Just Another Day In Paradise (The Epic Episode 1 of the Paradise Ambulance saga)

dear reader,

heres a little something i been considering working on for some time.  this is a fiction story, akin to scrubs, and about as real as that show.  this in no way reflects real people or real patients or a real company.  it is a story designed to entertain, not show you what we actually do. that being said…  i hope you enjoy.  let me know what you think.

PS- the margins are a little screwed cause i copy and pasted out of word, where it actually looks like the first chapter of a book, like its supposed to be.  again, hope you like…

JUST ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE

Look at me.  Look what I’ve become.  Sitting here, my boots unzipped, one foot propped up on the dash, slouched in the passenger seat.  Hat pulled down over my eyes partly obscuring a five o’clock shadow that’s about 36 hours past the point of needing to shave.  The proud star-of-life emblem blazing on the shoulder of my unbuttoned, wrinkled, and untucked “uniform” shirt.  To complete the ensamble a slight drop of drool exits the corner of my mouth and I give a little slurp to capture it.

Look at me.  Look what I’ve become.

I work at a “private”, Paradise Ambulance Service to be specific.  Our squads are the ones you see cruising down the roads with the palm tree and the gaudy orange and pink sunset blazing on the side.  We charge by the mile, so we’ll go anywhere, and we go everywhere.  Im sure dispatch would tell us to drive Jesus into the bowls of hell if he was paying the fee, that is, ofcourse, if our ancient, busted ass trucks actually make the trip.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we EMS profesionals are very proud to be what we are, and worked very hard to get our certifications, but private EMS is not what you dream of when you say to your self that you want to go work on an ambulance.  Imagine, you take an adrenaline junky, say a race car driver, for example.  You train him to drive this baddass car at super speeds.  You give him all the knowledge of the vehicle, how it runs, how to fix it, how to push it to the max and win.  You show him how to drive different tracks and give him skills and techniques for being at the top of his game.  Then, you hand him the keys to a station wagon and tell him to take granny to get groceries.

That’s what you have when a fireman/EMT works a private ambulance.

Why do we do it?  It boils down to one simple word:  MONEY.  Getting on a career fire department is the goal of most of my brothers and sisters, but it isnt always so easy.  No openings, budgets cuts, or maybe you just don’t have a career department all that close by.  There can be a lot of reasons, but the simple fact is that most of your fire and EMS are volunteers who get paid very little, if anything, and do what they do for the love of helping people who need them.   But this dosnt put food on the table.

So we get a job for a private, and become jaded.

And bored.

So bored.

Today I’m posting at a hospital.  Posting is when an ambulance sits in the parking lot of a hospital, or a specific area of a city, in order to be close by when a call from a hospital comes in.  the theory being that if you’re close by you will get there faster, and if you get there faster you will get called before one of the other companies.  It really doesn’t seem to make much of a difference from the ambulance crews’ perspective, and really just comes down to equaling paid loitering.

Why would a hospital call an ambulance?  Unlike your local fire department, privates don’t do a lot of emergency calls.  When a person is in the hospital and needs to go to a nursing home, or another hospital, someone has to take them.  Privates are also called to take people to doctor’s appointments that can’t sit in a car or get around very well, be it from home or from a nursing home.  Your local fire department doesn’t have the resources or time to do these things, so someone has to do it.  Occasionally we are called on an “emergency” call to a nursing home which usually consists of something not serious enough to call 911 for and could probably be fixed if the nurse had half a brain.  Don’t worry, I’m sure we’ll get one eventually, then you’ll see what I mean.

So here I sit.  I’m Red, by the way.   It’s not the most original nickname, but its mine and I’ve had it my whole life, so it is what it is.  I have a partner here at Paradise, Barry Glazer, I call him “the bear”.  He’s six foot eight, about 180 pounds, and has a handle bar mustache; he’s the guy you want pulling you out of a fire.  He’s snoring on the cot in the back of the truck.  Bear and I both volunteer for the township fire departments where we live, but met very oddly on my first day of work at Paradise.

It was a cold, miserable day in north-eastern Ohio.  If you don’t know what a Cleveland winter is like, you don’t really know the meaning of the word “winter”.  I was finally done with my weeks worth of training videos explaining everything from company policy to the proper way to work a patient cot.  I got out of my little jalopy and skated through the parking lot on an inch and a half of ice.  After nearly falling twice, I paused at the door to the squad bay hand out-stretched, trying to remember the damn code to the lock.  The door flew open, almost taking my hand with it, and out barreled an angry Bear.  I looked up, and up, till I finally found eyes full of flame.

“You the new guy?”  He asked with furry.

“Yeah.” Was all I had time to reply.

“You’re a fucking idiot for working here!”

He crossed the parking lot in three of his gigantic strides, his truck door slammed, and he was gone.  The entire exchange took just long enough for the door to close again as I watched him pull from the parking lot.  As I turned back to it, two thoughts went through my head:  “that’s officially my favorite employee here” and “damn, I still can’t remember that code”.

So, after working with various characters, which I’m sure you’ll meet in time, I ended up happily on a shift with Bear.  We work a 12 hour shift that rotates on a biweekly basis.  Its more trouble than its worth to explain, just rest assured that we spend a lot of time together.  Now, a fire department is kind of like a high school, it includes all the drama, ribbing, and relationship hopping you would expect from a high school student.  A private is more like junior high.  The difference between private ambulance and junior high being we can’t fight without going to jail and the relationship hopping is between partners on the squad, not male/female reproductive issues.  Though, that does happen too.  Simply put, everyone has a “niche” within their “click”.

At Paradise, we have two “clicks”:  the east side base and the west side base.  Bear and I work out of the east side base, which means that’s where we punch in every morning only to be sent anywhere but close to base.  We, of the east side base, do more work than the west side base, always coming across town to catch the over flow of runs they have while they are all sitting on their lazy asses doing nothing.   And the west side base is full of scrubs and worthless EMTS.  These two opinions are the exact same opinions the west side base has of us.

They are wrong of course; remember they’re all worthless scrubs.

As for our “niche”, I like to think of myself as the “smart well educated guy amongst hill jacks”, but I’m probably the “idiot”.  We never really know our own social niche, do we?  Bear is the “chatty” guy, which makes him less desirable to some as a partner, but I love him for it.  It makes the day go faster, when he isn’t snoring.

*********************************************************************************************

“Base to 202.”

“Go for 202.”

“202 did you get the page I sent?”

With the mic button pressed: “that’s a negative, no page received”.  After releasing the button: “If I had received a page I would have called you over the radio and told you I received a page, you fucking moron”.

“Okay, I’ll send it again”  (as if she sent it the first time) “start heading toward Our Lady of the Alms hospital”.

“Copy that, dispatch, You can show us enroute”.

I hear The Bear stir in his cave of hibernation, “We got one Red?”

“Yup”

“Smoke first?”

“Better not, I’m sure it’s an emergency.”

We laugh, get out of the truck, and light up.

*******************************************************************************************

“Base to 202.”

Bear grabs the mic, “Goat head”.

“What’s your ETA?”

“Traffic was pretty backed up on the highway; we should be there in about five minutes.”

It’s Sunday morning.  0930am Sunday morning.  No one believes that.  Five minutes later we pull in the ER of the hospital and notify dispatch that we still have not received the info page, without which we have no clue as to what we’re doing here, who we’re picking up, what room they’re in, or where we’re taking them.  She informs us that she will send it “again”, we roll our eyes.  As were getting the cot ready, it has to made up after having Bear asleep on it, my pager goes off.  Bear doesn’t have a pager, he “accidentally” broke his and they haven’t got around to replacing it for him; it’s been over a year.

We punch in the code and enter the ER.  Immediately we hear the song of the nurses: “Who are you here for?  Who are you here for?”  They all hope it’s for their patient so they can get rid of them and get paid way more than we do to sit around and do nothing.  They all become crestfallen when we inform them our patient is from upstairs, and we make our way through the maze and to the elevators.

After exiting the elevators and having a lively debate over which direction the room is (Bear was right, he always is) we approach the nurses’ station.  Two nurses are seated there and are having a discussion about someone else, I can only assume, a third nurse.  Let’s put it this way: they aren’t talking about how much they like her.  I wait patiently for them to acknowledge my presence, it shouldn’t be long, it’s pretty hard to miss a 200 pound red haired guy and a guy that’s six-eight, right?

So we wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Did I mention that the military has it all wrong?  If they just put our soldiers in navy blue uniforms, they would be invisible.  Just like EMTs.  Finally one of them forgets not to make eye contact with me and can no longer pretend she has no clue I’m standing less than a foot away from her.

“Can I help you?”

“Hello, were here for room 5, a Mr. Calloway.”

“Oh, that’s Lisa’s patient.”

”Where is Lisa?”

She checks a board on the wall, shuffles some papers, looks at her watch, gets a shrug from her fellow worthless nurse, then says, “she’s in the room with the patient.”

“Ah, perfect, thank you.”  I call over my shoulder as Bear drags the cot and I toward room 2305.

We get to the room, don our personal protective equipment, in other words, gloves, and go into the room.  Bear gives a knock and a “helloooooo” as we enter.

Guess who’s not there?  Nurse Lisa.  You’re half right, the patient isn’t there either.

We give each other the “what the fuck?” look as we hear a bubbly voice in the hall say:  “Oh look Mr. Calloway, you’re ride must be here!”   Back into the hallway we come face to face with a wiry, not completely unpleasant looking young woman in scrubs holding a catheter bag connected to the penis of a little old man with crazy gray hair and a wide grin.

“Are you the nurse?”  I ask.

(Giggles) “No, I’m just the patient care assistant.”  That’s the modern, PC way of saying “nurses’ aid”.  “Lisa should be up at the desk getting the paper work together.”

Imagine my joy.

The old man looks from me to Bear, Bear to me.  “Okay, fellas, I’m ready to go!  Do you boys own all this?  You must be brothers!”  He begins to try to get on the cot which has not yet been lowered to facilitate getting on to.

My well honed reflexes, all the speed, agility, and know how I received from grueling months in paramedic and fire school kick in.  My hand shoots out like a coiled snake and snatches my pager from my belt.  I read it again.  How did my mad medic skills miss this?  My advanced training allows me to miss not even the slightest of details.  This fine gentleman is being transported back to Babbling Brook Nursing Facility, the home for dementia patients.  I mutter as much to Bear, he gives back a “go fig”, carefully moves the old man, and lowers the cot for him.

A voice behind me says, “Are you the drivers?”

I turn to see Nurse Lisa who should be called Fat Nurse Lisa, and say, “Yes, are you the secretary?”  Give me some small measure of pride here people, yes its basically adult night school, but medic school was not easy.  I didn’t go through 10 months of hell on an accelerated program to be called a driver.  Nurses really don’t like being called secretaries.

“I’m the nurse.  Here’s his paper work.  Have a good day.”  She turns to leave.

“Um… is he going back with that IV?  Do you want your cardiac monitor taken off him?”  Ha!  My powers of observation caught something!  “What was he here for?”

As she is taking off the monitor and the IV:  “Change in mental status.”

“He is a dementia patient who was brought to the hospital for a ‘change in mental status’?

“Yes.”

“Is this his normal mental status?”

“Yes.”

“What was his mental status when he arrived?”

“Just like this.”

“So, why was he admitted?”

“Observation.  He has three bags going with him; I told his family you would take them.  They will be meeting you over there.”

“Does my truck say “U-Haul” on the side?”

She actually looks at me for the first time, “What?”

I give her the “I don’t know what you mean” shrug, Bear gives the go ahead that were ready, and we  begin to wheel Mr. Calloway through the hospital.

*******************************************************************************************

The trip to Babbling Brook was about as uneventful as one could expect when transporting a senile old man.  He was actually quite pleasant.  He thought that he was on vacation on a tropical island.  As we walked through the hospital and out the doors he marveled at the architecture of the natives and questioned many times how they could have built such marvelous structures.  He believed that we were brothers who owned a tour guide company on the island and that we were taking him for a boat tour of the island.  It was a pleasant fiction that was only more convincing when he saw the god-awful mural on the side of our ambulance.  We did nothing to try and dissuade his belief; in fact we even played along a bit.  When we got him to his room, he said “hello waitress” to the nurse and ordered a Mai Tai.  He thanked us for the trip and asked us to stay and have a cocktail with him.  We respectfully declined, claiming we had other people waiting to go on the tour.  A few quick signatures from the nurse, a smoke in the parking lot, and then it was off to our parking lot to sit and wait for the next run.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

About domdecaprio

oh, you'll find out...
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7 Responses to Just Another Day In Paradise (The Epic Episode 1 of the Paradise Ambulance saga)

  1. This is really good! You need to let me edit, of course, but otherwise I really love it. It’s funny. :)

  2. Ande Thompson says:

    It’s funny ’cause it’s true! I love this!

  3. timyates9 says:

    Red,
    This is a really good start. I love that you posted this. (I was about to change the title of “Blogs I Recommend” on my page to “People I know who used to write.”) I agree with Carolyn, some edits and a couple rewrites, and you’ll have a pretty serious start to a book here. The biggest comment/suggestion that I have is that I would try to intertwine the narration and dialogue more so that it doesn’t seem so separate. Good work here.

  4. amazingly true…. made me laugh the entire time almost just thinking these conversations happen at work every day…

  5. Haha this is too funny Dom.

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