Thursday, February 19, 2009

Job Hazard

"Attention all units. We have a medical emergency, building XX, cafe area. Please respond and switch over to emergency radio channel."

"Damnit," I thought to myself. I hate this particular building, and the area that was described as the location of the emergency. This building is a showcase for the "open office" concept, meaning there is absolutely zero privacy in the area. And when medical emergencies happen here, as they have in the past, it has proven near-impossible to ensure the privacy and the protection of the patient's dignity.

I grabbed my large bag and headed off to the area.

As I was pulling into the driveway, one of my teammates pleaded over the radio, "I need more ERT members here !". Any time we have ever heard that statement, it has never been good. I rushed in as fast as possible to assist.

I arrived on the scene, to find the patient lying on the ground in a conference room with no blinds, approximately 20 bystanders crowded around the window, and another 4 bystanders inside the room. There was one lone ERT responder, my friend Rick, in the room. He and I shooed away most of the lookie-loos, and got to work with the patient.

He was having rapid episodes of seizures, every few minutes. In between each seizure, he was lucid, alert and oriented, and then without warning, his eyes would roll into the back of his head and he would jerk around uncontrollably. It was a very volatile situation.

During one of his lucid times, I was able to talk to him, determine his level of consciousness, and take his pulse. As I went to put the blood pressure cuff on him, his eyes widened. Suddenly, he grabbed my arm in the strongest vice grip imaginable, and submitted to yet another seizure. The hold he had on my arm was unbelievable. I clenched my teeth in pain.

I managed to pull myself away from his death grip, and headed for the door, as he screamed and jerked around the conference room floor. Luckily, the firefighters arrived at that time, and started IV interventions.

The patient was a diabetic. It was nearing the end of lunch time, and he had not yet eaten. His blood sugar level was 37, a level so unbelievably low that many people with the same affliction end up comatose. When the firefighters asked the bystanders why he hadn't eaten, nobody could answer them.

This was the first time I have ever been physically attacked by a patient. While I know that this patient's motions were uncontrollable and involuntary, it still left hefty bruises on my arm. And while we were taught in EMT class that combativeness is to be expected and anticipated, I never thought it could happen to me. Our environment is very controlled -- an office of working professionals -- and this kind of stuff just doesn't happen. At least, not until yesterday.

My friend Rakesh remarked that this incident reminded him of his own experiences at Burning Man, where he himself was the target of violence from someone he was attempting to help. Of course, one would expect some craziness from people who may have injested or injected various hard drugs. But this is not something one would expect from our generally tame office environment.

I guess I've been initiated now.


Blogger Foxxy One said...

Ouch sweetie! I'm so sorry you were injured. I was wondering.... would you mind if I picked your EMT brain for a moment? If you wouldn't mind emailing me.

February 20, 2009 at 5:55:00 AM PST  
Blogger Foxxy One said...

oops - jfoxx at globalfit dot com

February 20, 2009 at 5:55:00 AM PST  
Anonymous Rakesh said...

I dunno... It's more annoying when the patient is actually belligerent towards me. If it's due to the underlying illness or injury, somehow it's more manageable in my mind.

March 5, 2009 at 10:01:00 AM PST  

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