My first ambulance field rotation was on Mother's Day, 1971.
I was a high school senior taking the "Emergency Medical Technician/Ambulance" course offered through the adult and vocational training division of the community college.
Mike DeWalt was in the class and let me ride with him at Northern Virginia Doctor's Ambulance. This was a private ambulance service that provided occasional back-up for the Alexandria Fire Department.
A Busy Sunday
The EMT-in-charge was a tall, skinny musician who worked part-time at the ambulance service. A very friendly and helpful guy, he was reading Dale Dubin's Rapid Interpretation of EKG's.
While Virginia had not authorized a paramedic training program, Glenn Luedtke wanted to be prepared.
Some of you know Glenn from his work on the NAEMT EMS Safety Course.
Or his tenure as the EMS Director for Sussex County (Delaware) or Cape and Islands (Massachusetts).
There were six nursing home-to-house transports scheduled that morning. Followed by six return trips that evening.
Idealistic high schooler meets complex relationships
With nearly no life experiences, and that teenaged sense of "how things SHOULD be," it seemed to me that many of these patients were going to homes hostile to the visit.
I could not understand why Glenn talked so loud to the patients, or why he insisted on talking with the family before we moved the stretcher into the house.
Now I get it
During the past five years I have been on a geriatric journey with my parents. Including an acceleration in 2011 that requires more action than discussion.
I whined about an interfacility transport experience (On Airline Travel and Ambulance Transfers ) and finding my "Adult Command Voice" (“The Greatest Generation” white-knuckles through another Winter Carnival ).
The novelty of being the designated adult/primary caregiver has worn off.
We are in the day-to-day grind of assuring a safe and comfortable environment for a couple who are struggling to maintain as much independence and autonomy as they can while medical conditions continue to change.
Just before Mother's Day in 2011 was an intense effort get Mom out of a hospital and into an assisted living facility that evening. Worked with Dad to visit a couple of places and make a decision by early afternoon. Not a lot of choices within our timeframe.
Followed by an evening stand-off with my Dad who wanted to take her home (where there was no assistance in place and physically inappropriate).
We told you …
The language of federally-regulated health care ranks right up with airline travel. Accurate statements made in a neutral tone using industry terms.
They were told on admission that she was on "observational" status and would be discharged in three days. They did not realize it until her last night.
Even with this issue, the federally-regulated part of health care provides much better information than the unregulated parts of health care.
"What I want is …"
… not what we can get you. It sometimes feels like I am explaining to a 9 year old why he cannot drive the car.
When I wrote the original post I was at work at the university. It was the final day of EMS testing and I was looking at the list of things to do that week. Wondering if it is safe to make a business trip and resenting the probable answer.
On Mother's Day 2011 I finally understood the complex emotions felt by the children when we delivered their Mom for a visit in 1971. Relationship defined by decades of experience, conflict and compromise.
Mike "FossilMedic" Ward
originally published May 8, 2011