Here we go.
- What has been your most memorable moment working as an EMT?
The moment itself won't make much sense until I tell the story leading up to it. I wish this was a happy story/moment. In the late spring of 1998 or 1999 I was working at the Rescue Squad on a Friday day. I was in college full time, and didn't have any classes that day, so I picked up an extra shift. About 10:00, we were dispatched to a wreck, vehicle vs. tractor trailer. Crap, not good.
We started to the scene, and a supervisor from the ambulance service arrived on the scene, and advised there were 7 patients, all entrapped in the car. Oh. Holy. Shit. The supervisor then advised there were 2 critical patients, 3 critical but stable patients, 2 non-critical patients, and to send 3 more ambulances, in addition to the 2 that were already on the way. All this time my partner and I are listening to the wreck go from bad to worse every time the supervisor says something. The patient priorities (how critical they are) keep changing, and it gets worse each time. Very. Bad. Wreck. It's a miracle nobody's dead.
We arrive on scene, and see a little Chevy Cavalier, full of teenagers, that had hit the rear axle on the trailer, and bounced off of it, breaking the axle on the trailer. That's a feat, right there. Semi-trailer axles are tough. Later witnesses and the driver said they were driving 80+ in a 45 zone. By the time we arrive, everybody and their brother is there. There ends up being 1 ambulance for each kid, the 911 system is completely tapped out due to this one wreck.
I started at the front passenger door, my partner worked at a different door. The door came open fairly easy, I think we just used a pry bar, no heavy hydraulic tools. The kid in the seat was FUBARed. His legs were pinned up under the dash, and broken in several places. He was obviously in shock and not really aware of his surroundings; as soon as we opened the door he started pushing himself out of the car with his broken legs. We scrambled to get a spineboard under him, and try to control him somewhat. If his legs hadn't been broken, he would have been trapped, and we would have had to use heavy hydraulic tools to lift the dash off of his legs.
As we positioned him on the spineboard he looked over at me, directly into my eyes, and then suddenly there was nothing. Lights were on, but nobody was home. That 15 year old boy looked right into my eyes and died, and there wasn't a damn thing I could do about it. That's the moment that will be with me forever.
- What is your favorite book and why?
Ooh, that's a hard one. I literally have a library in my house, and it's overflowing. Hmm...one book.
Dune, by Frank Herbert. I enjoy the complexity of it, and the themes of the novel. It's science fiction which appeals to the science geek in me. The themes of religion/prophecy, ecology, and statecraft intertwine to create a very complex story that is ultimately about the human potential, how much of a difference can one person make.
- How did your kitties get their names and what are their stories?
Noah - My husband and I adopted him from a no-kill cat shelter called the Ark. Oh, yeah, we were real creative. LOL I was sick with an active flare of Crohn's Disease, and home by myself while hubby was at work and school, so we got a kitty to keep me company while I was at home alone.
McCullough - She is named for the street she was found on. A good friend of mine took her in, but her cats didn't like McCullough much at all. One kept chasing McCullough under the kitchen sink, which is where she ended up living for a month or so, until we took her in "for just a little while", which was 4 years ago.
Eep - I found her on the side of a busy street on my way to a meet a client for work. I saw this small ball of fur tumble off the sidewalk into the gutter. I whipped the car around at the next safe opportunity and commeced a rescue. I found a tiny ball of fluff chewing on a dried up rat's foot. I scooped her up, hurried home, dashed inside, almost threw her at my husband and said something like "Here, it's a kitten. (like that wasn't obvious) I gotta get back to work", and dashed off. She was only about 3 weeks old we determined, so we bought some kitten formula for her. She was too young for shots, so we waited a couple of weeks to take her to the vet. Big mistake.
When we took her and the others for their shots, she was tested for FIV, and tested positive. We had a choice, to put her down immediately, or to raise her in isolation. Since she wasn't sick at that time, and FIV+ cats could live several years before they developed complications, we took her home and isolated her in the master bedroom/bathroom. In a 2 bedroom apartment. At the time we had, in addition to Noah and McCullough, Amon, now deceased. Cramped was an understatement. Well, long story short, the test isn't reliable in kittens under 6 months old, since the antibodies can come from the mother, even if the kitten doesn't have the virus. We had her re-tested when she was spayed, and she tested negative. 6 weeks later, she was tested one last time, to confirm the negative result, and she tested negaive again. She rejoined the others. Unfortunately, since she spent most of her kittenhood isolated from other cats, she's somewhat antisocial, and sometimes takes it out on people.
The long version for each: Noah, McCullough, Eep, Amon
- If you didn't have any kind of monetary constraints, what career would you choose and why?
I would choose to be a full time EMT on the Rescue Squad. Alabama Rescue Squads are all volunteer, so by the time you calculate gas to/from the station, food on shift, etc, I actually pay a fair chunk of change each year for the privledge of being on the Rescue Squad.
Due to my Crohn's Disease and Ankylosing Spondylitis, I know I won't be able to be an active EMT/Extrication Specialist forever. It's all going to catch up with me sooner or later. So, my other choice of career would be fine artist - a painter and/or sculptor. Yeah, I'm a graphic designer, but I don't get to do much of that at work, and it's just not the same as having a brush in your hand, the smell of linseed oil, the feel of canvas.
Or maybe blogging.
- Is it hard living so far from the rest of your family, and do you get to see them often?
It's been harder at some times than others. I've always been a very independent person, so I don't think my decision to stay in Alabama after college was that much of a shock. My family lives in southern Indiana, and I live in northern Alabama, so we're not that far away, a little less than 300 miles from my driveway to my parent's driveway, and 99% of the trip is up I-65.
When I've been sick is when it's been harder living so far away, because the only family I nearby is my husband and brother-in-law. I don't get to see them as often, since I don't travel as much when I'm not feeling well, although Mom and Dad will come down and visit, or, when it has been really bad, help take care of me for a weekend, to give my husband a break.
I talk to my parents every couple of days, in addition to emails. Mom tends to distribute progress reports to my extended family. I chat online with my sister and some of my cousins by IM.
Anyone who wants to volunteer for 5 questions, let me know in the comments of this post, and I will create a set of custom questions for you.