A Tale From The Old Days

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As my EMS career fades into the past, random conversations start to bring up memories of calls from years ago. I guess some might call it PTSD, but in fact they are just memories. None of them traumatize me, some make me laugh because perspective has given my some idea of the absurdity of life and sometimes EMS.

I was discussing the current foolishness regarding the Opioid Epidemic and how people in pain, especially chronic pain, are being denied medications that could control their pain. One friend mentioned that he always had good results with Dilaudid.

Thus another memory (and blog post) was born.

This goes back to about 1982 or so, pretty early in my full time career. I was working with a paramedic, but we were at the BLS level because there wasn’t any P/B staffing back then. In fact, Sort of Big City had one of maybe three paramedic systems in the the state. There were two community college based paramedic programs and my department ran it’s own confined to existing employees.

For context, my partner was one of those internally trained paramedics, but was assigned as a float to replace other people who were out. This particular day the only opening was for EMTs, so he ended up with me. Lucky him. At this point, I was at least semi competent having a couple of years of solid 9-1-1 experience. Plus he had seniority.

Which meant that I ended up as the “Tech” or as one of my co workers used to call it the “GIB.  “Guy In Back.”

We were sent for a cardiac arrest in one of the outlying parts of Sorta Big City. i don’t recall if ALS was available, but that really doesn’t matter as at that time there was likely only one to cover the entire city. Which meant that they could be anywhere in the city. No matter as we ended up not needing them.

We headed off the hinterlands with all due, maybe too much, haste. We survived the ride and arrived in due time.

We walked into the apartment found a 20 something male who was stone cold dead. His girlfriend was there and was hysterical.

The cops were there, and weren’t hysterical. I think the fire department was still at the station having breakfast.

I was writing the sudden death report and asked the girlfriend a few questions. They’d been drinking the night before and he’d done some Dilaudid as well. “That shit doesn’t do nothing.” was her quote.

I looked over at her now deceased boyfriend and thought that it certainly had done something, but for once in my life kept my yap shut.

The phone rang. It was the girlfriend’s father. She tearfully told Dad that the boyfriend was dead.

There was silence, followed by,

“NO! I DIDN’T KILL HIM!”

She then handed phone to me. I don’t know exactly how I became the designated person, but I’d have to guess my lack of seniority had something to do with it.

The father asked me if I had any idea what had killed the boyfriend. In those pre HIPAA days, I was able to answer that he appeared to have died from a drug overdoes.

The father then asked me if it was possible that his daughter had killed him. No kidding.

I told him that it didn’t appear likely. I then handed the phone back to the daughter and went back to writing my report.

At least we didn’t have to wait for the “police surgeon” to come out and make his determination. That fell to the police and as I recall some unlucky officers spent their entire 8 hour shift (minus lunch break) waiting for that person to come out and declare the person officially dead.

The “police surgeon” was eliminated a few years after this, but to the best of my knowledge the police still have to wait on scene until the Medical Examiner makes his decision.

That was, as I said, in 1982. I remember the address and could drive there today.

I remember my partner who helped me out about 9 years later when I was a paramedic intern and partially clueless. He was a great paramedic and teacher.

I remember the 1979 Ford F350/Modular Ambulance with single rear wheels, not dualies. I remember almost rolling over at a rotary on the way to the call. In fact, the rotary and tree we almost hit are still there. The ambulance in the Featured Photo is very similar to the ambulance I was in that day. Not exact, but close enough for you to see what the “state of the art” was back then.

I vaguely remember the girlfriend. She was fairly attractive, blond, not to bright. I don’t remember the dead guy other than that he was mid 20s, white, and deceased.

I don’t remember what I had for breakfast this morning.

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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.

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    • Thanks for reading. It’s better because it’s all true. I learned a long time ago that you can’t make up stories weirder than the things that actually go on in EMS.

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