The End of… Field Training?

At the insistence of Epijunky, I am posting something about an experience I had when I first started.

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The morning was cold. The September air was bitterly cold, my first in Memphis. I almost bounced to my car and sped away to fire station #27 in Frayser. I couldn’t hear the music on the music, the thoughts were already churning.

My first day. Alone, and solely responsible.

I had just completed field training and came back from the mandatory vacation. My first assignment was in special operations, which was unusual because no one goes to that right away. This was a new crew on a different shift, not the people I was used to or had sweat and bled with the during my time in transition between the academy and now. I was understandably nervous.

I was warmly welcomed, and introduced to people that I had only seen in passing, now as my new company. The talk that morning was a late morning fire that was possibly intentionally set, but the investigator was not sure, and neither was the chief. I stood around in between the day room and the kitchen sipping a cup of coffee listening to the conversation. I felt accomplished, now I was wearing their uniform (recruits in training wear different shirts) and was in the same room.

I thoroughly checked the ambulance off, even our special drugs. My EMT for the day was surprised at my level of completeness. I completed the logbook and check sheet like I had done previously. I noted the location of the fire from the previous day. As I washed my coffee cup out and dropped it in the dish strainer, the overhead intercom clicked on…

“Companies stand by…..” I stopped breathing…

The printer rolled out a small strip of paper with the address…

A solid tone blared on the speakers… my heart dropped into my stomach…

“Engine 27, 26, 28, Truck 11, Rescue 3, Unit 22, Battalion 2, 2nd Division respond to a report of a house on fire, multiple calls…” Now I felt sick.

The sense of urgency and adrenaline level jumped about 10 notches. Seconds later we were following the rescue as it careened through residential streets. I could see the smoke and flame erupting from a building as I instructed the EMT to position so we don’t get blocked in. The LT in from the rescue was waving me over to a space in between the houses, two people were laid out in the middle of a crowd. The EMT looked at me.

“You ready?”

“Let’s go get ’em” I chimed, rolling out of the seat and out of the cab, then back into the box through the curb door. I tossed the monitor, bag, and oxygen box on the cot and the EMT rolled it out. We briskly walked over to the scene.

One woman was in and out of consciousness, the other was wide awake and screaming in pain. “What happened?” I asked as the crowd parted around us.

The screaming woman stops to talk. “My daughter,” she points to the unconscious girl, “she dove out of the window and landed on her head, I’m cut and bleeding.” The legs were covered with a blanket, I couldn’t see the cut, but she was still talking which placed her at a lower priority than the other woman. I ordered the EMT back to the unit for spinal immobilization gear. My next move was down to the ground to check the woman out a bit better.

Flamed rolled out of the window in front of me, suddenly a burst of water exploded from the window showering us with extinguished embers and hot water. I covered my patient like a combat medic shielding a soldier from a nearby explosion. Finally the EMT returned with the immobilization stuff. My heart pounded as more water landed around us, we loaded her on the board for an urgent move from what seemed like a war zone. Another medic, also just starting that day, came over to help.

“My lieutenant figured you would need some help,” he made a coy smile.

“This woman has a cut on her leg, I haven’t had the chance to look, but they say it’s bad. I am going to leave my bag here for a moment until you can get what you need out of it. I shot a quick look to my EMT at the foot of the cot “let’s get the hell out of here…”

We went bouncing along the driveway to the unit, and were met by an EMS supervisor. “Whatcha got?”

“Ummm, I think she’s got a head injury, not burned. I’ll know more in a few.”

“Cool, I’ll get you out of here when you are ready, they cut a path for you to back out.”

We loaded the woman as quickly as we could and finished the immobilization job we couldn’t in the side yard. I dropped a 16 gauge in her AC and the EMT hung me a bag. My sissors moved quickly to remove the clothes that had been hiding the remaining areas of skin I couldn’t see. I yelled the go ahead signal to the EMT and told him to get me there quickly. Our destination was the Level I trauma center.

At this time we didn’t have anything that made the job any easier, so I’m taking manual blood pressures, watching the monitor, and trying to record all of this in the back of a moving ambulance. My patient was out of it, all I could get were her name, birthday, and social, which was the very minimum I needed. My report to the trauma center via radio was concise and accurate. I felt accomplished.

The transition was fast. The nurse accepting took my report quickly, and set about an assessment of her own. I went about debriefing myself as I focused my mind to write the report (this was before electronic reporting too) The radio crackled to life. “Unit 22, contact your supervisor at your convenience.” My heart skipped a beat, luckily, he just wanted to know if our patient was burned. I looked at the times on the MDT screen. “12 minutes…” I whispered.

“What?” the EMT asked.

“That whole scenario took 12 minutes, from the moment we got there, to the moment we were on the road again. 12 minutes.”

“Time flies…”

“I guess it does…”

There have been hairier calls since then, with wilder scenes, but that one sticks out just because it was the first time I was put to the test. I think I passed.