Note: the names of the people used are not their real names, as I have changed them to help keep their privacy.
People commonly say “you always remember your first.”
Of course, they are talking about relationships, but for me, it also applies to my patients.
My first case in the ambulance as a probationary member was as typical as any on a warm Tuesday night: a drunk college student.
Our station was called into the nearby college campus Greek life neighborhood for a young woman, 19 years of age. Her fellow sorority members called the case in as they were worried about how she was acting.
Once we arrived at the scene, there were already two university policemen that came to investigate. Many people crowded the upstairs stairwell to her room, as we brought in the stairchair, aid bag, and oxygen bag, ready to assess the situation.
(BTW, I was the one carrying the oxygen bag and chair at the time.)
The EMT at the time, Daniel had entered the patient, Emmas’ room to find her dazed on the floor, and very wet. He asked the patient if she was okay, but once she locked eyes with him, she started groaning and moaning that she doesn’t want to go to the hospital.
We were unable to find out anything from her at the time, so he turned to the crowd – bystanders and friends of hers – and asked what happened. They were a bit tight-lipped and only said in a shifty tone that she may have drank a little, and/or had ingested other drugs/substances e.g. marijuana.
Considering this, Daniel decisively went to strap Emma to the stairchair and went to convince her that taking her to the hospital will help her with her discomfort.
For the me that was new at this job, as straightforward as the situation seemed, it was very overwhelming, and I could only stand quietly in a corner, trying to not get in the way of the work.
As we escorted Emma to the ambulance and shifted her from the stairchair to the cot, we managed to get more words out of her. She wanted to contact her mother and let her know that she was heading to the nearby hospital. So we had her friends bring her phone and ID over so that we could start typing her information into our system while she makes her call.
Her friends wanted to follow via riding the ambulance together, but our protocols only allowed parents and guardians of minors to ride together. Emma was not a minor, nor was her friends her parent, or her guardian. So they could only watch the ambulance as we left.
En route to the hospital, we learned more about the situation from Emma that her friends weren’t willing to share.
The reason she drank at the time was that she was being indoctrinated into the sorority, and they had her drink a shot or two. As she was matching the mood, she had completely forgotten about the medications that she had been taking.
From Adderall, Prozac, and birth control, Emma had mixed various drugs together with alcohol, causing her then pain and discomfort.
Emma had also been taking a shower at the time when everything hit her, which was why when we arrived at the scene, she was so wet. Her skin was cold and clammy, and her overall temperature was very low, so we had to provide extra blankets to keep her warm. She groaned about feeling sick the entire ride.
My duty en route was to catch her barf in one of many barf bags that we carry around. Maybe it was due to the bag, but I noted she was very clingy at the time, and man could she barf.
Arriving at the hospital, we probably spent a good 30-40 minutes checking her in and getting a room cleared by the hospital for her to use. In an ideal world, we would’ve been in and out of the hospital within 15 minutes.
The only consolation we had while waiting was that after barfing and gagging for a while, Emma became a bit more clear-headed.
We also got to hear a funny conversation she had with her mother as Emma wailed that she missed her and asked when she was coming, to which her mother replied “honey, I love you too, but I can’t come, I’m in New York (many states away from the patient).” At this, she only cried harder.
Maybe because she was a bit disheveled, but this conversation repeated several times during our wait, which made it humorous.
This concluded my first patient. I was in one piece, no worse than before I rode the ambulance for the job, my battle wound being a barf-infused arm from the drizzle that got onto me when the bag couldn’t catch everything.
I feel that I was very blessed to experience something so tame as a beginner, in comparison to a friend who experienced someone having a cardiac arrest on the scene which ultimately ended with the doctors pronouncing the patient dead.
I could never imagine watching someone die in front of me. The possibility makes me shutter; but I hope that when it is my turn to help people, I can give them the best support I can until they reach the hospital safely. And if I can’t, then I wish to be able to say with confidence that I had done everything I could have, with no regrets.
The moral of the story: Don’t mix meds with alcohol. It won’t feel nice.