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Friday, May 29, 2009

Anyone Can Do My Job

by Steven P. Velasquez
May 29, 2009

So what does it take to do my job? Well to begin with, watch a few episodes of "ER", "Third Watch" and "House." Then read a couple of tabloid stories in the local news rag and lastly, take a few completely unrelated classes in a community college and bring some strong opinions with you too! 

Jesus Christ! I sometimes live a personal nightmare with my, all too often, misunderstood profession. Oh no, please don't think it's because of the recurrent dreams I have of the screams and the cries of the injured, the ill and the maimed. Oh no, this nightmare takes place when I'm conscious, when I'm completely alert and when I'm performing the thing I do most next to breathing these days -- my job! 

I received a double-whammy a few weeks ago while assigned to the medic unit that covers Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, NJ. My partner and I were dispatched to one of the terminals for a baby with a head injury. Allegedly, the two (or so) year-old tyke fell from a standing position, out of her stroller face first against the carpeted floor. Her injury pattern consisted of a about a 1 inch long red bruise along her cheek, or what we professionally refer to as a boo boo. She also was reportedly stunned after the fall but had since become -- (deep breath) her normal, playful self (gasp!). 

The family had abandoned their overseas flight so as not to face the possibility of a trans-Atlantic medical catastrophe with their little one. So far, my partner and I are ok with their decision. Who wants to gamble with the little one's right? A little over-cautious for my taste, but I'm not there to be anyone's judge. We offered transportation to the nearest ED for an examination (for their peace of mind more than anything). 

Our first problem was the police officer who greeted us at the scene. The very concerned officer came to us with a look of consternation and emphatically exclaimed "she absolutely needs to go get checked out." We didn't disagree, but we also hadn't seen the patient yet. After all of our findings pointed to an unremarkable exam, I thought "hey brudda, I promise I won't catch any burglars or bad guys if you promise not to try to play Paramedic ok?" Jeez!! 

The hysterical mother of the "seriously injured" child then speed dials her father who's what?? The medical muckety muck director of some hospital in South Jersey. Crying and hyperventilating, she exclaims: "She's had a terrible fall and..." Holy misrepresentation of facts Batman!! 

Her dad told her that more than likely, it's nothing but you can never be too cautious. She was then about to dial the home of her surely sleeping pediatrician to awake him and seek his input! Somebody stop this lady before she speed dials the situation room at the White House and I have B.O. on the scene asking me to put this child on a "breathalyzer!" Good Lord!! 

My partner and I look at each other like we've crossed a time-space continuum into some alternate universe where wrong is right, down is up and I'm sure you can figure out the rest. The entire time, we are continuing to offer our assessment findings, a list of the signs and symptoms of concussion, head injury etc... And most of all, transportation to a very good hospital just a few minutes away! 

"Will they give her a CAT Scan immediately?" she breathlessly asked. Both of us explained that while that may be a possibility, the probability is low in the absence of those things, oh what are they called? Ummm? Oh yeah SYMPTOMS!!! 

We skillfully and eloquently began to diffuse the parental anxiety and began to introduce some semblance of sanity to the situation when all of a sudden we were confronted by yet another medical "expert," the "Ticket Chick!" That's right folks, from checking your ticket, to pointing you to first class or coach, to diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injury, this one-stop airline has it all! The Ticket Chick pokes her head into our huddle, looks at my partner and I and while pointing her finger at us states "this baby could have a brain injury or cerebral bleed and needs a CAT Scan right now!" "Perhaps you haven't heard about what recently happened to Natasha Richardson!" 

AAAAHHHHH!!! That's it!! I've had it! No offense to Natasha or her family but I knew this crap was going to happen! I called it on the day we all heard of her passing. More so, the way in which her injury progressed. I knew we would have a public knee-jerk response and have everyone with a cranial boo boo being "rushed to the hospital by ambulance" to get a CAT Scan so they don't suffer the same outcome. 

When we politely asked what Ticket Chick's credentials (if any) are, she replies "I'm in nursing school." My partner and I were about to crack, but I'm new at this employer and am taking it as coolly as possible. Between the two of us, there's more than 30 years of ALS (advanced life support) experience and we're being schooled by civil servants, hysterical parents, their endless list of life-line's and The Ticket Chick who's studying the very basics of patient care. Oh and of course, the family is at the peak of hysteria again because Ticket Chick referenced her professional medical opinion with a paragraph she probably glanced over in the 
"National Enquirer!" 

In closing, the cops went back to preventing crime in one of the nation's largest international airports. The family signed a refusal of medical attention from us and had a "faith based" EMS service respond (approx. 70 miles) from Ocean County to the airport to transport the child back to where daddy's influence could fire up a CAT Scan for peace of mind. Ticket Chick apologized for interjecting and told us of some of the things learning in LPN school! And the two of us returned to serve the rest of society. 

Believe me, Anyone Can Do My Job.