Wednesday, June 12, 2013
“This ain’t right,” my partner sleepily articulated with eyes half open as our rig cautiously approached a darkened residence. After verifying the address with dispatch, I reaffirmed the numbers on the house with our spotlight. It was quiet … too quiet. Not a creature was stirring—not even in the house.
It only took four minutes for police backup to arrive, which isn’t all that unusual at 0300 hours. Four officers (based on the number of beams from mag-lights accessing the scene) approached the front steps cautiously. My partner and I, with penlights in hand, stood by the ready. Ready to run away, that is.
“Police!” shattered the tranquil air as they knocked loudly on the door of the darkened entryway. Still, no lights were turned on within the dwelling even after the police rebroadcasted their presence, guns now drawn. As I began to draw my own 14-gauge angiocaths, the front door of the residence opened slowly, revealing a shirtless, unintimidating young man in his 30s.
Within a few minutes of the police having made contact with our “unknown medical,” one of the officers waved us in with his Maglite as his fellow compadres continued to engage our patient in a conduct, body-language wise, that appeared markedly less than cordial.
“Dudes … chill. I just need to borrow your flashlight for a few minutes,” I overheard our patient say to our now obviously peeved protectors of the law. With their rolling eyes gesturing me toward the patient, I noticed our 9-1-1 caller holding his right index finger.
“I know it’s in there. I just can’t see it,” he whined with squinting eyes. My penlight revealed a grotesque shard of kindling, deeply entrenched through not only the epidural and dermal layers of skin, but (gasp) possibly encroaching the subcutaneous tissue itself.
“You called us for a splinter?” I uttered through clenched incisors.
“Don’t be silly,” he bemoaned, apparently insulted by my insinuation. “I can remove a stupid splinter by myself. It’s just that the utility company turned off my electricity for lack of adequate funds on my part. Thus, I cannot see the infringing unsolicited sliver of timber imbedded within my being. I simply need a light to procure this unwelcome fragmentation.” It was all I could do to restrain my emotions, including suggesting an offer of penlight engagement (much less the police officer’s Maglite) within a cavity unrelated to his offending impediment. I walked away bewildered by this fraction of our social order oblivious to the term common sense.
Wikipedia defines a medical emergency as an injury or illness that is acute and poses an immediate risk to a person’s life or long-term health. I would like to propose an addendum to help clarify precisely what an abrupt health crisis is … or more importantly, what it isn’t.
A medical emergency does not include:
Toothaches, lemon juice in the eye, blood tick eradication, zit infestation, ingrown fingernails, hangovers, inability to read or open a Rx med bottle, strange odors coming from the toilet, ankle pain that began six years earlier, not wanting to drive in the snow, sniffles, sore muscles from weight lifting, vomiting once, burrito supreme overdose, creepy-crawly insects stuck in the ear, itchy hemorrhoids, stubborn warts, irritating mosquito bites, perpetual hiccupping, painful lactation, requests to euthanize a spouse, louder than normal flatulence, nicotine withdrawal, inability to manage Grandpa anymore, child snorting catnip, livid children holding their breath, miniscule digital wounds, isolated skin rashes, painful feet from standing all day, nausea, hair loss, not wanting to wait in triage, your daughter experiencing her first menses cycle, insomnia, prophylactic acquisition, offending halitosis, 24-hour flu going on its 26th hour, inability to afford a taxi, high cholesterol, colorless urine, failure to conceive, two days of constipation, a foreign speck in the eye, cold sores, athlete’s foot, compulsive gambling or minor nose bleeds from a self-purging of the nostril.
I am quite sure some of you can easily go one better than these, and I would love to hear about them. But the fact remains, on average 6% of all 9-1-1 EMS responses are actually true emergencies, and yet the general public is accessing emergency healthcare 10 times more than they did in prior generations.
This begs the question: Have we become a privileged nation of helpless self-centered wimps? Has the stupid gene severed our synaptic clefts allied to logical reasoning and independent problem solving? Has social media, which tends to market more fear than credible health information, drummed into our brains a sense of obsessive paranoia when it comes to our physical condition? Where does this exploitation of our services come from? The answer: It doesn’t matter.
Unlike Aesop’s parable from “The Boy Who Cried Wolf,” you will respond in the same way, with the same intensity, each and every @%$! time, regardless of those shameless few who subscribe to the credence of entitlement. That’s what makes you my hero, I guess. You’re entitled to it.
Until next time, remember: A sense of self-absorbed entitlement is the tranquilizer of logic that darkens common sense—despite Maglite illumination.