Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Frequent Flyers

A frequent flyer, in my line of work, is a repeat customer. In most businesses repeat customers are the goal, but in mine they truly are not. Even in the U.S. one could arguably discuss the potential merits of billing the same patients' insurance company for repeated exams, tests, and probes...I guess...or repeated ambulance rides...
Here this is not the case. If it were, maybe we would have better equipment in our ambulance. Maybe I would get paid full wages for all the hours I work. Maybe we would have GPS (most people assume we have GPS but we do not. We have a thick stack of Map Books behind our seats, and have developed very rapid map reading skills!).
Anyways, I think most frequent flyers are funny. You have to laugh in my line of work, or you'll die of grief.
Some frequent flyers I see:
#1, and currently our MOST frequent flyer, is "The Cat Lady," so named for her numerous pets. Her place stinks, as you can imagine. She has a real medical history and imagined symptoms. Since last spring she has called about every 2 or 3 days, sometime between 9 and 10 pm, usually with some major symptom that requires ALS, which means 2 ambulances. She's very heavy. It took us awhile to get to the point where we don't carry her anymore. Around christmas time she began to increase the frequency of her calls, and move the time up to sometime between 6 and 7 pm--right around shift change. You can imagine how popular she is around the station!! One of our ALS guys (the NICEST guy, seriously) made her cry because he suggested to her that she needed to get some emotional help so that she could reduce the number of times she would need to call us. He was being honest. And straightforward.
Even the hospital doesn't take her seriously anymore, and makes her wait in the back hall until she gets tired of waiting, and leaves. Sometimes. Depends which shift is on. She usually gets a full workup, but I've seen her in the back hall a few times. Anyways, I think this lady is hilarious.
When the ALS pager goes off between 6 and 7, I'm usually about 80% accurate in predicting whether it's the Cat Lady or not. You'd think one would get tired of germy hospitals and cranky paramedics and needles and pokes and prods and tests, but she doesn't. She has an online boyfriend. I wonder sometimes if she calls us whenever they have a disagreement, or if it seems he's losing interest in her. So she has something to report to him? Dunno.

#2, and currently my favourite, is "Denise" (name changed obviously). We just call her by her name, maybe because her story is so hilarious that a nickname couldn't do her justice. She's our neighbourhood schizophrenic, and most of the time she's pretty good about taking her medications, which can be frequently difficult with schizophrenia. When she has something stressful or difficult happen in her life (this can be something as minor as not finding her favourite brand of yogurt in the grocery store, or missing a dr.'s appointment), she gets anxious and generally calls 9-1-1 and gets the police because her story is so wild the call taker assumes she might be dangerous. The police know her so well that they call for us before they even get to her place, and we know her so well we're on a first name basis with her.
See, Denise asserts she was FINE until, at age 17, some doctors diagnosed her as being underdeveloped for her age, and gave her some hormone therapy, which made her grow breasts, which made her depressed. She sometimes talks about her several past attempts at suicide, which failed, because her method was to cut off her 'cleavage' [her word] with a razor. Not a lot of imperative vascular tissue there. I'm sure one COULD bleed to death if one cut of one's breasts, but it would take a LOOOONG time, and likely one's blood would clot before that would happen. More likely, infection would set in. Also, Denise is well endowed. It would take upwards of an hour to cut those suckers off with a razor blade. I really don't think she has gotten very far with this method.
Denise is also married. To a man. But she's a lesbian, and they live in a platonic relationship, and Denise will make passes at female cops, paramedics, and hospital staff, every chance she gets. She will also get quite offended if one (me) makes inquiries or assumptions based on the fact that she has a husband (I was confused! She'd mentioned the husband and then said she was a lesbian, so I inquired...won't make that mistake again!).
And she pulls out all her eyebrows so she looks weird, and wears blue eyeshadow that reaches from her eyelids to where her eyebrows WOULD BE if she left them alone, which is a bit alarming the first few times you see her.
And she's the world's biggest chatterbox. Triage will often leave us waiting with her for upwards of an hour before she gets triaged, and it is SO HARD not to laugh at stories about cleavage cutting while fending off her passes and looking at her eyebrows! Denise is hysterical. I have a soft spot for Denise, I think because she's mentally ill and genuinely struggles with gender identity issues; double whammy, I'd say.

#3, Mr. Shakey. This nickname is a bit mean. He's epileptic. And an alcoholic. And on social assistance. We find him all over town, post ictal (the foggy state of mind after a seizure). Once I found him in the hospital parking lot, sleeping in a stall. I wished I had my camera, because the scene was so surreal: a person sleeping between the yellow lines of a parking stall. His feet resting just above the numbers 117. Anyways, he'd been released from the hospital and sat for hours in the waiting room, refusing to leave, until finally security escorted him out. I guess he didn't make it past the parking lot, and here we don't know the ER kicked him out, and we bring him back again.
Mr. Shakey isn't as funny as the Cat Lady or Denise. He's kind of grouchy and he stinks. Plus, while frequent, he's not nearly as frequent as the previous two.
The funny part about him is trying to remember to call him by his real name and not Mr. Shakey.

#4 The Liver Lady. I've mentioned her before. Awaiting major surgery to repair her liver. Calls often with "Abdominal Pain" which gets a code 3 ambulance just in case of a cardiac event, but we know her address by heart so we do a gentle code 3 because we know she's just fed up with her parents, who are caring for her while she waits.

There are more, but the first two are the funniest.
Some people I share funny work stories with find them sad.
Sad is: babies dying, 30 year old moms who have strokes, teenagers who are paralyzed in fights at parties, drunk driving maiming another one, etc. Funny is: frequent flyers who want to cut off their boobs.


OH YES!! And then there is Vagina Pain Lady. We can't forget HER! She has been trying to quit smoking for years, and when she's bummed out she smokes a few, then feels aweful, and calls saying she can't breathe. Of course, that gets a code 3 ambulance, but then she meets you at the front door of her apartment complex, cane in hand, coat over her arm, purse ready to go (fyi: all signs of NOT SICK). When you ask what's wrong she says, "My vagina hurts!" Okay, we won't be taking a look at that today ma'am. "It feels like someone punched me in the vagina!" Okay. And this has been going on for how long? "Years." And you called an ambulance for it. Tonight.
But she always wants to go to the hospital, so off we go!
Vagina Pain Lady IS hilarious, you have to admit.


No More Dirty Seoul said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tamie said...

Oh Mel. I want to come hang out with you, develop a better sense of humor. I mean, I'm overcome just because my students are having existential crises and I so feel the pain of that. Not sure what I'd do if I had your job. I'd probably be calling 911 myself!