Monday, April 6, 2009

L.A. Weekly: Help Is on the Way

Take a look at this excellent piece of writing from ambulance driver Courtney Moreno. It's hard to convey, through writing or any other medium, what an experience is like for those who weren't there. Far from straight reporting, this is like a mini-memoir, a look at her life as an exhausted, blood- and brain-spattered, coffee-drinking cigarette-smoking hero.

Let me tell you a secret: In our job, it’s better when there are things to do. The worst kind of patient is the one we can’t help. Want to know the most infuriating chief complaint out there? Abdominal pain. We hate treating abdominal pain in the field. When someone has abdominal pain, whether it’s mild indigestion or a life-threatening aortic aneurysm, the treatment is the same: Drive to the hospital. That’s it. They could have an ulcer, blood in their GI tract, kidney stones, a bladder infection, appendicitis; they could have internal bleeding from a bruised solid organ or the swollen infection of a hollow one. They could be throwing up bright-red blood or vomiting “coffee grounds” — digested blood. This could have been going on for weeks or hours. The most you can do on your way to the hospital is get an accurate description of where in the body the pain is occurring, signs and symptoms, and severity. The triage nurse takes it from there, but God forbid you finish your assessment on the rig and still have even one minute to go on your ride to the ER. That’s one more minute of sitting there, listening to someone scream their head off, ask for pain medicine, tell you they’re going to throw up. You can sympathize with their pain, hand them a basin, tell them no pain medicine is allowed until some tests are performed at the hospital, but what it feels like you’re saying is: I’m useless, I can’t help you; just sit tight in this overrated taxi and we’ll get you there.

Read the whole story on the L.A. Weekly website.

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