Death & Life

tales from the street


Guy H. Haskell | | Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Like I said in my Feb. column, "Don't Forget the Hat", I had to wait about 10 years for my first stork pin, but I didn't have to wait long afterward for my second although when it came, it taught me a lesson on death and life.

Medic 85 was toned out first for a cardiac arrest. We were toned out second for backup. It was late afternoon, and we pulled up behind 85 at a modest, single-family house in a midtown residential neighborhood. We went up to the open side doors of 85 to see if we needed to bring in any remaining equipment, but they had already gotten the monitor, jump kit, drug box and suction.|

The front door was open, leading into the kitchen. The patient was on the floor, in full arrest. He was young, in his 30s, and looked fit. I was surprised at how fast the first arriving crew had gotten everything done intubated, bagged, IV, monitor, epi and atropine. Impressive. There wasn't much for us to do but get the backboard and cot and help with loading and transport.

Todd said the guy was a high school coach, with no history, found by his wife. We worked him to the ED but never got him out of asystole. Doc worked him for a while, but there was no turning back the clock this time. This was a sad one.

But death is part of life, and I was just about to experience new life. We were cleaning up and restocking the rig when one of the nurses yelled, "Hey, Guy, can you help take her up to maternity?" Huh? Who? Oh, her. I looked where she was pointing. At the sliding glass doors to the ED was a large lady in a wheelchair. Standing behind the chair, wide eyed and pale, was a little candy-striper, a volunteer from the high school.

I put the supplies I'd been carrying on the nursing station and walked to the doors. "Hurry, hurry, hurry" the woman groaned. "OK, ma'am, we'll get you upstairs." Why is it that the Labor and Delivery department is always on the second floor? Is that like a national standard or something?

So we get on the elevator, the lady now chanting "it's coming it's coming it's coming." The doors open, and we squint as our eyes try to adjust from the bright fluorescence of the ED to the mood lighting of L & D. It's quiet as a funeral home on a Monday morning. She came in by private car, so of course nobody has been notified. "Hello," I holler, "need some help here." Two nurses come ambling down the hall. "She's having it now." "But we weren't notified. We're not prepared . . . " I roll her into the first open room. We all grab what we can and try to propel our patient onto the bed. She is a bit beamy, so the wheelchair starts to levitate with her. Somebody holds her on the bed, while we try to pry the chair off her posterior.

"IT'S . . . COMING . . . NOW!" I turn around, and the nurses are gone. The little candy-striper is standing in the corner, shaking. "Where'd they go?" I ask. "To get the doctor." Then I feel a tearing pain on my bicep as the mother sinks her nails into my arm. "I . . . SAID . . . NOW!" "OK, mom, I guess, well-let 'er rip." And out he squirmed. I just managed to catch him before he yo-yo'd off the end of the bed, though it was like trying to chase down the last Vienna sausage in the skillet with a toothpick. I grabbed the bulb syringe and went to town, dried him off, and here come the nurses with a doc in tow. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go clean this goop off my boots.

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Related Topics: Patient Care, Cardiac and Circulation, Special Patients, Guy Haskell

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Guy H. HaskellGuy H. Haskell, PhD, JD, NREMT-P, has been an EMS provider and instructor for more than 25 years and in four states. He is a paramedic with Indianapolis EMS, Director of Emergency Medical and Safety Services Consultants, LLC, firefighter/paramedic with Benton Township Volunteer Fire Department of Monroe County, Indiana, and Clinical Editor of EMS for Gannett Healthcare. Contact him via e-mail at


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