Code 3 for fall/ETOH/back pain. It’s 4am and this Saturday night is just not getting any shorter.

I can hear the wailing as I climb up the stairs to the run-down apartment complex. This is going to be a bunch of bullshit.

Dirty apartment. Several children. No one sleeping.

“Hello, ma’am.”

“I fell and my back hurts.”

“I smell a lot of alcohol. Did you have a good night?”

Just trying to break the ice. Even at 4am. Your friendly neighborhood paramedic.

“I had a great night. Not that great after I got home.”

So she fell against a bookcase against the wall from a standing position. Fall is a really strong word for this from what they’re describing; more like backed into the bookcase. I inspect the undamaged bookcase. I look at her back. There is a little red mark on her back. She says her back hurts all over. Including the spine. Great. Huge emergency as usual.

“What hospital you want to go to?”

“I don’t want to go.”

“What? So why are we here then?”

At this moment it’s still a sincere and reasonable question.

“I called you guys,” her son speaks up.

“What for?”

Still sincere.

“I was scared. So I called 911 like I’m supposed to.”

Not sure where he got this fine piece of advice.

“Not necessarily. So what can we do for you then?”

Now it’s rhetorical.

“I thought you were going to help her.”

Help her with what exactly?

“We are. You call us, we take her to the hospital. That’s how it works.”

Like I’m going cut refusal paperwork on a drunk moron who fell down and has spine pain.

“OK,” the woman agrees to the transport surprisingly quickly. Thank god.

“I’m glad you’ve agreed, ma’am. Thank you.”

Much easier this way.

She is strapped to the longboard. This immobilization shit cannot go away soon enough. Fucking administrators and desk jockeys have no spine. (Oh hey, that’s a pun.)

“You’re an asshole,” the son bravely states, probably with some liquid courage.

“What’s that?”

Of course I heard him the first time.

“I’m sorry, but you’re an asshole.”

I love how people are just brave enough to insult us but not brave enough to leave out the qualifier.

Now 6 of us are no longer looking at the patient and are slowly closing in on him in this small apartment. The rest of his relatives and/or friends watch silently. Wise move, unlike numbnuts here.

“You don’t get to call us names. Especially at 4 in the morning. What makes me an asshole?”

He’s beginning to realize his mistake as our shadows grow on him.

“I, I don’t mean all of you. Just him. When he, uh, asked why we called.”

Still closing in on him.

“She didn’t want to go to the hospital. You wanted her to go. I talked her into going. She’s going now. Isn’t that what you wanted?”

“You didn’t have to be a dick,” he weakly insists.

“Alright dude, you got the result you wanted. Think about that.”

I stop advancing and remember that I just want this call over as soon as possible so we can all go back to sleep. We all stand down.

Since I’m such an asshole, we carry her down the stairs on the longboard. More unnecessary strain on our backs. The female EMT mumbles under her breath on the way down, “I guess we’re not taking any riders.”

We load the patient in the ambulance.

“Can I go with her?”

Wow, this guy is really an idiot.


“Called it,” says the female EMT with a big grin.

The ideal ride-along policy

While I enjoy sharing the very basic facets of emergency service work with people who are interested or just starting out, there are, as I have said many times before, plenty of people who are simply not cut out for this type of work but mistakenly think they are, usually because of 9/11 and TV and movies. There are also plenty of civilians and politicians who think we sit around and drink coffee all day, also usually because of TV and movies.

I’m not saying this work is so difficult that we, and only we, can do it. Quite the contrary – monkeys can physically do what I do, and it is here where the key to this work lies. Rather, it’s the non-physical side of this work that makes it difficult. Anyway, directly or indirectly, we’ve covered this ground many times before.

The usual ride-along arrangement is some 9-to-5 slot or a single 12-hour shift during the day. I really dislike this. Ride-alongs get but a fleeting glimpse into what we do. They need to do an entire month – politicians, reporters, students, civilians, siblings, whoever. The whole month. Minimum. Whatever the schedule is – nights, weekends, 24 hours, 48 hours, plus mandatory holdovers – they need to do every single shift for a month.

That should weed some people out.

And cut down on the number of assholes bothering me when I’m getting coffee.

EMS cliche #7

Code 2 for foot pain. At 4am.

Foot pain for 8 months.

“They didn’t do nothing for me. So I left.”

“I really doubt that they didn’t do anything. I’m guessing it was way more likely you didn’t listen to anything they said or follow any of their instructions.”

I’m sure you’ve heard this one a bunch of times.

That’s the homeless patient detailing his attempts to seek medical care in the 8 months leading up to this huge medical emergency at 4am.

It sure seems like the patients who love to regale us with stories about how hospitals never do anything for them are always demanding to be transported to said hospitals so they can once again get nothing from them.

Talk less, do more

One of the most notable developments after the stunning killings of NYPD Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu is the public battle between Mayor Bill de Blasio, among other people, and the law enforcement community. De Blasio, in particular, has been criticized as not saying anything about the more hateful and violent incidents during the weeks-long protests in the wake of the Ferguson and Staten Island incidents.

It did not help matters that de Blasio ran for Mayor on a platform that some see as less than appreciative of the NYPD.

“This is a nightmare of the highest magnitude for everyone,” said Michael Palladino, president of the Detectives’ Endowment Association. Leaders at City Hall, he added, “need to dig down deep in their souls and understand that campaigning to be a leader is easier than being a leader.”

I speak from experience that politicians can SAY all they want about how they support law enforcement and emergency services as a whole, but the only thing that matters is what they DO or NOT DO about all the issues that we care about.

Put your money where your mouth is.

FAQ #5

Q: Why are there so many of you here?

A: You did call 911 for what you claim to be an emergency, no? Perhaps you should look up what “emergency” means.

FAQ #4

Q: What do you enjoy least about your job?

A: Since there is absolutely no one in society I don’t deal with, I am pretty much disappointed by everyone in general and by humanity as a whole.

Chest Cam 1, Race Card 0

An Oakland, California firefighter claimed that a police officer in the same city racially profiled him and his children while detaining them at a fire station.

Keith Jones, who works at the fire station and was off duty at the time, saw the apparatus bay door up and went to secure it. Just moments later, cops arrived as requested by the fire crew, who had earlier left on a call, to check to see if they did indeed leave the door open. So, Jones, who is black, then makes his sensational claim that one white cop was way out of line, mistreating him and his children, “ready to pull his gun.”

Except, he wasn’t.

The cop could not have been more professional.

I’m going to stop just short of calling anyone a liar. Let’s just say we haven’t heard from Jones since.