Thursday, November 19, 2009

Allergic reaction.

When I first got into emergency services I actually started as a volunteer EMT. Less than a year later I moved onto the Police Department but kept up my by then heavy involvement in EMS.

I can't recall if I was on the Police Department yet or not on the night in question. I was on the overnight call shift which ran from seven at night until five the next morning. Because the town is fairly small we were not required to be at the station while on call, just have our pagers on. I turned my pager on at seven that evening and a few hours later turned my light off and hit the sack.

Sure enough, in the middle of the night the pager tones woke me up. Woman with difficulty breathing. I pulled on my EMS uniform, stumbled out to my car, and drove the the shed. There I met Larry and Ringo. Larry was the patrolman assigned to that night shift and he was starting the ambulance up. Ringo was the other EMT on call and he looked about as sleepy as I felt. Off we went.

Once on scene we encountered an elderly woman who was panting as she tried to catch her breath. After getting a quick history we decided to start the woman on oxygen to try and alleviate her distress. Ringo thought a mask would be good so I set it up. Ringo told the woman what he was going to do and placed the mask on her face. Panic set in. Ringo pulled the mask off. The woman calmed down. Ringo explained again, in more detail. Mask back on, panic. Mask off. Explain. Mask on. Panic. Mask off.

So far Ringo, Larry, myself, and the woman's son had all tried to explain to her about the oxygen. She was coherent and said she understood but didn't want the mask on. She claimed that oxygen was no good for her. What? She had no medical condition that made oxygen use dangerous. No matter, it just wasn't good for her she said. Larry escaped by going out to the ambulance to get the cot. Ringo talked the woman into allowing him to hold the mask next to her face and let the air blow across her nose and mouth. Not as good as if the mask was on but better than nothing.

Larry returned with the cot. The woman wouldn't sit on it. Said she couldn't. We brought the back all the way up. No dice. We tried to talk her onto the cot. Nope. I looked at Ringo. He looked like he was in the middle of a long night. Larry was looking at the ceiling. The woman's son asked if she could ride in a seat in the ambulance. Worth a try. The woman agreed that she could do that. Progress!

We carried the woman out on a dining room chair because she was too weak to walk. As we set her down beside the ambulance she stated that she could not ride in the ambulance because it was too high. Larry assured her that this was not a problem because we would lift her in. No we wouldn't she replied, it was too high. That was her final say in the matter, she would not ride that high up. Nothing we could say was going to change that. Larry looked like a man who wanted to swear but knew he couldn't.

Ringo asked the woman what she wanted to do. She stated that her son could take her to the hospital in his car. The son looked like he might faint at the suggestion. He pointed out that Mom was not doing well in the breathing department. This concerned him. Ringo stepped in, the important thing was to get the lady to the doctor. What about if we EMTs rode in the car with the woman and her son? That would work said the woman.

Grabbing a jump kit and the oxygen we piled into the back seat of the car (the woman would only ride up front). Larry followed in the ambulance. I kept in radio contact with Larry and documented the proceedings. Ringo leaned over the front seat and held the oxygen mask to blow across the woman's face. Whenever he got the mask too close she would push it away and remind us that oxygen was not good for her.

It was a long ride to the hospital. A long explanation to the ER staff as to why our patient wasn't on board the ambulance when we came in. A long report. It will also be a long time before I forget the woman who was allergic to oxygen and the four door car that became an ambulance.

1 comment:

Pierre Bellville said...

Hilarious! I don't remember ever hearing this story before. Sounds like she may have had some claustrophobic issues mixed with elderly stubbornness. Funny.