The other day we went for a medical alert call. The good ol' "I've fallen and I can't get up." call. These are some of my favorites. Sometimes they are over fast. The patient is embarrassed, we pick them up, put them in a chair and they thank us but want us to leave before the neighbors see the ambulance outside. Sometimes we get to break stuff. If all the doors are locked and the patient can't get to them to open them, things get broken which is always good fun.
And, sometimes we get to stay a while.
In the last year I've picked people off the ground many times, but one lady about four times alone. I don't mind going to her house because she is fiery, funny, and likes to talk. Boy does she like to talk. The last time we were there we picked her up, cleared away the mess she had inadvertently made, took trash out and whistled at her new pet bird.
On this occasion, one of our volunteers who works in a big town was rushing things. He couldn't wait to leave, which he was free to do at any time, but I sat at the kitchen table with our patient.
Because I knew her and he didn't, I wanted to take the time, be sure she was okay, be sure she felt safe, be sure she was wearing shoes instead of slippers which is why she keeps falling.
The rusher did leave but made me think about this aspect of the job. I think it is as important as anything else we do.
I have been having difficulty recently connecting with humanity. These calls have become my primary way to do just that, and taking time is the key.
Some of the only calls I can remember of late are these social calls. A woman who couldn't work her new portable oxygen tanks. She was an old immigrant, full of energy and, once we got her oxygen working busied herself trying to get us something to eat. I called her doctors office, her son, and gave advice to her neighbors. We fixed her a coke and went on our way. 15 minutes of our day where I actually felt like I did something.
My old partner and I picked a guy up off of his kitchen floor. His thankfulness broke my heart. A retired marine with an ailing wife in the nursing home. He had struggled for ages to get up before calling. We picked up the trash he had upset, vacuumed coffee grounds from the floor and petted his cat.
I am retelling these to remind providers that we are working with humans. If there is no need to rush out, what is the big deal to take a few minutes and make sure these people are squared away before we leave? No, this isn't medicine. It isn't saving lives, but it is doing what we had set out to do when we sat down in EMT class: to help people.
I know being able to take this time might just be a luxury of working in a small town, but sometimes people just need someone to take the time for a chat, or to solve their menial but real problem. Maybe all they need a cold coke and to know that someone cares.