Rapid Progression ‘Learning’

It was Friday afternoon, the 4th of July, when I was dispatched to a picnic where a 62-year old man was having chest pains. Through the course of my assessment I discovered he was allergic to aspirin. I pursued the next course of action asking if he had a prescription for nitroglycerin. He did. Sweet. I immediately put a call in for medical direction to approve administering the patient his nitro prescription. The answer came back immediately, “Affirmative.” I’m thinking, I’ve got this nailed when the patient collapsed in cardiac arrest. While I was administering CPR, Jono walked through the room and with some level of surprise asked, “He died?” I had forgotten to ask the patient if he was taking ED drugs, contraindicated to administering nitro. Ugh.

Last week we learned to handle Respiratory, Cardiac, Diabetic, Allergic and Mental Emergencies. That was on Monday. The rest of the week was Poisoning and Overdoses, Abdominal and Hematological Emergencies, Bleeding, Shock, Chest and Abdominal Trauma, Musculoskeletal, Soft Tissue, Head and Spine Injuries. Tuesday I fell out of a tree while hunting and shot myself in the hand. Wednesday we threw our shoulders out of joint and broke our wrists so we could learn to properly apply a splint. Thursday we broke our femurs and put each other in traction.


Randy is the resident dummy. His jump suit is held on with velcro and we have all become quite adept at disrobing Randy in what Karl calls ‘trauma naked’. Friday morning we learned to handle multi systems trauma scenarios. Karl moved his car just outside the classroom and four of our classmates climbed inside sustaining multiple injuries each. We were required to secure their spines with a short board and C-Collar, extricate each one out of the car, onto a backboard and then a stretcher. We kept Nick, our patient, calm while we held C-spine and fitted him with the short board. We turned him in the front seat so that his back was toward the passenger door, his feet crammed up against the gear shift, and had just moved him onto the backboard when the Medic One team dropped their patient. It was not pretty.

Randy sits on the floor next to Logan during a demonstration on splinting fractures.
Randy sits on the floor during a demonstration on splinting fractures.

I sleep with my phone under the pillow – the alarm set to 4:30am. I think it has rang twice. Most days I’m awake by 3:30 or 4:00am with thoughts of signs, symptoms and vital signs swarming my head. I get home just in time for dinner, go to bed and start over again 6 hours later.

Four days of class remain before our final testing on Friday. This week’s topics include Environmental Emergencies, Obstetrics & Gynecological emergencies (I’m guessing Randy will have to temporarily become a pregnant female patient), Pediatric Emergencies and Geriatric Patients, Ambulance Operations, Hazardous Materials, Mass Casualty Incidents, Incident Management and EMS response to terrorism.

We have been warned there will be a mass casualty accident at the Nantahala Outdoor Center on Thursday. Actors will be hired with full make-up (i.e., fake blood and bruising). If any one of them are taking Viagra, I’ll be the first to know.


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