Doctors Say The Darnedest Things

Patient: “Oh! Look what we have here! Are you the good doctor?”

Doctor: “Well, I’m not the bad one…”

Words of Wisdom in the Back of a Truck

I’ve been told by many a good teacher that every interaction with a patient presents a learning opportunity. I really believe that’s true. Each individual allows you to refine your assessments, or practice interacting with people. But, I’m also learning that each patient has a chance to teach you something; give you something to think about.

I once had a very sick patient, going through some very challenging things physically, mentally, and socially. With everything going on and going wrong, one could only expect that he would throw his hands up and say, “Can I just have one thing go right? Can I just have one good day?” I’ve said that myself plenty of times over lesser events. I searched for words. I tried to verbalize my sympathy. I quietly noted aloud that all the gray, rainy days must be exhausting for him.

“But, you know,” He said calmly, looking away as if he were actually physically searching for words, “Even too much sunshine can get you burnt.”

The dull roar of road noise was the only thing that filled the silence as we absorbed his words. He sighed and nestled a little deeper into his pillow.

“Balance, dear. Life is about balance.”

Growing up in EMS: Lesson #53

“You are way too young to be this bitter,” My partner said, shaking his head. We’d spent the better half of this drive to a nursing home venting about our separate love lives, or lack thereof. As he backed our truck up in the parking lot, I made that bold, broad, terminal statement that love is stupid. Or maybe I said it wasn’t real. Or that it was for the birds. Really, any of those described how I was feeling.

“Too young? Psh, too old to be this bitter. I know it’s childish and immature. I just can’t help it.”

We grabbed our gloves, our clipboard, and our stretcher. We stood up straighter, smiled, and stuffed those feelings into the backs of our minds–away from the professional exterior our patient deserved. Our patient was sitting in a chair beside her husband. They held hands, and watched the commotion of the floor with quiet, content smiles. My partner and I introduced ourselves to the couple.

“Well, Mrs. Smith*, your chariot awaits,” I said playfully, making a sweeping Vanna White gesture.

My partner offered his arm to support her for the few steps to the cot. Once we got her settled, her husband rose from his chair, slowly and unsteadily. He shuffled over to her, took her face in his hands, and brought her nose-to-nose.

“I’ll see you soon, beautiful,” He said, before planting a shaky, tender kiss on her forehead. She grinned back at him, looking back at him lovingly through her thick glasses.

We completed the run in the usual way, getting her to where she needed to be. My partner and I climbed into the cab of the truck, signed back in service, and hit the road.

“You see?” My partner nudged me. “That right there is why I believe in love. Yeah, getting your heart broken again and again sucks. But that? That lady and her husband? They’ve probably been married like 50 years or something crazy like that. Maybe more! But you could just see it. They got it right. Love is there. It’s possible.”

I’m pretty stubborn, but I have to admit that maybe he’s got a point. We get to bear witness to life and death, good and bad, hate and love; and everything in between. All in all, we’re exposed to some pretty powerful and inspirational things. There’s something to be said about that.

Another Day In The Life

Nursing Assistant: Can you bring in the patient through the employee entrance? I’ll meet you on the other side. Just knock, and I’ll open the door.

P2P: No problem. We’ll scoot right over.

(20 seconds later…)*knockknockknock*

Nursing Assistant (surprised): Who is it?

P2P (also surprised): Uh…ambulance?

P2P’s Partner: Housekeeping! You want mint on your pillow?

The Other Night On The Ambulance…

The other night, during a “Q” shift, my partner and I were chatting to pass the time. Somehow we came onto the idea of writing a massive series of books/articles/whatever, describing everything you could possibly want to know about EMS. So far, our collection includes:

The Newbie’s Guide To Surviving Long Shifts: You’re A Machine…A Slowly Rusting Machine

The Magic of Reverse 24’s: Sleep Is What?

Wait, What Day Is Today?

” ‘EMT-B’ Stands For ‘Empty My Trash, B****’ “, And Other Things Paramedics Regret Saying To Their Basics

“I Can See The Head!”, And Other Things You Don’t Want To Hear From The Front Seat

“Patching In” In 30 Seconds Or Less: Nobody Cares About The Patient’s Favorite Color

Body Mechanics For Dummies: I Pick People Up And Put Them Down

Coffee, Pens, and Time: Things You’ll Never Have Enough Of

Words And Phrases You Must Never, Ever Say


Any others?


Awkward Report

P2P: Hey! So, this is Mr. So-and-so. He’s doing alright. Been hemodynamically stable for the whole trip.

Nurse Unsure: Good, good. How were his vital signs?

P2P: ….Yeah. Uh…yeah, those were good too.


So…there’s that.

Crappy Call

After cleaning up the back after a particularly…uh…crappy call…

Partner: If this next patient poops on the stretcher, I’m going to lose my shit.

P2P: Cool. Then you guys can have a shit-losing contest.

The Ambulance Ride Home from Far Away Medical Center

Paramedic: Hey, is it cool with you if we stop off in Middlunowhere on the way home? There’s this place, Roadside Jack’s Country Store, that sells the world’s BEST apple pie.

P2P: The best?

Paramedic: Did I stutter?

P2P: Well then, we’ll have to stop and get some. Can’t turn down the world’s best apple pie. Particularly not if it’s Roadside Jack’s.


Twenty minutes of delicious descriptions later, as we cross the border into Middlunowhere…

Paramedic: I certainly hope he has pie today.

P2P: Hold on, you’re making this big fuss about going here. And you got me and the crew back home all excited about bringing back the world’s BEST apple pie, and it might not even be there?!

Paramedic: Roadside Jack is part man, P2P! He’s not God! He might not have made enough pie to feed the masses.


Fortunately, Roadside Jack’s apple pies were still available for purchase. And we called the crew at home to go and get vanilla ice cream ready for our ultimate return.


Paramedic: How can you live in New England and not ski?

P2P: I think we go over this EVERY TIME we get in the truck. I never learned. You were going to teach me last year, actually, remember? But then there was no snow.

Paramedic: Oh, right. Well, it’s supposed to be a bad winter this year. There will be lots of snow.

P2P: Yes. The woolly caterpillars are extra fuzzy this year. And there are squirrels all over the place.

Paramedic: ….I don’t think that’s how it goes, but I like your style.