Larry and Phil to the rescue!
I didn't consider, when volunteering as an EMT, how great that would
look on my presidential resume! However, now that I'm in the
race, I hope that whatever experiences spring to memory, will not
encourage you to vote for one of my opponents.
Our community uses volunteer EMT's. That means we had to be
trained like paid professionals, only we weren't paid like, well, paid
professionals. The classes were long and fairly boring, except that if
you didn't learn the details, you could kill someone by your lack of
knowledge. That, plus the blood filled trauma slide shows, helped
to keep us awake.
Larry, as usual with his
hobbies, soon got a whole kit of scissors, tape, bandages,
resusitator mask, and blood pressure cuff. He went everywhere
with his medical fanny pack. I settled for the resusitator mask
and a scissors, since I figured I'd made it through life this far
without doing any lifesaving, so I'd probably make it a lot farther as
This would be true, if it weren't for
the fact that the pagers we wore drew us, from whatever we were doing,
to where the action was. That action, in our small town,
frequently involved booze and cars, generally together. The cars
generally were beyond help, but the people were another matter.
were stories told of a lawyer picked up from his car rollover
(allegedly) drunk, who declared himself cured and demanded to be
released from the ambulance just after the ambulance was across the
county line, out of the local sheriff's jurisdiction. There was
the time a young man and woman were pretty well dinged up from a one
vehicle rollover, and neither claimed to be able to remember who was
driving the car. They could have done well testifying to Congress.
I like to live isolated in my own cosmos (although I like other flowers
as well). EMT work put me in touch with a lot of what's not
beautiful, but is extremely real: Holding disturbed
people's hands to keep them from freaking out and hurting either you or
them, trying to find words of comfort for someone who took an
overdose of pills and then got scared and called for the ambulance.
Giving a terminal patient a final ride to the the hospital, with
only administering oxygen to ease their labored breath. Giving a
quadriplegic a ride to the hospital to try to get his body back in
shape to keep living.
There were a lot of
disturbing juxtapositions with EMT work. We would throw candy out
to kids in parades, and later that day be hauling a diabetic who wasn't
managing his insulin. Our own physical proportions echoed that of
the populace as a whole, and we were as likely to be diabetic or on
heart medicine as the people we would transport. But Larry, with
his extreme sports addictions, and me, as a door-to-door banjo
salesman, were in better shape than some...
It was lucky that we were on duty together that day, when the kid got
stuck up in a tree. Usually an ambulance isn't called for cats or
kids in trees, but in this case the kid started to fall from higher up,
and caught his leg around a limb, breaking the tibula-fibula. The
fire crew was there with the ladder, but because the kid was
complaining about his leg so much, they wanted us to go up and splint
it before extracting him.
There's a routine for entering any injury scene, called the
ABCD's-Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disabilities. We could
hear the kid crying, so we know he had the A, B, and C part down.
The fireman reported his lower leg was twisted, which was indeed
a pretty good sign his leg was broken, as far as Disabilities go.
But EMT's aren't allowed to diagnose anything, so it was a
"possible tib-fib painful swollen extremity."
Larry had done so many climbing type sports that he knew no fear when
approaching the tree. I knew fear, and was a lot less likely to
end up like the kid, and possibly Larry, by climbing with 3 points
touching at all times. So Larry got to where the kid was before
me, by climbing the tree, while I took the ladder.
We had standard issue teddy bears donated to our squad to give to kids
who were traumatized. So Larry's first act was to pull one out of
his fanny pack and hand it to the kid, and say in a stupid voice,
"Hi! I'm Super Bear, and I'm here to help get you out of the
The kid, who was probably about 12,
said, "How about splinting my leg so the fireman can get me out
Larry then figured out that the kid was
using too many hands holding onto the tree to be able to hold the bear.
"I'll scout out the way to the ground," said Larry, in what I presume
was supposed to be his Super Bear voice," and he threw the bear to the
ground, and the waiting coterie of rubber necking loiterers had a laugh.
There are a number of splints EMT's use, none of them specifically
designed to be applied in a tree. Some old ones we had were like
a tube of air, blown up by mouth, like an air mattress. There was
a big one with traction in case someone broke their upper leg, but you
couldn't get that on up there. There was even one that worked by
sucking the air out of the plastic tube with a special pump, leaving a
stiff bag of polystyrene beads as the support.
decided to go with the air splint, as it could be inflated by one of us
while the other held it in position, with slight traction. After
it was inflated, I checked for a pulse on the top of his foot, to make
sure his circulation wasn't compromised, and we handed him over to the
fireman, who had a cooler hat and uniform and place in society than we
After all that, we didn't take him to the
hospital, since his parents had shown up, and decided to take him
themselves, saving them a hefty transportation bill. We were
never supposed to encourage patients to leave our care, but the parents
had the legal right to make the decision for the child, so there was
nothing we could do.