As the years go by in my EMS life, there are fewer and fewer unique experiences. There are endless variations on a theme, of course, and enough variety in the human condition to keep it interesting—even after more than a quarter of a century. Lurking in the hamster-wheel of EMS, in the groundhog day of life in the big city, is still the occasional first. Last week I had a first: I actually got to witness a "patient" in the act of calling 9-1-1.
Poor Barry. I don’t know what his diagnosis actually is, but it manifests itself in almost daily calls to 9-1-1. Nasal congestion, mental anguish, self-harm, whatever. Every service has its regulars. Many systems have their regulars, their frequent fliers, their dailies, and every big city has its many-times-a-dailies. My personal record was a hat trick: the same guy three times in one day. That guy’s MO was to eat at a restaurant; then, after eating and drinking, he’d fall on the ground and have a "seizure."
One of the mysteries of the many-times-a-dailies is their ability to mysteriously transport themselves around town, so they can be picked up by different units in various locations. We would take this chucklhead to the hospital, he would leave AMA, then he’d do the same thing a few hours later on the other side of town!
Every EMT knows that we're virtually helpless to do anything but load 'em up and ship 'em out. Dealing with such system abuse is above our pay grade, and those above our pay grade seem unwilling or unable to solve the problem. A quick search leads to scores of articles, plans, solutions and ideas for tackling the problem. Some systems have taken strides in this direction, some have not. Most are stuck.
Barry was the first call of the day on Saturday. He took a seat, and we were off to the hospital. On Sunday, we were returning from a call and there he was, standing by the gas station two blocks from the firehouse, on the payphone.
I said to my partner, "Hey, there’s Barry. He's on the phone."
My partner muttered a few expletives and said "I'll bet you anything he’s calling us."
Sure enough, we hadn't gotten half a block when the tones dropped, "Medic 11, respond to mental-emotional on … "
"Hey Barry, what’s up?"
So if you can beat my record of three in a day, please write in and tell your story. For the fur-lined bathtub award of the day, let's see who's got the record.