He's Dead

"Hurry up, hurry up!"  she shouted.
Why were they getting out of the truck so slowly?
"He can't breathe, he can't breathe!"  she shouted.
They are still taking forever.
"He needs oxygen, he needs oxygen!"  she shouted
Finally they are at the door.
"Where is he?"  they ask.  Isn't it obvious?
"In there, in there!"  she shouted. 
"What happened?"  they ask. Isn't it obvious?
"He needs oxygen, he needs oxygen!" she shouted.
They are standing on his oxygen tubing.
"Don't stand there, don't stand there!"  she shouted. 
They opened their bags.
"No breathing tube, no breathing tube!"  she shouted. 
"What do you mean?"  they ask.  Isn't it obvious?
She waved a paper in their faces. 
"It says it right here, right here!"  she shouted
"He doesn't want any of this?" they ask.  Isn't it obvious?
"He just needs oxygen, just oxygen"  she shouted. 
They begin to make an excuse.
"I knew it, I knew it!"  she shouted.
She knew that they were useless.
"Is he dead, is he dead?"  she shouted. 
He's dead.  Cold and clear.
"Why didn't you do anything, why?" she shouted. 
They say nothing.
"You killed him, you killed him"  she shouted.
They say nothing.
"Get out, get out!"  she shouted. 
They leave. As slowly as they arrived.

He's Dead (reprise)

"Hurry up, hurry up!" she shouted.
They're going as fast as they can
"He can't breathe, he can't breathe!" she shouted.
Get the bag, the oxygen, the monitor, the board
"He needs oxygen, he needs oxygen!" she shouted.
Crossing the threshold.
"Where is he?" they ask.  How would they know?
"In there, in there!" she shouted.
"What happened?" How would they know?
"He needs oxygen, he needs oxygen!" she shouted.
They enter the room, evaluate the situation.
"Don't stand there, don't stand there!" she shouted.
CPR started, oxygen delivered, heart monitor on.
"No breathing tube, no breathing tube!" she shouted.
"What do you mean?" they ask. How would they know?
She waved a paper in their faces.
"It says it right here, right here!" she shouted
"He doesn't want any of this." they say.  How would they know?
"He just needs oxygen, just oxygen" she shouted.
They begin to say they're sorry.
"I knew it, I knew it!" she shouted.
They felt useless.
"Is he dead, is he dead?" she shouted. 
Yes, he's dead.  As gently as they could
"Why didn't you do anything, why?" she shouted.
They didn't know what to say.
"You killed him, you killed him" she shouted.
Tears well in their eyes, dampened by anger.
"Get out, get out!" she shouted.
 They leave. As quickly as they arrived.

Paramedics are like cats

Growing up, our outdoor cat would often leave us 'presents' after a successful hunt.  She sought praise, but often got indignance as we mourned a cute little mouse or baby rabbit.  Even now, my indoor cats will stare at a mouse- trapped behind something- for hours before eating what they want and leaving the rest for me to find (usually by stepping on it).  Oh, what good cats they are!

My favorite doctor in the ER used to be a paramedic.  So he knows it for a fact: paramedics are like cats. I proved this just the other day.  We started with a cardiac arrest. But not just any arrest:  one where I actually got to do stuff! To feel like I could do something or make a decision that would improve the outcome of the call.  It felt really good, (despite the ultimate patient outcome) to actually have to think and remember stuff that I haven't practiced in a while. (I'm not sure if that sounds good or bad to you, dear reader).  When got to the ER, the doctor too, seemed happy to be able to do a little more for a cardiac arrest than usual.
Not one hour later, I had deja vu. Similarly aged patient, started out as a run-of-the-mill arrest, and developed into a good call, where yet again I got to do skills and give medications that are rare. When I called the doctor, I had to laugh. It was a good "Me again!" moment. I delivered this patient to the ER and chatted with the doctor. He then reminded me of his theory on paramedics and cats.

Paramedics, like cats, like to go out, find something half dead, play with it for a little while, and then leave it on your doorstep.

That pretty much sums up my job.


Back in August, I was invited to interview for PA school. I didn't say much about it here as I fear failure and getting to the interview stage is like being within arms reach of the dream. It was too close, and felt very fragile.  Instead I spent weeks agonizing over how to articulate my flaws without making them sound too negative.  It's pretty hard to justify "I don't take direction well."  "I am too independent"  "I actually hate people" "I lack motivation."  "I am too laid back."  "I'm only in this for the money".   You cannot be honest.  And definitely answers like "I care too much"  Or "I am too thorough" are frowned upon.

Googling "how to survive a PA school interview" is a slippery and horrible slope. Everyone has advice.  Most of which was very useful. Some of which was down right terrifying.
"They will ask you about the shortcomings of your application." one said. Good lord. Where to start with that. I have to think of an excuse for getting a C in Chem 102?  Doesn't everyone know that chemistry is the worst?  But that would not be an acceptable answer, of course.
"And then they'll put a camera in front of you and ask you a non sequitur like 'What was the last novel you read?' or 'Tell us a joke'"  Okay, like, what?!  I don't want to go to a place that wants to play with their interviewees anyway.  The scheme of 'let's just try to throw them off their game' is horrible to me.
"Here's a list of 300 (no lie) questions that you will probably be asked" promised another.  Did I prepare an answer for all of these questions?  No. Did I read them all?  Also no.  Because I am not completely crazy and I don't want to be.

I did obsessively write answers to the most common questions everyone agreed on and kept coming back to how to be flawed but also the worlds most perfect human being.

And this doesn't even cover what I called the "pantsuit emergency".  I don't do clothes.  Never have- but I realized that I had nothing appropriate to wear for an interview. Or any occasion outside of lounging and going to a fair.  So my friend (bless her) became my personal shopper and got me out of my pantsuit emergency by making me buy a skirt and blouse.  I think she is missing her true calling because she made me like clothes. Me. Like. Clothes.

So, as the date approached, I began asking friends what my flaws were.  Not the best idea because no one is honest unless you wait until they're drunk. Even then, there is no good answer to that question that doesn't make you look weak.

The day of, I took the kayak out in the morning.  I paddled out my anxiety and then had to change into a dress in the schools bathroom.  Anxiety back up to an 11.

I found the little corridor they placed us in wishing I hadn't broken a sweat trying to put hose on. It's such a strange dynamic.  Everyone is very tense and silently sighing or drumming their fingers.  Everyone (unless they are the worlds most perfect human being) is judging everyone who came in the door, especially me.  "Dang.  They look ready. Why didn't I wear something like that?  I am the only one without a jacket!  Stupid sweater! Why didn't I bring a pen?" And then I made the mistake of talking to them and then I knew for sure.  "Ooh. They're qualified. They're kind. They're competent."  The group would share a laugh over finding the room, or parking, or something equally mundane, and then we would settle back into awkward silence and judgement.

The interview itself, once I got started, felt like no big deal.  I was interviewed by three faculty members and it was so conversational and relaxed, I forgot about all of my worries. It was kind of nice as the interviewers didn't know anything about me.  They purposefully didn't read my resume or essay.  In one way this was great as I could talk about anything.  In another way it was scary as I had to pepper my accomplishments into the conversation without sounding pompous.  In the end, I didn't cuss, and I didn't cry so it felt like a success.  But then the second guessing started.  Did I say the right things?  Did they realize I was joking when I said that?  "Did I come off as a jerk?" "Did I even tell them that I am a paramedic?" The whole thing is a blur and they never asked about my flaws. 

Let me check my calendar.

So.  I guess I should do a little update...then about 100 more.
Three years ago I made the decision to "go to PA school"  which I wanted to keep to myself due to the absolute impossibility of success. Somehow, everyone found out anyway.  I wanted to prevent the future conversation of "Hey, weren't you going to go back to school?"  "Me?"(looks around feebly) "No, I don't remember that."

Quite happily, I can report that I won't be having that conversation (Unless it goes "Hey, weren't you going to PA school?"  "Me?"(looks around feebly) "No, I don't remember that.")  and I will be starting PA school in the coming summer!

I found out last week and have vacillated between joy, disbelief, and terror ever since. There was literally a 0.05 % chance of success so it really seems crazy to me. I couldn't even tell you 'why me?' although I am sure my overly kind-hearted friends would give you some reasons (Blush!)
There are so many variables, and I spent the first few hours wandering around realizing all of my shortcomings they must have overlooked. "Wow, I guess they didn't care about my horrible GRE scores." "Wow, I guess a C in chem 102 from 12 years ago was okay." "I only shadowed two PA's." And my next logical conclusion when going down this rabbit hole is that the whole thing must be a mistake. But, I am assured it is not and they received my deposit check (not made out to Chicago All Saints Hospital).

PA school as been described to me as 'trying to drink from a fire hose' so I expect even less of a social life and more self discipline than I have ever exhibited before. I feel now like I am going to jail and I have to get everything taken care of for the next three years in the next six months. Home improvement projects, movies to watch, travel, friend and family visits, oil changes are all swimming around in my head. My mental and actual calendar are filling up and I know these next months will fly by.

Don't worry, all of this over-thinking brings me comfort. I found out I got in while I was at work and nearly lost it by not knowing what to do next. Celebrate? Call out for the rest of the day? Go work out some of my anxieties on the treadmill? Write my resignation letter? (too soon). So I went back and remembered this is a Wild-Ass Plan. There are steps.  This is just another level in step 2: planning. I sat right down and made a list. Three years ago this plan too started with a list and it hasn't failed me yet.

The new list made me feel calmer. Reading it now makes me feel less calm. But a sign of a good wild-ass plan is that it fills you with moments of clarity and terror- often at the same time.

I can say aloud: I'm going to be a PA! White coat and all! Reflex hammer and all! Stitching skills and all!


I didn't mention it before, but I have been planning a trip to Greece for the last few months.  It has taken some time to plan as half of the time I am here, I'll be volunteering on a refugee camp which I now know houses Syrian and Iraqi refugees.
Two dear friends and I are here now and I just wanted to check in.  We will be spending about 9 days on camp (though we are living in an apartment in a nearby town)  doing whatever needs to be done. So far we have helped arrange some storage, sort clothing, distribute bicycles, set up a clothes shop, and teach some first aid (with help of forgiving translators).
This may all sound very mundane, but it feels important.  Important to help these people (read:  people) to feel safe, comfortable, and normal.  There is just so much going on politically, I have barely a meager grasp of the details.  But what matters is that these are people in a terrible situation that could happen to any of us.
Anyway, there will, I'm sure, but a few more philosophical updates on this front, but the simple perspective is helping people who may have lost everything. It's not paying it forward, it's just paying it.  The price of humanity.
We had quite an adventure to get here, all went smoothly, but we got to spend some time in the Istanbul airport, we've rented a car, and driven about an hour to our arrival place, ate like royalty and slept like the dead.
Driving in Greece has been fun and made me feel that we in America are too bogged down in rules.  Who needs them?  Not me. Every standard seemed optional as we drove to our hotel, much to our amusement and terror.
We have enjoyed Greek food, stores, restaurants, drink, and people.  So far, none have disappointed.
In three days I've had about 12 gallons of water and a fair amount of beer.  I've shoed dogs and played with toddlers. I've driven to Ikea, packed the car with puubles.
My companions are as game as I am to try new things, which is amazing and not surprising.
Anyway, there's a basic run-down.  More to follow.  I'm off for another greek beer.  Yamas!

The Race

Sometimes this job is like a race. Like you're carrying this person on your back, and it's a messy race. You're tripping and sweating and you almost drop them. It's bouncy and there's trash everywhere. And if you can just get them over that line. To the line and throw them over. Throw them over and into the ER, you're obligation is fulfilled. Your job is done. You've won the race. And for a long time, that was it. Mission accomplished and I wasn't responsible for anything else. I didn't care about anything else. Get them to the hospital.  Dust my hands off and pat myself on the back. But somehow, they crept in. What did happen?  Did they live?  For the first time I asked myself.  I began to bring them home. I put them on a shelf and they stared down at me. They said, did you run fast enough?  Did you fall?  Did you drop me?  You threw me onto this island- over your line, but was it salvation?  I left in a helicopter. I left in a coma. I left in a body bag.  The race is not won.

I Forget

Every year, I forget
the lush color of too-tall grass.
how bright the sun is on the way to work.
my jacket at home, even when I need it.
how long it takes for the trees to begin to bud.
that mice can get into the house.
the musty smell of impending rain.
how soon sun lotion becomes essential.
that carpenter bees love to eat my porch.
how tired I get when the daylight lingers.
the taste of a cold beer on a warm evening.
my favorite songs that drive away the winter blues.
that spring is my favorite season.

Late Night

Midnight: Flank pain. Been seen in the ER three times already. "It just hurts."
0330: Woman thinks temp is 108 due to using a 50 year old unreadable mercury thermometer.
Midnight: 30 year old with pain. Was in the ER this afternoon, left against medical advice with a diagnosed problem. Didn't fill prescription, didn't make follow up appointment, pain worsens.
0520: Shortness of breath that "just started" according to facility staff, been going all night according to patient.
Midnight: 20 year old throwing up for 1 hour. Doesn't know what to do.
0400: 40 year old with weakness for two days. Why now? It just didn't get better.
Midnight: 22 year old male with a fever.
2310: 29 year old with anxiety.
0230: 24 year old. Supposed leg infection. Just left er waiting room against medical advice. Walked to payphone, Called 911
0100: Short of breath. Just needed a chat
0245: 55 year old with blood in urine since noon.
0445: 26 year old with abdominal pain. Started at 1900.
0145: Fell 2 weeks ago, has arm pain.
2320: 40 year old waiting on the porch, bags packed, with cellulitis in leg.