Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Old Friend.

If you are in this profession for any length of time you will make some strong bonds with other like minded people. You will learn from them and they will learn from you. You will influence each others lives and never know it happened. We rub off on one another. It's not until years later you realize what an impact they had on your life.

Today I got done with my truck check and wandered upstairs to start the daily paperwork and order supplies for the week when I saw a piece of paper with my name on it tucked under my keyboard. I opened it to find a message from a long lost friend. It listed his name and number and where he was living now with a small note that said "Call Me".

I just sat there for a moment rubbing my head. I thought "No shit, the old guys is still alive!"
I couldn't bring myself to call immediately. I had to basically talk myself into the process. Not because I didn't want to talk to him, not because I was afraid... Because what do you say to someone who unconsciously and unknowingly shaped the clinician you are? How do you tell someone that if not for them, you would be in a very different place right now?

So I sipped on my coffee and tried to rehearse my words before I placed the call. That took all of about 15 minutes and I muttered "Fuck It". I'll just call him.

The phone rang about 4 times and his wife answered it sleepily "Hello?" Shit, it is 8am what the hell was I thinking... Oh well I'm committed now.. "Is Leroy there?"

She heard it was me and her voice changed for a second when she got him on the phone, she remembered me too it would seem.

The first thing out of the old guys mouth was "Hey man, I heard you went to the dark side!" He was referring to me becoming an officer for the company and it brought a smile to my face.

The laughter started then as if it had only been 24 hours since we worked together. We talked about how he was doing and the changes in his life while he inquired about what I was doing now and that he was glad too see I had progressed so far with the company.

We caught up on the children and how they have grown, we discussed dating/being married to younger women and I promptly blamed him for instilling that fancy in my head. It was a light hearted and warm conversation and I enjoyed it very much.

You see, Leroy and I worked together years ago. When he came to work for the company he was at the end of his career and I was at the beginning of mine. He was widely regarded as one of the best paramedics that ever started a line and I was regarded as one of the loudest most obnoxious basic EMTs to ever drive a squad. He was a paramedic instructor and I was defiantly NOT the teachers pet.

I resented him those first few weeks. He was so laid back and mellow, nothing ever got to him and nothing was ever urgent. He would slowly and methodically assess our patients and then make a plan for their treatment. It was far too slow for me.. I wanted the LIGHTS, SIRENS, DRIVE FAST GO GO GO treatment. He was slowing me down.

I don't think I could have been more wrong about anyone. Leroy knew what he was doing, years of experience had proved to him "It's their emergency, not yours". That's just one of the things I learned from him. As I look back through my writing all of these years I realize that Leroy was one of my strongest influences. He taught me a great many things, even if I didn't want to learn them at the time. He was always a reassuring voice in the back of my head when I didn't think I could go any further. Always pushing me forward and forcing me to see the other side of the problem. He forced me to look at things from the patients eyes and not focus on what the book said.

I remember a run we went on in the county once with a 83 year old male that was dizzy and lightheaded. We arrived on scene and the man was flat out refusing to go to the hospital. Leroy hooked him up to the monitor and continued to try and persuade the man to seek medical attention. The man threw us out of the house.

When we got outside we told the fire department to go ahead and leave, we would not be requiring their assistance as the man was refusing care. The patients son was there outside and begging us to do something. Leroy looked at the son and said the following: "Alright sir, I'm going to have to go back in there and tell him like it is. It might sound a little rude but it's the only way I know how to convince him". The Son agreed and Leroy and I went back in. Leroy told the man "Listen buddy, your heart is in trouble. Your going to get up and walk that 4 feet to go poop, your going to sit down, push and die" This convinced the man and we started to load him on the cot when he went into full arrest. We did everything we could to try and bring him back but in the end they pronounced him at the hospital 25 minutes later. I was stunned. Here we did everything by the book. We ran a textbook code and the guy still died. This is where Leroy took me aside and said: "God made paramedics to give him a chance to change his mind" I looked at him in disbelief and he followed it with: "You gotta remember though, he don't always change his mind"

Those words would ring true with me for years following that code and they still are just as true today. I have counseled many new EMTs with the words Leroy said to me that day, and I'm sure I will in the future. Nothing more true has ever been said about why we lose patients in the field. "Your damn right it's not fair" Leroy would say. "If you wanted fair you should have found another job."

I'm glad I reconnected with Leroy, there are still so many things I can learn from him. Now that I see things a bit differently maybe I can take his lessons to heart and use them sooner than later.

In the course of you doing your job and meeting other EMS providers, pay attention. Everyone has something they can teach you if your willing to listen.

Thanks Leroy!