Thursday, August 23, 2007

Poetic Justice


(Backstory, in case you haven't heard.)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Ever since we moved to the new house, Peaches has taken refuge in the only place she has felt safe: the top of a stack of plastic crates in the laundry room. From her 9' high perch, she can see all that goes on, and can hide from whatever noise that scares her. I always felt nervous about this "safe" place, as she had to climb the dryer, then walk along a narrow ledge, 8' high, to get up and down from it. It was never a problem until Monday night.

I came home from work, and after some time, we noticed that she was acting strangely. Meowing inappropriately, sitting in one spot, squinting one eye, running upstairs instead of downstairs.... very unusual behavior for a normally happy, bouncy cat. Looking closer, I finally saw the evidence; a huge, raised, red bump above her eye.

I panicked. What the hell happened to my cat ? Danny told me he'd heard a crash in the laundry room before I arrived home, but he wrote it off as she and Mocha having their normal, fur-flying scrap fights. That wasn't the case this time, as indicated by this horrible bump. She had fallen, likely from the 8' ledge, and had hit her head on something on the way down.

In a state of pronounced anxiety, I called the vet, who recommended I take her to the emergency clinic. And when I looked even closer, I noticed an ominous sign.

Her pupils were unequal.

This is a telltale sign of a brain injury, even in humans.

As an EMT, when I treat a head trauma patient, one of the first things I do is check the pupils. Are they equal ? Reactive to light ? In Peaches' case, the first test failed. In a full-fledged state of panic, I loaded her in the crate, and took her hastily to the emergency vet clinic.

They checked her eye surface (it was fine), gave her a shot to reduce the swelling on her brain, and asked me to keep her overnight for observation. Outwardly, I was composed, and said sure, whatever it takes for her to help her heal. But inside, my heart was breaking. My beloved cat was hurt, and there wasn't a damned thing I could do about it. It took all the strength I could muster to keep my composure while I left the clinic, empty handed.

When I got home, I collapsed in tears into Danny's arms. I didn't sleep a wink.

Yesterday morning, the clinic told me she was ready to come home. Her pupils were back to equal sizes, she was awake and alert, and was causing trouble as usual by jumping into the cupboards in the exam room. The vet said she definitely had a concussion, recommended we keep her off the ledge and any other high places, and asked that we watch her for any signs of continuing injury. But for now, she was doing just great.

Relief washed over me when saw that she was perky and curious as always. This cat normally despises the crate and the car, and loudly protests every time she is in that situation. Her agonized caterwauling on the way home, which was absent on the way there, was the most comforting sound to me. It meant that she would be just fine.

That evening, we took the large roll of bubble wrap left over from our move, and taped it to the wall by the ledge, and all up and down the stack of plastic storage crates. Every possible route to the perch was sufficiently covered.

It looks ugly as hell having bubble wrap all over our laundry room. But it keeps our kitty safe from further harm.

That's more important than a pristine room.

Now if only I can get Mocha to stop sleeping in the litter box, life would be perfect.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


As I have mentioned a few times on this blog, one of the most difficult of all emergency medical situations is one that involves a friend, family member or colleague. The emotions that we experience in these situations are similar to those involving children; they are heart-wrenching and emotionally draining, for everyone involved.

When my friend Rick's mother-in-law was found in an extremely urgent state of insulin shock, his children were recruited to assist in her care. Mary-Jeanne, 12, held open her grandma's airway, while Scotty, 10, took her pulse. She was rushed to the hospital, and last I heard, was still recovering from her ordeal.

I remember this feeling. A few years ago, when I was new on the ERT, and long before I was a trained EMT, a coworker and friend approached me with a pained, anxious look on her face. She was having chest pains, difficulty breathing, and needed immediate assistance. I activated the Emergency Response Team, assessed her, comforted her, and did all I could to help her until the ambulance arrived. Throughout the incident, I was fine - professional and composed - but afterwards, I broke down.

I felt so helpless. Here was someone I cared about, my friend, and there was nothing I could do to make her situation any better. I asked her questions, I kept her calm... but I couldn't fix her. She was scared, anxious and hurting, and I couldn't make her pain go away. I know that my outward calmness and reassurance helped her, but inside, I was panicking. She was sick, really sick, and there was nothing I could do but to evaluate her before the paramedics arrived.

I know that I did all I could do at the time, but nonetheless, I was panicking inside. The only thing that comforted me was the fact that she was eventually going to be alright.

And when Rick mentioned on the phone that Scotty was having some difficulty after helping his grandma in her time of need, all those old feelings came back to me. I remembered the helplessness, the fear, the anxiety, the "oh shit !" reaction after seeing someone close to me in pain. Scotty, awesome whiz-kid as he is, expressed the same emotions.

"I'm not sure why I feel this way," he said to me, "but I feel really bad."

"Of course you feel bad. It was your grandma. It's ok to feel scared and upset."

"Yeah. I just feel like I didn't do anything to help."

"Well Scotty, sometimes there is not much we can do. Sometimes all we can do is check them out until the doctors can take a look."

"I wish I could have done more."

"Sweetie, what you did was awesome. You helped take care of her when she couldn't take care of herself. None of us could fix anything with her. She needed to go to the doctor, and you helped her do that."

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

"And you want to know something else Scotty ? There's a name that we here at the ERT have for people who come across medical stuff like this all the time. But you have to promise not to tell your dad, because it's a bad word. Ok ?"

(chuckling) "Ok."

"We call it the Shit Magnet Club. And you, Scotty, are the newest member. Congratulations !"

(dissolving into a fit of giggles) "COOL !"

His father was very suspicious as to why his son was bent over in hysterics, but like the well-trained man that he is, didn't ask what I'd said.

Pat on the shoulder to his wife, for training him well.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Team Effort

I have one thing to say about this:

Rick, you rock. And so do your awesome kids.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Stripper Saves Man's Life

An exotic dancer saved a client's life this weekend in Port St. Lucie.

"He said that he accidentally took too much medicine. "

I wonder what kind of medicine that might have been. :)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bad Day for Breeze

One of our fun weekend passtimes is to take the kids to the mall near our house, drink Light Frappuccinos and Slushies, shop for clothes, and just stroll around and hang out. Last weekend, as we arrived, I populated an excellent, close-to-the-door, super-wide parking spot with my beloved car Breeze, and we headed inside.

On our way out, I pressed the button to disengage the alarm system. To my horror, the system beeped three times, indicating the alarm had gone off. I looked on my keyfob.

Impact alert.

Someone had hit my car.

Sure enough, on the driver's side, was a new, small but noticeable, vertical door ding. It was at a level that the SUV beside me could not possibly have made.

Some chickenshit had hit my car, then taken off as the alarm screamed in protest.


We continued our day, cruising around, with the top down at times, enjoying the California sunshine and our weekend activities. That evening, Danny and I arrived at the grocery store, and I went into the back to retrieve my purse. I noticed a white mark on the leather seat behind mine.

"What is this stuff ?", I mused out loud, rubbing it with my hands.

Danny came up behind me, and observed,

"That's bird crap."

That's right, a wayward bird had crapped in my car, on the leather seats, and I had rubbed it with my hands trying to figure out what the hell it was.


At least Daniel wasn't with us, sitting in his seat at the time of the bombing. If he had, it would have been a very bad day for him.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

One Of My Own

Many of those in the medical field will tell you that one of the most difficult aspects of any emergency response or medical line of work is to separate one's own emotions from the patient and the situation at hand. It is often a challenge to remain calm during an incident, especially when the patient is extremely ill, badly hurt, screaming and crying, or when children are involved. I have experienced all of these in my few years of volunteer work, and over time, have built up a reasonable balance of empathy and self-protection. But to this day, there is one situation I have not yet completely mastered: The friend or colleague in distress.

Yesterday, it was my coworker, a very nice lady that I talk to on a regular basis. While our job paths do not intersect, we relate to each other on a personal level, sharing stories about our lives and families. And when she came to me saying she "didn't feel well", and her left arm was feeling rather numb, and she was having a bit of trouble breathing.... I had to call in the cavalry.

Women, when experiencing cardiac events, often present with very different symptoms than men. In many cases, they do not experience the telltale radiating chest pains that men do. And of course, the #1 symptom of any heart attack is denial, which my lovely coworker was in, full-force.

She said she felt a little better after putting her head down as I'd asked her to do. She didn't want to make a big deal out of it. She didn't want all sorts of people around her desk. I compromised by bringing her to a conference room away from the office, but very strongly recommended that she allow the Fire Department to evaluate her and make a recommendation.

This was my friend. This was someone I personally know and care about, and here she was, at the other end of my stethoscope. While I was assessing her and gathering facts, I was my normal EMT self, composed and professional. But when they loaded her on the gurney for transport to the hospital, a wave of emotions flooded over me.

What if she really was having a heart attack ? What if something was seriously wrong with her ? What if.. what if.. all the worst possible scenarios ran through my mind. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't control them. I had to take a break and compose myself in a conference room. After a phone call to Danny, my very best support system and confidant, I returned to work.

My coworker's medical evaluation is not yet complete. She is back at work today, however the hospital highly recommended she follow up with her doctor. Although they did not find anything life-threatening last night, they said that she needs follow-up care to ensure that nothing is truly wrong.

She was back at work today, tired, but otherwise fine. I know that I did the right thing by calling out the ambulance, but I must admit that I was scared to death.

I am certain that other emergency responders experience what I did; the fear of what might be wrong, the dread of waiting for what seems like an eternity to find out, the anxiety of facing your own mortality and that of someone in your inner circle of friends, family and acquaintances. I can comfort myself in the fact that I did all that I could to help her, but that does not take away the fear of the unknown.

Thankfully, this time, the prognosis is cautiously good. I cannot say how I would react if it were not.
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