Friday, July 24, 2009

Work stories

I go back to work soon. I feel okay with this, and am warming up to the idea of returning to a workplace where it is normal to see the unexpected and unusual. Normal and unusual are not opposites in my line of work, which is a great degree why I love my job. I'm wearing out, nearing time for a career change, but I still love it. I'd like to quit while I still like it, in fact. Before I'm too cynical to enjoy it.

I have been lying in bed, trying to sleep, and work stories keep coming to mind. I have so many various stories it feels like I need to write them down, so they won't be forgotten, and I'm not sleeping anyways, so why not share some with you?

There was the nine month old baby who fell down a long flight of stairs in his walker and had a head injury. He stopped breathing on the way in, but recovered fully in the end. He was so chubby the nurses couldn't get an IV on him once he got to the ER. Gosh, he was cute.

And the motorcycle vs. dump truck on the Sea to Sky Highway. Broken leg, with bone sticking out, which is called a compound fracture, and internal injuries, but she didn't cry at all. She was very brave and stoic, and her skin was grey because of blood loss.

Man shovelling snow in his driveway and hit by a truck driving too fast on his street. Cold, some bruises on his leg, but otherwise unscathed. Getting him out from under the truck in full spinal precautions with three feet of snow and thick flakes falling all around us, drenching my glasses and getting stuck in my hair, was difficult. I was glad for my partner, who had some innovative ideas for how to get him out from under the truck and into our ambulance without bringing half a snowbank with us.

Drunken woman falls on a pair of scissors which poked all the way through the palm of her hand and out the back.

Drunken man falls off a table onto a glass, stabbing himself. I could see all the layers of muscle working in his back every time he moved his arm. He was so drunk the doctor needed no anasthetic to stitch him up; he felt no pain.

Croupy baby. Fat, flirtatious, croupy baby, transported by ALS (serious case).

Dog bite on suspect who tried to flee police.



When will the criminals ever learn? The K9 unit is impossible to outsmart, outrun, or fight with.

Double suicide.

Racist dementia patient.

Man beaten so badly by police that he pooped his pants and broke a rib. I should have reported that one, but was too green to know how to do it.

Pedestrian vs. train. No brain matter left inside man's head.


Heart attack that was abnormal presentation by a very stoic man given to understatement. I caught that one, though it was hard to catch, and saved his life.

Blonde, hazel eyed baby drowned in a pond at minus fifteen degrees.

Anxiety disorder.


Drug induced paranoia.

Frequent flyer schizophrenic convinced she is a man trapped in a woman's body and that the removal of her large breasts would be the solution to all her mental health problems. Loves to repeat that her clitoris ejects semen on a regular basis. I have mastered keeping a straight face in ALL situations, even this one (and by now I know to expect this statement every time we pick her up).
Lack of empathy on the part of one of my very blunt, very inappropriate coworkers can throw this patient into a frenzy; once she started punching herself in the face because of something he said and gave herself a black eye and knocked out one of her own teeth.

Man breaks his neck by falling backwards in his kitchen, but doesn't call for help for 17 hours. None of our cervical collars will fit him so we improvise with IV bags, tape, towels, an arm splint, and some bandages, and are proud of our creative ingenuity. Hospital staff and ambulance personnel spread rumors about our lack of splinting of an unstable C-2 fracture. Totally unjust and untrue, and we were powerless to stop the rumors.

Hypothermia from camping outdoors with improper weight of sleeping bag.

Naked man has a stroke and poops everywhere, rolling in it all night until found by a neighbor in the morning. He was still alive, and survived, but had poop in his hair, ears, mouth, bellybutton, between his fingers, on the soles of his feet, and spread all over about 400 square feet of floor.

Bowel obstruction threw up his own poop.

Three separate little boys with their penises caught in zippers.

Hematuria man. I had HEARD it was possible to bleed to death through your kidneys, but didn't really believe it until I saw this guy. He FILLED the toilet with blood from his penis. Huge clots, and tons of non clotted blood. He almost died of blood loss. The reason? He had been overdosing on Aspirin for over 10 years because he heard that Aspirin is healthy for the cardiovascular system, didn't trust doctors, and didn't go to see one for over 15 years. He knew he had high blood pressure, so he took more aspirin. The chronic overdosing destroyed his kidneys and interfered with his body's ability to stop bleeding, so he almost bled to death via his kidneys.

Renal failure.




I hate my job on transfer days. Transfers are the equivalent of a Master's Degree fetching coffee. A nurse scrubbing floors. A dentist working in a meat factory. I hate transfers.

The alzheimer's patient in the care home whose body taught me what the scar from a lung removal surgery looks like. That has come in handy more than once. [often just a lobe is removed, or sometimes a transplant takes place, or sometimes a tumor is removed. The scar looks the same, much of the time. It is menacing.]

The conversation with an ALS member that went like this;
"If, by the end of your primary survey [rapid, two minute head to toe assessment including vital signs--everyone gets one of these to start off with] you don't have a pretty good hypothesis of what your patient's problem is; get the hell out of there because what your patient needs is an Emergency Room doctor, not a arrogant tinkering paramedic farting around probing for the root cause of the problem. If you have no idea what you are looking at, 99% chance the problem is way beyond the scope of our practice. Code 3 to the hospital, stat."
And my very next call fit that description. I had an unconscious, vomiting young woman and NO IDEA what the hell was wrong with her. It turned out to be an anyeurism in her brain and she survived, but not because of anything I did [except get her the *F* to the hospital].
I later transferred her. That was a cool transfer, because it was Code 3 for 45 minutes, and because I had seen her when she first went down.

The pregnant woman with intermittent rapid heart rate.

Dead guy OD in his mom's guest bedroom at christmas. Merry Christmas, Ma. Good grief, what are people thinking doing drugs in their mom's guest bedroom at 50 years of age. Seriously.

Crochet hook intentionally placed in the penis, lost up the urethra and perforated the bladder and intestines, requiring surgical repair.

5,000 car crashes where all occupants walk away unscathed. Thank heaven for seat belts.

Frequent flyer diabetic, thin as a rail, sweats like a pig and pees her pants when she goes down. Seriously needs a wakeup call to better manage her disease. Her kids keep finding her passed out in her own pee. Protein and vegetables, every few hours. It's not that hard. Test your blood sugar. Take your insulin.

Hand caught in the machinery at the flour factory. Bloody bread, anyone?

Arm caught in the planer at the sawmill. Circumferential lacerations to the bone. Pieces of muscle falling out of his arm like hamburger onto the floor. Stoic. No complaints. Lots of pain. A surgeon managed to save his arm and he went back to work at the same sawmill several months later.

So many stories! I go back soon. The 17th of August is my first shift. I'll have some more stories to share once I return, I am sure of it [and there are hundreds more saved in my brain, and hundreds more I've forgotten, I'm sure!] Hooray for interesting jobs!


Tania Grim said...

WOW! Melissa. Your job sure is challenging. I can't even find words for this. Hugs. Ps can't wait to see you soon

Tonya said...

Ok, I couldn't even read that. How in the world do you do your job? Seriously? I felt like puking at a couple and panicking at a few others. And those were the ones I was brave enough to quickly glance at.

Deb said...

You may hate transfers, but I sure appreciated the ambulance people who took me to Women's (I was SO excited to see them, although I couldn't show it due to a massive migrane), I couldn't wait to get out of Langley and go somewhere where they could do something. And the guys who transfered Aria & I to Surrey were just great! It meant a lot to have such wonderful people taking care of us - the guys taking me to Women's even put on the siren for a few seconds just for fun! They were great - with great senses of humour, and I felt very well taken care of. Yes, to them it was probably the equivalent of carrying coffee, but it meant a lot to me to know that IF something did happen, they would actually know what to do. Of course, the fact nothing did just reiterates YOUR point, but know that even on those days, you are doing phenomenal work.

Janet said...

Can I just say WHOA? Wow. That is quite the little job you have there. I could NEVER.NEVER.NEVER do that. EVER. I'm just sayin'.....:-) THANK YOU for doing that job. I can't even imagine.

PS- My mother is a brittle diabetic and has CRAZY wonky blood sugars. She is VERY concious of her health and eats exactly what she is supposed to. Yet she still has issues. Sometimes it runs a bit deeper....oh, and she does have Addison's disease too, which affects things. But I'm just saying that sometimes diabetics can't control everything.

Roboseyo said...

WOW! The most drama MY job ever features is a little staff room gossip, the ocassaional complaining student, or student who doesn't want to work hard, and the odd witty remark.

Thanks for sharing.

Dana said...

Ok, I was alternately fascinated and wishing I wasn't reading what I was reading. Hats off to you and your colleagues. I sort of want you to share more stories and sort of hope you won't. ;)

Asheya said...

Just a thought...if you find transfers boring, do you think you might find midwifery boring? According to the stats 90% of women have healthy births and can give birth naturally, with no interventions. This number may be higher for those who qualify for midwifery care in BC. In my opinion, the job of a good midwife is to do a lot of nothing, just hanging out with the woman, the equivalent of holding someone's hand in the ambulance, except in those rare cases when she needs to know how to intervene most effectively.

Probably working as a doula will help give you some good insight into whether the process of normal labour and birth itself is interesting enough for you. As a doula you could make yourself available for those with high risk cases, although you wouldn't be able to do that as a midwife. Anyway, just some thoughts!