Sunday, November 8, 2009

First night shift, and then some...

Wednesday night I worked my first night shift since I went back to work after my maternity leave. Until now I wasn't sure Riley could handle being separated from me overnight, but since we started sleep training him I can see that he is capable of going to sleep for Brent and that he has developed more flexibility surrounding the who/what/where of sleep. I was apprehensive, though. Riley breastfeeds a MINIMUM of twice between midnight and 8 a.m., and generally three or four times. I pumped some milk and wished Brent luck.

People who work shift work often complain about night shifts. Nights are long, boring, difficult, and mess with the body's internal rhythms. It takes days to recover. Everyone else is sleeping when they are up, and up when they are sleeping. This is true. But I love night shifts. If I had to do them as often as someone who works full time shift work, I might not like them as much, but I've always liked being up at night when everyone else is sleeping. It's so peaceful. The advantages of night shifts in my particular spot in the world are (#1) almost no transfers!, (#2) good car crashes, (#3) the right amount of busy-ness. Enough to keep it interesting and ensure we get paid for at least part of the night, but not so much that we can't catch an hour or two of sleep here and there. Just an hour makes a huge difference for one's ability to make it through a night shift.
So, although I was worried about leaving Riley behind, I was looking forward to my first night shift. Life did not disappoint! My job is so cool! We had the ambulance helicopter out TWICE in one night--once for the Infant Transport Team to fly a premature baby from our hospital to Children's Hospital, and once for a car crash. We were SO BUSY all night. We had 3 calls for people with "I have the flu/my child has the flu and I'm scared I am/my child is going to die!!" [p.s. 8-1-1, the nurse's line in BC, is generally a very helpful health care tool. During the H1N1 flu season, it is decidedly NOT SO] [p.s. #2 if you have the flu and are sick but not experiencing numb extremities, loss of consciousness, or difficulty breathing, you don't need an ambulance]
So we did some masking up, and some reassuring, and some ventolin for a very sick, very inebriated man whose lungs were so full of fluid we could hear it from across the room. I wasn't sure if he had the flu or not. When you're drunk, it can be very hard to give a paramedic your medical history or help her ascertain if you have had a fever. [p.s. #3: don't smoke, or your old age will be miserable]
We had a call for a woman in labour and we get there and she's DRUNK. Nice.
Twin six month olds were hospitalized for the flu. Jeepers, they were cute. Chunkers.
And THEN, at 3 in the morning, this woman was driving her car, drunk, too fast, lost control, and hit a utility pole. Her car rolled over like a corkscrew, over and over for about 200 yards until it flipped end over end, ejected her and a passenger, ran OVER them, and hit another utility pole. The car was in 3 pieces. The people were trapped under the vehicle at 5 degrees celsius for a very long time, without painkillers. There was lots of yelling. There were six paramedics, a helicopter, ten firefighters and five police officers. I can't believe I get paid to do this job, it is so cool.
The driver and passenger were miraculously relatively unscathed. They will live without longterm damage or affects, and there weren't even any broken bones involved. The drunk ones always do.

Needless to say, by the end of the night, we were trashed. Happily so.

Then Friday I worked a ten hour transfer car shift, where we drove over 500 kilometers in a single shift, and only transported 3 patients!! Sometimes transfers are really, really long distances. And we worked 2 1/2 hours of overtime. I hate overtime. I really do. By the end of my shift I just want to GO HOME and see my kids. I don't care if I start making $48 dollars an hour, I just want to GO HOME. Whatever. It can't always happen.
So I got home just in time to put my kids to bed, have a shower, and crawl into bed again. Just to get up at 4:30 and do it all again. Yesterday I worked a 12 hour emergency car shift (not transfer car) which was equally busy, and which turned into a 15 hour SLOG. FIFTEEN HOURS. I woke up at 4:30, left for work at 5:10, started work at 6, didn't see the upstairs of the station until 11:40 because we were going from call to call, then wound up covering Abbotsford because they were so busy, wound up with a ridiculous transfer of an H1N1 cancer patient that an Abbotsford crew REFUSED TO TAKE because IT WAS UNSAFE because the patient had H1N1. Holy crap, was I ever mad. Holy CRAP, was my partner ever mad! If you can't wear your personal protective equipment and take proper precautions to avoid H1N1 infection, which we have been trained to do specifically in response to H1N1, you are in the WRONG LINE OF WORK. Most of the reason we were mad is that we got stuck with this transfer so our community has one less ambulance available to help them, because this Abbostford crew wouldn't do their job. And we didn't believe that they were afraid of the unsafe nature of the patient's condition. They just didn't want to drive all the way to Vancouver two hours before the end of their shift.
Lazy bastards.
I mean, I have kids at home, I don't want to bring them H1N1, my partner has little kids at home and he doesn't want to bring them H1N1--everyone has someone who "has to be protected" because they are higher risk. Everyone. But we all have to do our job or no one will get any health care. What a load of crap.

So we take this patient all the way to Vancouver. And the hospital makes us wait. And wait. And wait. And then on the drive back we get diverted to an anaphylaxis in Burnaby and I have NO IDEA WHERE THE HELL I'M DRIVING and we're so beyond tired after 13 1/2 hours of work so busy that we didn't eat, I didn't pump any milk [so my boobs are about to squirt milk at random passersby], and both of us are holding our pee. We were at that tired point where everything is funny, so we're driving around in circles with the lights and sirens on looking like IDIOTS and screaming with laughter. We eventually made it to the call, and props to the Burnaby firefighters; they were very nice, and gave me directions to the hospital, and were sympathetic to the fact that we were from out of town and didn't know where the heck we were going. They didn't even laugh at us in our presence :p
So we wait again in another hospital. And wait. And wait.
And then we get on the road and dispatch says "I know you are the dayshift, we'll try our best to get you home without any more calls." We narrowly miss a few, but when we get to Chilliwack Motorcross is on (remember the dirtbike racing that I totally disapprove of for kids? Yeah, there were calls there all day) and a code 3 comes in as we're driving by on the freeway and there's no way we can avoid being the closest car. It is now 8:30 at night and I can barely remember my own NAME anymore, let alone how to give proper medical care...

Fifteen hours, people. Plus commute, that makes a seventeen hour day. I got back and my kids were asleep. Brent is out of town on a hiking trip so they were at grandma's. I had to drive to grandma's, pack their stuff, put the dog in the car, put the kids in the car, go home, put everyone back to bed, unload the car, and finally have a shower. It reminded me of when Brent was in Regina for six months and I had to work so much....
At least now I'm not pregnant!! And it is VERY rare for me to work three days in one week, and rare to have overtime like that, two days in a row.

I think I'll go have a margarita. I've earned it, don't you think?


Louise and Gary Chapman said...

I'm exhausted just reading that. Good job saving lives!

Dana said...

I so enjoyed this post- you did a great job of communicating the feel of your last couple of days. Enjoy your margarita, you definitely deserve it!

Jen said...

I love hearing about your night shifts. I can so relate but I have to say it makes my busy night shifts seem easy. I'm not doing it with achey boobs and kids to take care of after. I am so thrashed after 12 hours of busy, hunger-filled shifts that I can't imagine doing overtime and then having a long commute home and then to having to pick up kids, etc... I hope you get some decent sleep in the next few days to get rested up.

lori lls said...

Super post. Nice visual we got of you and your partner riding around with the sirens going in a sleep-deprived delirium, you squirting milk. Awesome!

At the end, I first thought you wrote, "I think I'll go have a migraine. I've earned it, don't you think?" And yes, that would be true too, although I wouldn't sound so chipper about it. But a margarita, yessss, okay.

Tonya said...

Why don't you just stay at Sharon's when you're that tired and the kids are asleep and Brent is gone? I'm exhausted just reading about your weekend!