We have all trained, at one time or another, to respond to a chemical release at a local swimming pool.  They keep enough chemicals on hand to cause quite the trouble, but how can I explain that to a mother who feels wronged?  By writing…a lot.



Dispatchers have hit the panic button on a full HazMat response to the local indoor pool.



My ambulance is the first of 3 responding as well as a complete first alarm assignment, HazMat, etc etc.  We arrive first and are met in the street by a number of lifeguards waving their arms.  In their little red shorts they look almost like valet parking attendants having a really slow night.

As I roll down the window ever so slightly we are given the initial report of the situation:

“It’s only a couple of kids, there is no chemical release, their eyes sting after a swim lesson is all, the mom wants them to…”

and then he said it.  He said the line that gets my blood boiling.  The line I hear from the bulk of my clients and patients alike.  A line so innocent, but when taken to it’s logical conclusion is never followed through with.  The line I hope to actually act on in the near future.

“…get checked out.”


I cancel the bulk of the alarm, keeping the HazMat Battalion coming, just in case, and enter the pool where close to 100 people are still swimming and playing without problem.  In the back office a mother is sitting with her 2 children and their friends.

“They got out of the pool and were screaming and rubbing their eyes, I want it documented that this facility is using dangerous chemicals in the pool water.”

I introduced myself and went about my assessments while casually mentioning to the Manager to bring me the MSDS.  For those not in the know, anywhere there are chemicals known to possibly cause harm, there are Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) which describe the chemicals, how to treat a person exposed to them and who to call for more information.  It’s that giant binder crammed onto the top shelf in the janitor’s closet.

As he returns with the binder we flip to the chemicals used in the pool.  I have Mom read, partially as a distraction, while I talk more with the assorted children who are more interested with my partner’s phone than their “burning eyes.”

I already knew, as you do, why their eyes sting.  We all learn that lesson early on.

As Mom refused to accept the reality that the chlorine in the pool actually belongs there, she reminded me I am not a Doctor and that she wanted her children…

and this is where the encounter should end.  Me informing the Mom of exactly what is happening, her digesting the information and making an informed decision, based on my professional medical opinion and diagnosis.  But, who am I kidding…

“…checked out.”

My reminders that I had just completed the exam she had requested and that if further evaluation is requested a private vehicle would be more than appropriate went unheard, even unlooked at. She has turned her face away from me like one of her children would do. Then she reminded me I am there for her.  She never mentioned the kids.

We loaded up all 6 in seatbelts with Mom on the cot holding the youngest.  Then I documented all 6 patient encounters since she was convinced her lawsuit against the pool was a winner.

Good luck with that.  I’d love the get called to the stand on that one.  Too bad no lawyer will stop laughing long enough to file it.


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