“This way! This way, over here!”
I could see the frantic full-body gestures from the staff member through the windshield as I pulled off Benning Road into the gravel lot. As if on cue, radio traffic from Engine 10Â shot through my vehicle, confirming CPR was in-progress.
I mean, hey, it’s your golf course.Â
I shrugged at him as I nudged the Tahoe back into gear, and started off down the middle of the eleventh fairway with the ambulance right behind me.
Your move, groundskeeper.
An otherwise idyllic summer golf threesome was darkened when one of them collapsed under the stress of a birdie putt (yes, I remember this; for whatever reason, one of the group mentioned it while we were still on-scene).Â
To their credit, his friends checked for a pulse, found none, and started chest compressions. Good on ’emâ€”they just had no way of knowing what the real issue was. It wasn’t so much that his heartÂ wasn’tÂ beating, it’s that it was going too fast. Like, hummingbird-on-cocaine fast. You see, when your heart decides it wants to beat 240 times a minute instead of the usual, life-sustaining intrinsic rate, red stuff doesn’t go where it needs to go.
This, of course, is bad.
Unconscious as the 58-year-oldÂ was when we arrived, the monitor eventually told us that his heart had two modes: 150-ish beats per minute, or 230-ish beats per minute.
Intermittent, unpredictable, and problematic.
On the lower end of the spectrum, enough blood managed to get to his brain to make him (understandably) uncomfortable, evidentÂ by his violent thrashing and moaning. Once it kicked back into high gear, he slumped back onto the stretcher.
Â Â Â “We have a lovely menu today, sir. Your choices areÂ pharmacology, or electricity. A la carte options include benzodiazepines for sedation, if time permits.”
Â Â Â “Hmm… since his blood pressure sucks, he’sÂ sweaty and pale, and IV access is still in-progress… I think I’ll have the salmon.
Â Â Â I mean,Â synchronized electrical cardioversion. Silly me.”
Not having the time toÂ debate the merits of Tesla versus EdisonÂ and their current impact on this gentleman’s future,Â I instead slapped the defibrillator pads on his chest and fiddled with the settings knob.
This is gonna hurt, bro. Sorry in advance.
Three lovely doses of electricity later (and plenty ofÂ Versed for sedation between the first and second… I’m not a sadist, after all), his heart decided to head back to normalcy as we pulled into the hospital.
As I finished my report and climbed back into my vehicle, I had to laughâ€”both my car and Ambulance 18 still had some nicely-manicured turf in the wheel wells.
In June of this year, I was officially promoted from Firefighter/Paramedic to EMS Captain/Supervisor. Needless to say, I was quite excited for the new position and all that it entailed, and I remain extremely happy with my situation. However, I had previously told myself that when I was promoted, IÂ would take a longÂ hiatus from posting here. This was to allow me to focus on figuring out my new role, my new battalion, and becoming comfortable enough to perform the job wellÂ without any distractions such as this.
Having taken said break, I now feel that it is appropriate to continue posting. Plus, I do miss writing.
This drastic change means two things. Since I amÂ not currently performing any firefighting duties while in this position of medical supervision, I won’t have any newÂ delightful tales of being somewhereÂ hot and smoky (I know, I’m kinda bummed out about it). However, on the flip side,Â one of the best aspects of this new position is that I feel like I really get to practice medicine again. The city’s EMS Supervisors, in their own little SUVsÂ crammed to the gills with medical equipment, usually end up on the serious stuffâ€”shootings, stabbings, electrocutions, even some of the bigger rescue incidents.Â It’s like the best paramedic job ever, with the occasionalÂ errand or administrative headache thrown in, to keep you on your toes.
I feel like a clinician again… which reminds me why I became a paramedic in the first place.
Ever since moving out of D.C.Â and into suburban Virginia, my morning drive to work takes me up I-295 into the city. I’ve always taken the exit for the 11th Street Bridge, as a right turn puts me on MLK Jr. Ave, around the corner from Engine 15.
But I’m not assigned there any more. EMS2 isÂ housed at Engine 8, back on the otherÂ side of the river. And some days I do miss the backstep of 15. Some days I miss my old crew, my old firehouse, my old everything. But it comes time for everyone to move on, to move up, to experience change and growth.
So now, in the dark of early morning, with the river looming silent and black beneath the bridge, I turn left.
I turn left and head into Capitol Hill, snaking my way towards the new firehouseÂ and wondering what the city has in store for me today.