Administration and Leadership, Equipment & Gear, Operations, Patient Care

EMS Patients Aren’t the Only Stupid Ones

Issue 6 and Volume 35.

Our acutely distraught patient had chosen to end his life in a most dramatic fashion. He had consumed a significant amount of whiskey and smoked one last cigarette before driving his car off a scenic mountain pass into a jagged rocky ravine. With no guardrail to impede him, he floored the accelerator toward what he felt was sure death. Thelma and Louise would have been proud of the distance his vehicle/sarcophagus covered while hurtling into the abysmal chasm.

Vroom … crunch and munch … tone EMS out of lunch.

Prepared for a body recovery, the responding search-and-rescue and EMS crews were astounded to find the patient quietly sitting on a large boulder, smoking a cigarette a few yards from a of scrap metal and stone. Even more surprisingly, a thorough patient assessment revealed only minor scrapes and bruises—with the exception of one major gouge to his ego.

“I can’t even kill myself right,” he slurred, attempting to hang his head in shame despite the immobilization being applied. Along with the routine patient history gathering—including the question, “Were you driving a Toyota?”—a medic asked about seatbelts. The patient said, “Of course I wore a seatbelt. I’m not stupid!”
Humans have been stupid for a long time. But this actual call, told to me by a colleague, demonstrates that our patients can still be original in their stupidity. We in EMS know all too well that there are a lot of people out there who are bound and determined to stay SOS (stuck on stupid). We’ve grown accustomed to seeing and treating those who don’t T4 (Think Things Through Thoroughly).

OK, I promise that was my last acronym. I’m a medical acronym abuser in recovery since this past month’s column on MAAD (Medics Against Acronym Desecration). I now regularly attend AA (Acronyms Anonymous) meetings.

The dictionary defines stupid as “careless, outlandish, nonsensical, goofy, ridiculous, eruptive, slow and silly” … or CONGRESS for short. I don’t care what I promised; there was no way I was going to pass that one up. We know environmental factors can increase one’s risk for stupidity—namely alcohol/C2H3OH. (That’s not an acronym by the way. It’s chemistry mumbo-jumbo for the acronym ETOH).
I think technology also plays a larger role in people at least appearing stupid. We’ve become so distracted in our multi-media, multitasking lives that we literally run into a lot more things that are right in front of us.

Without wanting to appear sexist, I believe males tend to multiply their stupidity whilst gathering sans female—especially if they have too much free time. It begins at a young age when someone DDDs (double dog dares —sorry) you. I refer, of course, to Flick in A Christmas Story, whe he gah his tong stu tu a po. As males grow older, a DDD gives way to, “Hold my beer and watch this.” Should a person of the XX chromosome appear, the tendency for the male species to act stupid and hurt themselves will multiply tenfold as they attempt to impress said maiden with their manly acts of bravery (i.e., stupidity).

This past summer, my partner and I were returning from a call on a highway when my partner noticed a pickup truck traveling parallel to us on a dirt road at about the same speed. A teenage girl was standing in the truck bed. She was trying to keep her balance while grasping the roll bar with one hand and waving at us with the other. My partner turned to me and said, “This is why EMS will never have to worry about running out of business.”

I laughed, thinking at the time, “You can’t cure stupid.” Then it suddenly occurred to me, “What’s the difference between this girl and us providing care unrestrained in the back of a moving ambulance at the same speed?” The answer, of course, is that there’s none.

In Forrest Gump, Forrest was fond of saying, “Stupid is as stupid does.” It was a simple way of saying, “Stupid is predictable.” Gordon Graham, a prolific speaker I’ve often heard advocating quality assurance for the public safety sector, is fond of saying, “What is predictable is preventable and what is preventable is predictable.” Both statements are worth remembering.

The number one killer of EMS providers is treating a patient in the back of an ambulance while en route to a hospital. Do we wear seatbelts in the patient compartment? Do we secure our portable equipment? Do we demand that ambulance manufacturers create a safe transport environment? Do we wear helmets to protect our vulnerable skulls in the ambulance and at emergency scenes?

The typical response I hear when I even mention EMS providers wear helmets is, “Helmets? Helmets?! I’ll never wear a helmet in the back of an ambulance.” Well, may I remind you that this response comes from the very same people who once said they’d never wear gloves or eye protection. You don’t have to be in an accident to be a survivor. Duh!

Until next time, stay safe. I double dog dare you! JEMS