Saturday, November 08, 2008

Letting Go

The alarm tones sounded on my radio, with a message that there was a medical emergency in my building, and on my floor. Without accurate location information provided, I began walking around the cubicles and offices, orange vest on, looking for someone that needed help.

I was greeted by two people in a cube; one woman on the phone, looking very upset, and another standing by her. The bystander asked if I was the ERT. When I responded yes, she informed me that there had been a mistake. All they wanted, she explained, was someone to open the door to the office, where the other woman's purse was currently locked in.

The woman on the phone then piped up, with a terrified look on her face, "I don't want any help ! I'm five month's pregnant with twins, and I'm bleeding, but I just want to get my purse and go to the doctor !"

"Ma'am, I'm an EMT, I can help you."

"I don't want your help ! I need to get my purse, and go to my own doctor. Get out !"
(associated hand motion)

"Ok, I will respect your wishes."

I retreated from the cube, and called our dispatch center, asking what to do.

By law, I cannot touch or treat someone that has refused my care. If I were to go against her wishes, I would be guilty of battery. But at the same time, this woman's current condition meant that her babies were possibly in danger. And although she refused treatment from me, the fire department was already on its way.

The dispatch center advised me that they were required to dispatch the fire department, and that the patient could sign their waiver and be on her way. Although Dispatch had noted her objection, it would be a legal and liability issue for the company had they not summoned medical help given her condition.

I relayed this to the patient's friend, apologizing profusely that it was out of my control, but that in interest of their privacy, I had asked some Security officers and fellow ERT members to block off foot traffic around the area.

The friend told the patient, who then proceeded to bolt out of her cube and run down the stairs.

I watched incredulously as a security officer followed her, however she was determined to escape the situation. She got into a car (presumably her husband's), and they drove off.

I stood there, in disbelief, with an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

I know rationally that there was nothing I could do, and that the patient's wishes are to be respected at all times. However, I couldn't help but feel some guilt for honestly and truthfully explaining the situation to the friend. While I was very pointedly reassured that I did nothing wrong, I could not stop myself from feeling helpless and worried for the patient and her unborn babies.

The patient was having a medical emergency, that had the potential to affect the survival of her twins. And there was not a damn thing I could do about it.

Such is the life of a volunteer, I suppose.

I was notified later on that she and the babies were fine.

Knowing that, I am fine now, too.


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