Death can be a touchy subject, one that some people don't feel comfortable talking about. Although I can understand a certain sensitivity around the subject, I don't think it's my style to not talk about my work just because someone could be offended. Judging from my first few shifts, I will probably see quite a bit of it and may feel like the occassional story is worth passing along. Consider yourself warned.
On Friday morning I finished my first set and am now on my four days off. All of yesterday morning and afternoon were spent at the Volkswagen dealer in Maple Ridge getting our belated inspection, oil change and wheel alignment completed for the new Jetta. In the evening Les and I went out for dinner at the Frog and Firken before seeing "There Will Be Blood" at the Hollywood theatre while my Mom took care of the kids.
Both of my night shifts were pretty busy, between doing stuff around the hall and responding to calls. Although it will soon become second nature, just being in the right place with the right gear on when the alarms ring is a challenge in itself. Because everything is new and unfamiliar, it takes me a bit longer to get ready....and nobody wants to wait for the rookie to get on the truck. For example, minutes after my shift started on Wednesday night we got a call for smoke coming from a building. I had to run to the bay and open the door, change out of my station gear, into my boots and turnout gear and grab my helmut and be on the truck in under a minute. Then as we raced towards the house I had to get my SCBA pack on and be ready to breath air, without falling out of my seat. None of it is extremely difficult...but all of it is challenging when it is new and time is of the utmost importance.
The fire turned out just to be a guy cooking over an open log fire in the carport....but, as the guys pointed out, there was flame and I was required to extinguish it with water, so it therefore counted as my first, albeit very minor, fire. Later that night I went to my first car accident. Although we didn't have to use the jaws to extricate anybody, I did get to spend 20 minutes crunched up in the back seat of a Toyota Tercel holding C-spine on a victim that had been rear ended by a van. Later that night we went to a call where an old man was having a cardiac arrest. Although I am sure to see many elderly people going through similar ordeals, I don't think I will ever forget how much pain this guy was in when the ALS paramedics gave him a shock. It was quite something to be part of the life saving effort as we helped a team of 4 paramedics administer a series of shocks, medications, hormones and airway interventions to keep this guy alive. After about an hour on scene the patient was stable enough to transport to hospital.
The next night was just as busy and included a very surreal moment for me. Just as the Canucks playoff hopes we coming to an end, we were called out to a truck on the side of the highway, whose driver was found slumped on the floor. He was a big guy jammed into a tight space, so we had quite the challenge pulling him out. My partner and I checked...no breathing, no pulse. No more training dummies, it was time to start my first CPR while my partner got the bag-valve mask. Not long afterwards the police and ambulance pulled up. Because the only flat place to work on the patient was on the highway, cones, flares and blockades by police were set up, making the scene look like a major disaster centre. The paramedic who arrived took over the bag-valve mask from my partner and continued the breathing for the patient. As he started counting I immediately recognized the voice. The only paramedic I know who works in greater Vancouver, my former boss and current friend John, happened to be the guy next to me bagging while I did compressions. Very surreal. Ingrossed in his job, John hadn't reconized me when he came in, so was quite surprised when I turned my head and said "Hi John, good to see you". Just like the night before, a team of 8 of us worked to keep him alive, this time with CPR accompanying the defibrilator and drug cocktails. Despite the fact that he was young and showed no outward indications of what had caused his heart to stop, there was nothing that could bring him back. I don't envy the paramedic who had to leave our group surrounding the patient to go and tell his wife and 5 other relatives, who had gathered at the scene,that he was gone.