Code Blue, Code Stroke,… Code Green?

Recently, a group of EMS providers and First Responders have come together to make something that is near and dear to me. I present to you, the Code Green Campaign! There has been much talk recently on social media about suicided in first responder circles. Including a medic who committed suicide at his station and his partner attempted to work him. And there has been talk about the stigma that surrounds our profession and others like it about asking for help.

The Code Green Campaign is trying to break those stigmas. Please everyone, check it out. I don’t want to lose any other brothers or sisters, no matter what patches or uniforms you wear. I have lost someone very close to me once before and don’t want to go through that before. Mourning bands are not something I want to break out on a regular basis.

On the site, there is a list of resources geared just to us, the first responder community. There’s stories from other providers about their own issues and problems and how they took it on. There’s even one from yours truly that has been submitted. It’s a great idea, backed by a great group of people.

Even if we can just save one brother or sister from taking their own life, it would be worth it. But please spread this around, give it as much publicity as you can. We need to cut out the stigma that comes with asking for help. After all, we are all taught that our safety comes first. That includes unsafe scenes and unsafe mental states. Take care of yourselves people!

-TJ

We lost a good man yesterday

NM EMS suffered a terrific blow yesterday. We lost one of our best educators, Cy Stockhoff. I met Cy close to seven years ago when he helped proctor one of my first practical exams for EMT-B. Then I got to have him when I attempted my EMT-I cert for the first time. The man knew what he was talking about, and always pushed for us students to question the norm and push to make our profession better.

Cy taught a good portion of my first try through paramedic school, and was my biggest supporter when I withdrew from the program and took my EMT-I exam instead. He told me that life will never let you follow your plans exactly, and that sometimes things happen and you have to make do as best you can.

The last time I saw him, it was a fun little reunion when I came by his office to ask about starting their degree program with my current paramedic cert. He remembers nearly all his students, it seems, and I was no exception. He asked me how it was going, and congratulated me on my paramedic cert and asked how I was liking my rural 911 service (I  was in uniform at the time, so it was an easy jump).

Even then, he asked if I had thought about doing any further training and education, including getting my instructor certs. After those years away from being his student he still wanted me to do better than the status quo.

Cy, you’ve helped mentor me, helped me learn how this EMS thing works. You’ve made me question the ‘why’ about why we do things. I’m grateful to have been one of your students, and I will keep striving to be better, and to make our chosen profession better. Thank you for everything you’ve done for us. You’ve helped teach a state full of providers who will fight to the last, with what little we have to work with.

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Memories, and new beginnings?

I’ve never like Albuquerque, not since before I moved here for school. When I left last March for Colorado, I thought that was it. I swore I’d never willingly move back to Albuquerque. But somehow in the course of talking to you the NEXT March… we agreed to find a place together in Albuquerque, and I would have been so very content to stay here for the next 18 years with you if you’d have had me. That’s when it hit me. You were what was missing the first few years here. Even staying at your parents (which I’m still so very grateful they put up with me :p), being with you felt like home. You were my home, the place I felt the safest. The place I felt most comfortable. The person I loved being with so much.

Now Albuquerque is a bunch of memories, of things we did. Of places we visited. Unfinished plans that we made together. Albuquerque feels empty to me now. Worse than before you, it’s now a black hole that seems content to suck out any happiness or wanting to do anything. This is not my home any longer.

I guess that’s why when this hospital district offered me the opportunity to come out and test, I took it without a second thought. I knew you would have been ok with it. That’s why I bristle a little when people accuse me of trying to run away from my problems here and run there. And to be honest, that thought gave me a panic attack on the drive back today.

For a little bit, I didn’t know why I was doing it. Was I really running away? Or was I doing it because it’s something I wanted? Because it’s something I thought would be the best idea for me? I really didn’t know. That made me feel horrible. Then I thought about it. Both of us loved travelling, granted you hated TX, but we both had plans to move as much as we could. And this would really be a good opportunity for me. Maybe I’m doing it for a little bit of all of those reasons? But you know what, if it’s better for me in the long run, who cares right this second why I’m doing it?

But that means I need to try and put some things behind me. Sweetheart, losing you is something I’m still having a hard time dealing with. I listened to a song on the way home and these were part of hte lyrics

“I don’t wanna not remember
I will always see your face
In the shadows of this haunted place
I will laugh
I will cry
Shake my fist at the sky
But I will not say goodbye”

That’s rather how I feel towards you. The last month I’ve gone through so many emotions… Gods know that there have been times I’ve been so very pissed off at you. Pissed that you left me alone here, pissed that you wouldn’t talk to any of us, pissed that you were gone. Pissed in general. But it reminded me too that I wouldn’t have been anywhere near that mad if I wasn’t in love with you.

What I can do, though, is remember the memories. Remembering you so many years ago, walking into the interview for that trip with me. I saw you back then, braces, frizzy hair, and all, and it was like something inside me clicked. Like my heart went “Oh! Hi! I’ve been waiting for you!”

And that trip was amazing. I know you had some rough spots during it, and so did I. And I’m sorry I ever took it out on you then. But we enjoyed each others company so very much. And I loved squirelling a smile out of you when you were in a bad mood. It helped my mood so much too. And then  when we got home… This blushing little girl, so cute and innocent looking, walking up to me and kissing me on the cheek, then walking away. You left me standing there breathless and staring. I still smile when I think of that memory.

Then we had some bad times. I was dating the one-who-will-never-be-named (yes she is that much of an evil bitch that she would give Voldemort a run for his money) and she took great exception to the fact that I might have been falling for someone that wasn’t her, or that I was even talking to someone that wasn’t her. So she took it upon herself to make sure we’d never talk again… and for several years we didn’t. I remember spending hours trying to find you online, looking for any sign of you. And come to find out you were doing the same thing to find me.

I remember the first day I saw you again. It was after you and my mother realized who each other was. I came down from ABQ for just a chance. We called each other when I got on campus and left my mom’s office. And in a typical Zita moment, and Nate moment for that matter, I look ahead of me and see someone talking on the phone… making arm motions that looked very familiar. I asked you what you were doing and you told me walking. I was smirking to myself the entire time, and I asked you to turn around. God, seeing your face for the first time in years was amazing. You had just gotten even more gorgeous and grown up from that little girl I remember. The smile on your face when we both realized we’d been on the phone with each other from about 20ft away is still one of my favorite memories.

Remembering how you smiled at me this past Valentine’s day when I surprised you with flowers at your parents. You were always so hard to surprise because you hated them and tried to get all the info you could before it happened. That’s why I’m amazed that me and your mother managed to pull off me sneaking by without you knowing. The happiness you had on your face when you saw me walk through the door was amazing, and then the surprise and smile when I handed you flowers. I was hoping that flowers to you on V-day would become a normal tradition with us, the first time I’d ever enjoyed that day at all.

Or how a month or two later when I walked into your parents house again on a mini-vacation from TX. I had been working up the courage to ask if I could kiss you on that trip, so can you imagine how surprised I was when the first thing you do as I walk in is kiss me on the lips, kiss me very soundly? Heh, I think it was almost a repeat of the airport and me just standing there. You smiled so sweetly and just giggled at me. That was the turning point of us becoming an ‘us’ even if we didn’t want to admit it to anyone.

Those are just a few of my favorite memories of you and me. And kind of why I think I might be running away from ABQ… there are memories of you, of us, of all three of us, everywhere in this state. And I really am having a hard time dealign with it. I still wake up and expect to be looking into your gorgeous hazel eyes, or hear you giggle at me whenever I do something stupid. I miss your gentle touch when I’m upset, and boy, lately, I could have used that wonderful touch so often. I miss just being able to cuddle you to me when you were upset. All in-all… I miss you honey. Miss you so much that the pain makes me want to curl up into a ball and stay there.

I think what really gets me… is that we didn’t really have a chance. We were good together for the short time we had, and it kills me that I’ll never know how we would have turned out. I think it would have worked, but now I’ll never know… and that, to me, is one of the things that makes this so hard.

So, yea, maybe I am running away. But I’m also trying to move on. You would want me to move on. You’d want me to become a better man. You knew of my love for EMS, and you told me shortly before I lost you that you could never tell me you wanted me to give it up. So here I go. I’m trying to get on with one of my dream services (the only one I can get on with as an EMT-I as opposed to a medic). I’m trying to become that man you would be proud of. I’m just hoping you keep watching over me. Keep visiting me in my dreams, for that’s the only way I can see you now, and gods know that I miss you. I still think of you every second of every day, and I can’t see how that will change any time soon. But for now I just need to keep pressing on. Keep trying  to push forward. It’s what you would have wanted for me. and it’s what I would have wanted you to do if the situations would be reversed.

I know I still can’t tell you goodbye. Like I said earlier, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to tell you goodbye. But I will not, cannot, ever forget you. You’ll stay in my heart forever. And I think you took the best part of me with you when you left, so at least you have some company. Until I see you again lover, watch over me and help keep my dumb ass safe when I do something stupid.

“The blackest night must end in dawn, the light dispel the dreamer’s fear.”

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So… I just got back to NM last night. I left NM on sunday to go to SE Texas to test for a large hospital based agency. From everything I have heard, they are in the top three services in the state of TX and they’ve always been one I wanted to work at. But man it was a long drive. 15 hours or so from here.

The hiring process consists of a written test, three practical tests (airway incluiding pedi and adult ETI, vital signs, and LSB), an interview, and a PAT. I passed the written with an 88%, passed all three practicals with only one retest (vital signs?! I think I just got nervous and started counting my own pulse), and had a great time on the PAT. It was actually a very fun PAT, and one of the few for private, non-fire EMS that I’ve seen that has you do a full course, not just a stair test. The interview I think I did ok on too. Now I just have to wait till Friday to hear if I got the job or not. If I did, orientation will start on July 18th.

And it’s not just orientation. They run a 3 week academy followed by 4-6 weeks riding third before you’re released as a probationary crew member under a mentoring medic.  I love the idea of the way they do new hires. So… fingers crossed that I’ll get the call once I get off duty on Friday. I go in for a 36 down here in ValCo tonight. I’m hoping I’ll have a resonably busy shift.

What’s the worst that could happen?

First off, a note to everyone. This post has been written over several days, so I apologize for any rough parts. This isn’t quite where I pictured this post to going, and there will most likely be a second part coming eventually. But first, I’ve got a post for The Handover to get done, and a blog game that our lovely Cicatrix posted up that she gave me permission to use. So without any more rambling, the post:

Ok, to my two or three readers who expect something EMS, you’re mostly going to be dissapointed. That little difference in rural EMS of not running calls compared to urban EMS has reared it’s ugly head. My service is not running too many calls right now, it seems my black cloud has slightly worn off. Hopefully that changes for my next shift.

So other than that, it’s been a busy weekend for me. I worked a 12 on Thursday during the day and an on call shift that night. From my opening, I’m sure you can probably guess how many calls we ran on that one. Yep. Just one. And we were canceled before we even hit the scene. So I was actually able to get some sleep, which was a good thing, cause Friday was a long day.

Friday consisted of trying to get my car inspected so I can get it registered here in TX. It’s actually kind of nice to not be afraid of getting pulled over cause my tags were two months out of date. I’ve been procrastinating for some time about getting it done, but since I was going to spend the majority of Friday and Saturday driving, I figured it was about time to do it, especially since I was going through the only little town I’ve ever seen that ticketed my while driving an ambulance.

Why would I be spending most of my weekend driving you ask? Well, I had to drive to Clovis, NM on Friday. My New Mexico state EMT-I test was at 0900 on Saturday morning. I figured that even though I am working in TX, my proximity to NM and maybe working part time just across the border might make it a handy time to have my full NM EMT-I cert (I’ve had a provisional EMT-I cert in NM since I did the transition course this summer, but as I found, no one will hire you with a provisional certification). And if those reasons aren’t good enough, I had already paid to take the state test :) So I might as well.

Have you ever driven in West TX/East NM? No? Well let me describe it to you. Lets start with the landscape. Flat. With a primary color of ‘dying plant brown’, but some ‘puke green’ highlights here and there. Then toss in ‘towns.’ I though I lived in a small town, but a lot of these places you literally can blink and miss them. Then lay down the road. Almost all straight, but with exactly 9 slight curves on the trip up there. I think I counted 14 stop signs/lights during the trip too. I could almost lock my steering wheel straight ahead, and take a nap for the duration of the trip. So when I say it’s a boring drive, trust me, it’s really^3 boring.

So I get up there and into my hotel. Figure I want to hunt around for a beer and a burger so I can study some more. I found out my ex-fiance and her husband, my ex-partner are both going to be there. She was testing for recert for her NM EMT-B since she let it expire. That’s another reason for the beer. It’s really going to be the first time I sit down and talk with them after everythign that has happened in the past.

So I eat, and drink, and study, and drink. Finally I decide that if I don’t know this crap by now, I’m not gonna pass anyway. So I took out the studying bit and just went to surfing the net and drinking beer. Hey it worked. And I relaxed a bit.

But people, if you have to take a major test the next day, don’t get too drunk that you wake up feeling like your head is going to explode. It’s not a good frame of mind. I went to the hotel’s complimentary breakfast to try and eat something pretty bland, when I see the couple I didn’t want to see till after the test walk in. I had no idea they were staying at the same hotel I was. This was going to be a more interesting day than I had originally thought.

I say hi to her, gave her a hug. I ignore him. I’m still hurt by what I see as him betraying me, his partner. We worked together for months and he managed to stab me in the back. Me and her talk a little, just small talk about how her parents are doing, how’s my old service treating people, the coming test. That sort of thing. Soon enough the time has come for us to head over to the local community college to take our state tests.

It all seemed like a blur, but I walked out of the test feeling good about it. That could be a bad thing, since every time I felt good about a test in P-school, I wound up not getting very high marks on it. But maybe this will be a good start to this next batch of learning and testing I’ll be doing with my second go about medic school.

I find myself sitting across the table at an iHop from them a few hours later… Just like old times when we all worked together. It’s an odd feeling. We talk about what we want for our futures. I find out that my ex and her husband are trying to have a baby, and she is talking about going to school for her Doctor of Oriental Medicine. He is still talking about Medical School, and one in NM has pretty much already accepted him.

We started talking about what I wanna do. They both were happy to hear me decide that I wanted to do the BS-EMS Critical Care at UNM. Then he said something that stopped me in my tracks, “You know, that degree was made so UNM could try to attract more EMS providers into their medical school. Have you thought about going on to that?” I couldn’t say much, just shook my head no. I just told him that I didn’t think I could do it, that it was just a dream I had.

“After working with you for almost a year, I think you can do it. There’s no harm in trying. Talk to your old hospital, they have been having trouble keeping Emergency Medicine docs in their Emergency Departments. What’s the worst that could happen?” Hearing those words come out of the mouth of a man that I dislike, who dislikes me just as much made me stop and think about it. After all, if someone who doesn’t even like me, but knew what I could do thought I could do something like this…

It’s a similar situation like a fellow blogger had. She was talking to a friend at work and the same thing hit her. I don’t know what to do at this point. I did call my old hospital to talk to their ED director. He told me that they could very well work out a deal with me if I get undergrad out of the way and get accepted into the City Medical School. I’m just flabergasted that anyone would think I can do it.

I love being a field provider, a ditch doctor as some people call EMS. But the idea of being able to get to the top of the system and try to get change to happen for the field I love is a strong pull to doing it.

After all, what’s the worst that could happen?

EMS for the Cure

My one or two readers may have noticed a new little image up in the upper right side of my blog. It’s to show my support for EMS for the Cure. It’s something that this year I can only support by trying to let more people know about it, unfortunately, but I’ll do what I can.

We all know someone, either directly or indirectly, who has been affected by breast cancer. For me it was my mother. She was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer that had metastasized to the breast tissue. This was during my Jr year of high school. For the next two years she battled the cancer and went through horrendous chemo treatments, two surgeries, and lots of poking and prodding. She was really the strongest person I have ever known as she went through all of that. She wasn’t going to let anything stop her from seeing me and my brother walk across the stage at graduation, and it didn’t. Two weeks before we graduated she had an appointment and was told that the cancer was in remission. That was the best graduation present I could have ever gotten.

She was there in the stands as her boys walked across the stage to get their diplomas. She was there with us at our graduation party, and she was there when we moved out to start our college careers. Since then she has been cancer free, but I know not everyone is so lucky.

And it’s for those people, and the ones who did beat cancer, that I ask everyone who can to give just a little, or a lot, to help fight this disease. Those of you who are fellow bloggers, go pink for the next few weeks, in honor of national Breat Cancer month. For all of you that already have, thank you.

How I got into EMS

I asked a question on Twitter last night to my fellow EMS bloggers, and after several of them posted up links to posts to explain, I realized I had nothing to tell how I got into it.

How did I get into EMS? A kinda long route, at least it seems long to a 22 year old.

When I was a Jr in high school I was thinking of going into the military, it had been a long tradition in my family. I was thinking of either going in as a medic or getting some college under my belt with ROTC and becoming a helicopter pilot. I talked to recruiters, took the ASVAB (second highest in the state my year :) ), worked out, and generally tried my best to get to where I wanted.

That changed on May 5, 2005. I was riding up to the next city to see a movie on a half day from school. Our town at this point had lost it’s only theatre and we had nothing to do. I’d headed up there so many times I could have gotten there in my sleep. Except there was 55mph winds and I was riding up there on a Kawasaki EX500R.

I had just gotten on the interstate at MM150 on I25 in NM, when a gigantic gust of wind hit me. Since I was riding a very light bike, and anyone who’s ridden motorcycles knows how wind treats us, I got blown all over. I ended up getting blown into the rear trailer wheels of an 18-wheeler. My left leg hit the hub and I bounced off and hit the concrete barricade on my right side. The semi just kept going since he wasn’t even aware a little bug had hit his trailer.

All of that is kinda fuzzy to me, as I remember seeing the bottom of the trailer somehow, then starting up at the face of my boss. She owned a deli I worked at, and her and her husband were both volunteer firefighter/EMTs. She kept me calm and waited with me till help got there. She helped the city FD package me and take me to our little bandaid stand they called a hospital.

They couldn’t be sure of the extent of my injuries, so they called a bird from the state trauma center and wanted me flown up there. I don’t remember any of that ride since I was so doped up when they got ready to load me up. The next thing I remember is being stuck on a board in a hallway for several hours. Not a fun experience.

I wound up with a compound tib/fib fx, 2 broken ribs, a concussion, some road rash on my left leg, a broken right pinky, shattered left ankle. Not too bad for hitting a semi at 75mph. The accident actually ripped off my left boot and shredded my jeans. My gloves and jacket had withstood the accident decently well, but were cut off by the responding EMTs (and broke several pairs of their shears). The helmet I still have on my shelf in between my two daily riding helmets. It is cracked and scuffed, but a good reminder why gear is important.

The road to recovery was a long one, I had several surgeries after the accident and I still walk with a limp occasionally. I resigned myself to not being able to serve our country in the military like I had wanted, but just wanted to get myself through high school and figure out what I wanted to do.

I wound up graduating on May 20th 2006 and was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. EMS had been a thought in the back of my mind since I was recovering from my accident. But I was near one of the premier schools for blowing things up, and I decided that since I couldn’t serve, I’d get a degree in Explosives Engineering.

I loved the idea of doing that, I could go to work and help develop munitions for the govt, or serve with the police and disarm weapons. Unfortunately I didn’t like the math required for engineering, and I was your typical first year college student. I didn’t wanna actually do anything. And it didn’t help that I went to college in the same little town I graduated high school in, so the drama from the year before tended to follow me.

After the first semester I was put on academic probation and then academic suspension after the second semester. I was devastated. By the end of the second semester I had tried, and made progress, in turning everything around. But it was too little too late. I had no idea what to do.

My mother is actually the one who suggested I move north to the city for a year and get some classes up there under my belt and, since I’d talked about it on and off, maybe take an EMT-B class and give it a try. It made more sense to me than just hanging around and doing nothing down there for a year. So in July of 2007 I made a move 70 miles north to the city.

I started in EMT class and loved it. Every day was a new learning opportunity and I made sure to bleed my instructor dry. I found that I loved the idea of working on an ambulance and working outside on a regular basis. Plus it flared up the idea of being a military medic once again and I knew I’d found a niche that I liked.

My instructor was an EMT-I getting ready to go to medic school and he pulled me and two others aside and told us that he thought we should consider going further and starting the paramedic pre-reqs at the community college we were at. Knowing that he thought that highly of me, I did just that the next semester.

But first was the NM EMT testing. I had to drive 4 hours to the next smaller city south of us to take the test. I was so nervous during it that I didn’t think I’d pass. I was the second person done with the written and felt ok about how I did on it. But then came the practical scenarios and skills. My first group was two random skills. Combitube and drawing up a dose of a med and giving it (I got Epi). That was no problem. Combitube went great and I drew up the 0.3cc of Epi 1:1 just like I was supposed to and administered it to the arm just fine.

Then came the pt assessment scenario. I don’t even remember what it was now, but I know I just froze. I forgot gloves and failed no matter what I did. They told me I’d have a chance to redo a scenario and I knew that it was my last shot. I got together with some classmates and we all quizzed each other and I felt better about it. I went in and nailed the scenario. I remember the proctor telling me “And they failed you the last time?” as I walked out the door, this time feeling much better about everything.

It was a long drive home that night, but I was ecstatic about everything. It just was down to the waiting. I was working for a motorcycle dealership at this point (and still riding) and my boss was getting pretty amused and how frustrated I was, having my brother check the mail every five minuted and not getting anything.

Finally 4 days after the test site, I went home and checked mail. I remember what our teacher had told us. “Small envelope, no good. Big envelope, welcome to EMS!”. I went through my mail and got nothing. Then I noticed a key to the package boxes. I went over to them and there it was. A big envelope from the NM Department of Emergency Medical Services. Inside was my certification, a patch, and a big certificate. I think I called everyone and told them that night. I also stopped by my former teachers class and thanked him and shook his hand one more time.

I started Advanced Trauma the next semester and had even more fun. I also wound up meeting the girl I would get engaged to later on that year. That semester I also found a big road block to me working anywhere. I was only 20. Luckily though I heard from a friend that an IFT company was hiring and that I might see about getting on with them as a dispatcher. I figured what the hell and put an application in.

I got an email the next day from their director of field operations asking if I would be willing to work on a rig as an attendant only until I turned 21, instead of being a dispatcher. It took me all of a half second to decide and I sent him an email 5 minutes after getting one telling him I would love to work on a bus.

I worked there for almost a year and loved almost every minute. Even if it was primarily IFT I learned a lot and I asked as many questions to the RNs and MDs as I could get
away with. During that time I got engaged to my ex (which if you’ve read more of this blog, you know she IS my ex and just got married in fact to my old partner) and completed all of my pre-reqs for my medic program. And got accepted to the program.

The pretty much brings this up to date as to when I started this blog. Since then I’ve had my share of ups and more than my share of downs. But I think back to the first day of EMT-B class and realized that’s when the bug bit me. I can’t imagine myself doing anything other than medicine. And EMS is and will always be my first love in the medical field, hopefully I can pay it back everything it’s given me.