have to have feelings! 🙂 Well, at least a feeling. Maybe new EMTs should be forced to watch John Wayne movies or read Harvey Mansfield’s Manliness.Word verification: stionge

  4. Tom B, I think it’s more an issue of new EMTs have to be competent than anything else. However, self esteem seems to be more important in all too many fields of endeavor these days.

  5. After working in an OB-Gyn office for way too many years to count this is hilarious! I can’t tell you of the newbies who got their earful of “what happened while…..” only to freak out! My reaction was always one of laughter- which I very wholeheartedly tried to suppress- not always successfully but we tried at least- and a very frozen poker face should the patient be standing in front of me! Its always the born again Christian ones that have the most-uhm-intriguing explanations of why? 🙂

  6. I agree with you 100%. I’m one of those who liked ACLS before it became a self esteem building seminar! Not the unrealistic 10 rhythm code, mind you. Those were useless. But at minimum, each provider should be able to confidently handle a VF arrest as a team leader. Those days appear to be gone!

  7. It’s all about self esteem now Tom. That and bringing students back for recerts and the attendant money. It seems that students want “the card” but not “the knowledge” that goes into getting it. If we bruise their tender little egos, they’ll just go somewhere else.

  8. The old ACLS was about rote memorization of a bunch of mythology. The new ACLS continues a bit of that, but now includes the essential Tony Robbins mini-seminar you guys mention, and hey look, we can put a stroke lecture in here, because these guys are too good at the cardiac stuff!Of course, the debate over the science in the stroke material is an academic version of Middle East politics, but as long as the rest of the course is big on make believe, what’s a little more?Imagine if we had students actually demonstrate competence in managing real patients before letting them out unsupervised? What a magical make believe world that would be.

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