The worst part of our work

If your friends and relatives are like mine, then you’ve entertained questions about the worst calls you’ve been on, or similar questions phrased differently.

Obviously, they expect to hear about the blood and guts and explosions. However, rather than seeing someone’s head fall off, I think, really, the worst is when I witness up close the abject poverty some people are unfortunate enough to face in what is supposedly the “world’s only remaining superpower,” the stunning ignorance some people are too ignorant to realize they display, the classless words some people choose to open their mouths and spew, the heartless cruelty some people inflict upon others, the lost innocence and increasing viciousness of the ever-younger criminal underclass, and the absolute hopelessness with which some people live their entire lives.

And only the single-minded kindness, determination and dedication of our crews can make any of it just a little bit better.

CYA culture run amok

One of my most hated things is going to the airport for calls. Some of the most ridiculous calls I’ve been to were at the airport. In short, airlines love passing the buck to 911 so they can cover their asses.

Obviously, many of you are familiar with this phenomenon of entities calling 911 so they can pass on the liability. Not just airlines, but doctor’s offices, schools, SNFs, dorms, rehab, shelters, group homes, buses, trains, taxis, etc. Basically everyone. Instead of THINKING, it’s easier to press a few buttons on the phone and let someone else take care of the problem. Just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t mean it’s right.

By now I’m sure many of you have heard of The Great You-Can’t-Fly-Alaska-Airlines-If-You-Have-Cancer Incident. Basically, on Monday, Elizabeth Sedway, a woman with a 5-year ongoing battle with cancer, was kicked off her flight home after Alaska’s on-call doctors said she didn’t have a doctor’s note and wasn’t fit to fly. Of course, as usual, Alaska said it was “policy” to consult with their on-call doctors, who obviously remotely determined that she was too ill to fly. Good job. A monkey can do that. Stranded in Hawaii, she then missed chemotherapy back home in California on Tuesday, and her husband and kids missed work and school.

Like Ms. Sedway said, in more polite words, how the fuck did Alaska think she got to Hawaii in the first fucking place?

This is just like those stupid advice line nurses who insist everyone who calls them calls 911 instead.

So what if she had a doctor’s note? Is the note a guarantee that absolutely nothing bad will happen? Can you blame her doctor if something happens to her while having a note in her possession? What about everyone else on the plane who doesn’t have a note? Shouldn’t they have notes to guarantee that they won’t have a medical emergency? If airlines are so worried about safety, isn’t there more of a chance that some drunk asshole will disrupt the flight instead?

Cell phone warriors: Eat a dick

Code 3 for traffic collision. Called in by a passer-by.

I hate cell phone warriors.

We barely find the wreck. Why? Because it’s a fender-bender and the cars are parked like normal parking jobs. The people are exchanging information like sensible, intelligent human beings. For a change.

“Um, we’re OK.”

“We didn’t call you guys.”

“We don’t need the police. No one is hurt.”

To sum up, a cell phone warrior, passing by in a car, saw this very minor traffic collision, did not bother to stop and ask the parties involved if they were OK, called 911 to report it so s/he can pat him/herself on the back and feel good about him/herself for saving the day, all while s/he should instead be PAYING ATTENTION TO DRIVING AND STAYING OFF THE PHONE. We get dispatched, lunch interrupted, drive lights and sirens through streets full of ridiculously poor drivers who on a normal day already can’t even function before we come through Code 3, some of them probably calling 911 themselves for the sleeping homeless drunk while driving and not paying attention, make it to the scene in one piece without getting into another wreck, only to find that no one involved wanted us there in the first place.

So when are we going to require $100 deposits and/or physical presence from 911 callers?

You again

Code 3 for chest pain. It’s the same general area where Tony calls from twice a day, and we know it’s him. We drive Code 2.

As usual he has managed to rope some poor schmuck walking by into calling 911 for him. Rumor is once upon a time he’d call 911 from his own phone and disappear, over and over again. One day after going out on him for the 8th or 9th time, someone finally tracked his ass down, and then his phone, um, stopped working. To this day I have no idea if this is true or just a good story that gets passed around at the hospital.

We have already transported him twice today. I love making it very clear to the callers that we pick Tony up every day without pointing any fingers. Just to entertain ourselves. The callers always apologize anyway, but I don’t want them to because they don’t know and it’s not their fault.

I don’t really care that frequent flyers call all the time, but Tony is an absolute dickhead drunk, never polite, always verbally abusive. I learned this from the very first time we met. How stupid I feel now for being a little too nice to him that first time. Plenty of regulars over the years have managed to be nice, and I’m nice back. They are people too. But Tony, every single time, he insults crews, the crews’ mothers, says disgusting things to female responders. Not to mention he’s going to the ED twice a day for no reason and being a complete pig to the ED staff too before they kick him out. He can kiss my ass.

I step out and hold my arms out like I have a rhetorical question. I then ask a rhetorical question.

“Tony! Didn’t we just take you to the hospital?”

“You again?” He actually says to me. I have never heard this before from any regular. The fucking nerve of him.

“No, no, no, no, no. YOU do not get to say that to me, asshole. Get in the rig.”

We don’t really care what your name is*

Code 2 for sick person.

An elderly woman with dementia is bed-bound, unable to provide information. Her adult daughter called because she had a fever.

“What’s her first name?”


“Hi Alicia, how are you doing?”

She turns her head but doesn’t say anything.

Some time later I’m inspecting her medications. The bottles don’t say “Alicia.” They say “Lydia.”

“Ma’am, what did you say your mother’s name was?”

“Her name? It’s Lydia.”


“So who’s Alicia?”

“I’m Alicia.”

“I see. I wasn’t asking for your name, you know…”

*At least not until someone needs to contact next-of-kin

You call, we haul. Now get in the friggin' ambulance.

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