Monthly Archives: December 2014

Hey, Ambulance Driver!

Most people in EMS consider being called “an ambulance driver” a dis’.

“If a nurse calls me an ‘ambulance driver’—I call them a ‘bed pan changer'”.

Screw that! Driving is the best part. When I first started in EMS it was because I wanted to drive the big-ass truck with the lights and the sirens.


Okay, so the reality is you don’t blast through intersections or drive like a maniac. That’s just in Hollywood (and my Wednesday partner, Steve). But, still… driving code 3 is every bit as awesome as you’d expect. Some trucks even come equipped with a train horn.

But the really, best part of driving the amber-lamps, is the cb radio. Behold:


Yeah, you kids today with your txting and twittering and sideways smiley-faces, have no idea how much fun a CB can be. Brings back great memories of rollin’ down the highway in the family truckster—watching out for “Kojaks with Kodaks”—every time I say:

“County, this is Unit 123 responding…”



You don’t have to be crazy to work here, but where are we?

IMG_2000In ambulancing, transport jobs are not as glamorous as the 911 stuff.

But they do have their moments (Like Christmas Eve, when we raced “Mr. Jones” two hours through the fog and rain to get him to the OR where a new liver was waiting).

But last night was not one of those nights. No, last night was one of those night.

First there was “Mrs. Crabtree”. A/O X 0 (That’s alert and oriented times zero). 

Me: “Are you Mrs. Crabtree?”

Mrs. C: “No.”

Me (after checking name on hospital bracelet): “Are you sure?”

Mrs. C: “No.”

Me: “Are you ready to go then?”

Mrs. C: “NO!!!!!!”

I was convinced the only thing she could say was “no”. Until halfway through the transport she called me a bastard. Okay, patient is improving: A/O X 1.

Then we had “Mrs. What-is-her-last-name-again”? And that’s not me trying to protect her identity here on the internet. I really couldn’t keep her name in my head.

Something strange started happening in that 11th hour of our 10 hour shift. I don’t know if I was just over-tired—I have been on every day since Christmas with Mr. Jones—or if I was getting contact-dementia.


And things only got worse. We finally packaged Mrs. W. up and got her on our stretcher. But my partner and I couldn’t find our way out of the hospital. (It didn’t help that the elevator buttons had letters instead of numbers). You know that feeling of looking for your car in a mall parking lot, when you forgot where you parked? Now imagine that, but you’re pulling a stretcher behind you with Mrs. W. asking, “What happened to Benny? Is Benny okay?”

We finally found the door and loaded Mrs. W. onto the bus. On route, the GPS kept trying to send me the wrong way, down one-way roads: Three miles became six, and six became twelve.

“Where are we going?” I hear from the back. “Are we going to see, Benny?”

Lady, I have no idea where we’re going.

Finally, we found the facility. A steep, curving, unlit road lead to an ambulance entrance with an awning one foot shorter than our bus.

Am I loosing my mind? Who designed these places?

I backed us slowly, down the long, dark hill and found another door. We got buzzed in and entered a labyrinth. Every hall, looked the same. Every nursing station was the same. The only distinguishable feature was the guy in his underwear who sounded like Tom Waits, groaning.

We found our patient’s room and turned over care.

We made our way down the hall, past the Tom Waits guy and got a nurse to buzz us out.

Our shift was finally done. And we didn’t even get lost going back to base. But I swear I lost a piece of my mind last night.

Luckily, I’m off duty today. I just hope Benny is okay.


I’ve never been a fan of Norman Rockwell. If we’re talking American art, I prefer Edward Hopper (also a fan of Dennis Hopper, but that’s another story).

I was going through some folders yesterday, and I found these photos from this October, which I had forgotten I had taken:


They reminded of Edward Hopper …


who said, “there is a sort of elation about sunlight on the upper part of a house”.


… and cutting into it with a chainsaw is pretty dope, too.
(Or so my friends in Fire all say).

et tu, Santa Claus?

In case you don’t know, EMS is long hours and low pay.

At the end of my third 12 in a row last night, I did some quick math: Between my regular shifts, getting held over, and time commuting to post, I have been spending more of my life in motion these days than not.


It is a relief then, that some hospitals hook us EMS workers up with free snacks and coffee.

On Friday, we dropped off a little old lady who had bumped her head. Before leaving the ER, I went to grab some water from the EMS fridge by the door:


you know the one:



Okay, maybe in the EMS room at the next facility:


I was beginning to feel like Rodney Dangerfield (ask your parents). Dispatch was kicking our ass. There was no time to stop.

Finally, at the next hospital guess who comes bopping down the hall? Santa Claus and a helper. Since it was just a few days before Christmas, he was there handing out candy canes to the sick and injured. (Even grumpy old me couldn’t help but think that was excellent).

Until, he blew right past me and my partner without a single Ho ho ho.

Being a little road weary, I said out loud, what I only intended to think to myself:

“What’s up dude, no candy cane for the working man?”

What the fuck is wrong with me?

Santa wasn’t amused. But his cute helper, I’ll call her Sally, hooked me up with a little sugar when she went by.

Thanks, Sally. This is why we do it.


Hearing Voices/Tooth Pain

Recently, I had to drive to a destination I wasn’t familiar with. I typed the address into the truck’s GPS, but it couldn’t find the location. Being new around here, these are the kind of problems I hate.


“Ready when you are,” My partner yells from the back, working her patient.

“One sec.”

I ditch the GPS, and type the address into my phone’s navigator, instead. Bingo!

“Dispatch, unit 123, en route”

I put the rig in gear and go. I get to the end of the first block, and two computerized voices speak at once (one from the GPS; one from the phone):


“At the end of the road make a left/At the end of the road make a right.” 


A few months have passed since the above incident, and I have acquired a more modern GPS unit.

So, yesterday I’m with a partner who is even more green than me. That’s saying a lot.

A call comes in as “tooth pain” but when we arrive on scene, we discover the patient has no teeth. Yup, it’s gonna’ be one of those calls. We handled the call pretty successfully for a couple of rookies. As we’re driving back to post we discuss the call.

“Seemed like a classic schizophrenic to me,” I say.

“Yeah,” agrees my partner. “He did say at one point, he was ‘hearing voices.'”

And as my partner says the word “voices,” a computerized voice from the windshield interrupts:

“Voice command active!”

Seriously!? Either GPS technology has improved in the last few months—or I think I’m experiencing “tooth pain”.

Glad I have a day off.

60 to Zero, in 3 Seconds

Apparently this is was a $60K Mustang, Cobra:


The driver drove it directly from the dealership to his buddy’s house. To show it off, he pulled out of the driveway, dropped into third, and floored it.

Since this thing is basically a race car on wheels, the ass end couldn’t keep up with the front end, and the car got squirrelly. As the driver stated, “it just…. got away from” him.


Luckily, everyone walked/crawled away, more or less, okay. Except perhaps the driver’s insurance card.