Thursday, December 30, 2010

Trauma Sponges

Work has been relatively slow past couple shifts, which is a nice respite after the go-go-cuckoo-ness of the middle of the month. Sure, we're still digging out fire hydrants and stumbling through knee-deep drifts from the street to the sidewalks, and the putative emergency routes are actually less wide than the single-sided streets thanks to the new no-fly zone the plows have been observing five feet from the curbs. Also, the regular work world is in that end-of-year torpor where half the offices are on vacation and flex schedules, teletubby commuting, and those of us on shift work keep wondering when the request for more shovels and toilet paper will be stamped and forwarded. Since the weekend before Xmas, there's been a skeleton crew in the Admin offices, which gives a sense of rudderlessness to the ship of state for those of us out in the satellite stations. Are you there, boss? It's me, your staff.

Xmas season is hard, and we managed to avoid, for the most part, depression tragedies. I've caught a few over the past decade: home for the holidays is too much, so the sad person disappears for a few hours, never to return. Shitty thing to do to the family. Others just give out: multiple natural-death discoveries over this period. Perhaps no greater number than regular days, but the holiday veneer makes it seem worse.

We had a near-miss, or save, I guess, last night. A teenager had been busted smoking weed (with her adult uncle...yay, family) and grounded. She spent day half-pouting, as is the wont of grounded teens, then ingested all the pills she could find. The family thought she was just sleeping and pouting; in fact, one of the older women in the house was resting on the bed with her, thinking it was a nap, when they saw she was turning blue. We got her breathing again and the medics got the narcan into her, bringing her back around. Two hours later, she'd have been left to sleep all night, and forever.

I gave her a parental/teacherly lecture in the ambulance: 'No matter how bad you feel today, it WILL get better. Tomorrow will come. It's hard to believe that when you're in the middle of it, but it does get better.'
She stared at me through her gummy, lidded eyes, doubt and refusal the only focusing energy coming through the narcotic haze. I'm sure I don't know what her life is like, but the risk with teens, as evidenced here, is their sense of perspective is so short and myopic that they take rash actions over nothing. The dust will settle but the suicide won't.

Three shifts ago, we had a fender bender where all the passengers of the medical transport service immediately claimed injuries. They were so ingrained in the victim cycle, so self-selecting as injured and victimized, the thought that they were NOT hurt never crossed their minds. We'd had a boy jump/leap/fall fifty feet onto the road: THAT was injured. This was bullshit. After checking the passengers, investigating the cars for impact-damage (relative speed indications), I could barely muster civil, professional neutrality. The mother whining about all her injured parts, while moving freely and sighing about the inconvenience of it all--she tested me. We're not allowed to tell people they are, in our opinions, fucking weak, fucking faking, fucking whiny, but, honestly, when we witness the on-going abuse of the system, it's hard not to point out the bullshit. I certainly tell all the smokers who call us for their respiratory problems that their continued habit of smoking is making their breathing problems worse, and, by implication, wasting our time. Why should we rush through shitty streets to get here because your poor lungs can't get good oxygen through the dank, dense curtain of nicotine and ash clotting everything?

And tomorrow night is amateur night. Let's hope for a paucity of drunk stupidity.

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