Sunday Fun – EMS Alley

60’s Folks Music is one of my favorite genres of music.  I love the simplicity of some of the stories, but really that they tell a story about a specific group at a specific time.

From poor Charlie stuck on the MTA, Dom Dooley singing about his pending execution,  even a couple of brothers singing about a dead girl on the beach, Jenny Brown, they aren’t just rhymes, but snapshots in history.

One of my favorite songs growing up was the Mammas and the Pappas Creeque Alley.  It’s a fun song about a lot of their friends, but I didn’t notice until recently that everyone in that song was influential in not only folk music, but in their becoming a group and landing success.  What I thought was a simple fun tune about their friends was really a giant “Thank You” to all the singers that laid the ground work for their success.

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When I hear the opening notes to Creeque Alley now, there is one line I can’t get out of my head that just wandered in one day driving home from work: “Mark and Justin, preconceptions they were bustin’…”

So I got up early this morning and played the song with the post editor open and the following is what filled my mind when I thought back to what inspired Mark Ted and me to get off our butts and do something.


EMS Alley

To the tune of Creeque Alley by the Mammas and the Poppas

Filmin’ Level Zero, showin’ lots of heroes
Setla lays down a big bet;
Down in Lou’siana, workin’ for Acadian;
Kelly hasn’t met Ron yet.
At a microphone Jamie sat,
The garage with Montera a great place to chat.
Mark and Justin preconceptions they were bustin’ in S.F.,
You know the address.
But no one’s seein’ change in EMS.

Ron he said, “Kelly, you know there aren’t many”
Who know patient care the way that you do, let’s podcast”
Kelly said Ron don’t you know it’s not wrong,
Newbies need advice that will last.
Now Ron and Kelly friends they be
Every Friday morning recording the Newbie.
Mark says Justin, care for profit is disgustin in S.F.,
You know the address.
And no one’s seein change in EMS.

In S.F. Ted planned, tried to get to England,
The NEAS said no way.
Ted quite discouraged, worked up the courage,
“Justin take video all day”
When Kaiser flew in to get the real scoop;
The CoEMS tweetup sure was a great group.
Mark and Justin couldn’t get enough words in,
But that’s what they’re all tryin’ to express.
That no one’s seein’ change in EMS.

Web logs, new jobs, No room for big slobs—
Don’t you want your change right away.
Wake up, stand up, everything is made up;
HIPAA says it has to be that way.
Chris, Dave and JEMS they formed a network;
Dave, Rogue and Too Old also gathered their work.
Mark and Justin getting some attention in S.F.,
At the Premiere of Chronicles with their guests.
This might just have a chance to change EMS.

Chiefs, Captains and critics, so many cynics,
Don’t understand the change that we seek.
Dridge and Setla tryin’ to keep us in the hoopla—
More bloggers each day and each week.
Uphill climb feels like we’re in the Andes;
Gaining recognition and respect from MDs.
All these good vibrations and our imaginations
Can’t go on indefinitely.
And change in EMS is becomin’ a reality…

CISD with OK GO – Part V

CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

OK GO – A band

We’ve covered the initial reaction – Don’t Ask Me How I Feel Part I, The Invincible stage of recovery Part II, then ask ourselves “WTF is Happening” Part III.

Then we realized the healing process is almost complete in Part IV – This Too Shall Pass.

Well, here we are, all healed, healthy and past whatever it was that was stressing us out.  We went through the steps of recovery, from anger to denial to acceptance, but now we have only one more lesson to learn from the guys of OK GO.

Conveniently enough it is their first video that went viral oh so long ago.

In this funny treadmill video we learn the most important step of healing:


That this will all happen again.  And you should have known it would.

Just when you think that you’re in control,
just when you think that you’ve got a hold,
just when you get on a roll,
here it goes, here it goes, here it goes again.
Oh, here it goes again.
I should have known,
should have known,
should have known again,
but here it goes again.
Oh, here it goes again.

It starts out easy, something simple, something sleazy, something inching past the edge of the reserve.
Now through lines of the cheap venetian blinds your car is pulling off of the curb.

And this concludes CISD with OK GO.  If you are having trouble sleeping, eating, feel your moods are shifting, or are experiencing any of the symptoms I mentioned in this series, please consider reaching out to a professional.  It’s easier than it sounds and the future you will thank you for it.

CISD with OK GO – Part IV

CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

OK GO – A band


If you’ve made it this far you have had trouble sleeping, drinking, eating, sleeping, talking, walking, holding conversations, holding your temper…you’ve run through just about every human emotion trying to come to terms with the event that has caused you so much trouble.
We’ve covered the initial reaction – Don’t Ask Me How I Feel Part I, The Invincible stage of recovery Part II, then ask ourselves “WTF is Happening” Part III.

Keep in mind this could be a minor injury like mine, a serious injury like some friends of mine, a tough call at work, even a rough patch at home.  Anything can trigger a stressful reaction and much like a severe allergic reaction, there is no closing the feedback loop and we simply get worse and worse and worse.

As we’ve covered previously, reaching out for help can seem daunting at first, but it needs to be done.  No amount of internalizing will help you get through a stressful event.  Regardless of  what the thrice divorced EMS Anchor tells you about sucking it up, we need to address our emotions and understand them to recover.  It sounds all new age and touchy feely, and in a way it kind of is.  You are unable to handle somethings emotionally.  Only by understanding what and why can you later learn from it.

And when you accept help I mentioned a brief silencing of the chaos in your head.  Soon after that silence disappears something you do will begin to help you heal the emotional wounds that were opened.  You will wake up one morning without being upset.  You’ll still be a might disagreeable, but like having the flu, you don’t wake up healthy, each day just sucks a little bit less.  Then a little bit less, then a little bit less.  Then one day you remember being upset and smile, realizing that this too shall pass.


And then you see it in a different way, each part of your recovery laid out in front of you, but all the parts need to work together or else it stalls and you have to start again.

You can’t keep letting it get you down.

CISD with OK GO – Part III

CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

OK GO – A band


We’ve been discussing how the different emotions experienced after a traumatic event can be explained through the music of OK GO.  So far we’ve covered the initial responses to the incident, anger, in which everyone was asking us how we felt, are we OK? Leave me alone we said, Don’t ask me how I’ve been.  Then we stepped into the next stage of our faux recovery, denial, when we feel invincible.

Today we’ll look at the moment when you find yourself alone, likely in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, wondering “WTF is happening?”

Conveniently OK GO describes the same situation in their song WTF.

The opening lyric perfectly sums up how I felt just before my actual recovery began:

“I’ve been tryin’ to wrap my head around, what the fuck is happening.” (the official lyric says “oh well” instead of “around” but I don’t hear it)

That’s exactly what is going on in your head a few weeks into the recovery process.  Following the initial anger and quick invincibility phase is complete self doubt.  Confusion sets in and, like the video for this song, so much is going on in your head you just want it all to stop.  Colors, shapes, sounds, thoughts, so much races through your head leaving small traces of what just was only to be replaced by something else confusing and distracting.  Thoughts piled on thoughts piled on doubt.

Figuring out what is happening inside your head will take time and professional help.  You don’t need 3 sessions a week for a year, or even the indepth psycho analysis we often see TV cops going through, but someone who can sit you down, discover what step of recovery you are in and give you suggestions to work through it.  You will be amazed when one of those suggestions suddenly hits the pause button on all the confusion and noise in your head.  It is in that brief moment, and it is brief, that you can glimpse a life without the hurt of what you are feeling.  Of course the play button gets pressed again soon after leaving the office of the person who is helping you when you realize you are the only one who can put in the effort to get things started.

But when you do finally work up the courage to start that suggestion and give it time to work, the results will astonish you.  You’ll wonder how on earth you let yourself get so worked up over what happened.  You’ll realize that this too shall pass, our next step in recovery.

CISD with OK GO – Part II

CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

OK GO – A band

Part I – Don’t Ask Me How I Feel

After a stressful incident in fire and EMS we tend to use dark humor to work through our issues.  It is a natural reaction to try to laugh instead of cry.  It seldom works though and we feel a bit uneasy about making light of something so serious.  This doesn’t have to be a minor injury like mine, or a major one like some of my co-workers have been through, but stress comes from any kind of event that causes us to lose control a little bit.  Its that “WTF am I doing this for?” moment that begins the subtle flame of impending burnout.

As a defense mechanism most of us get tougher, try to grow a thicker skin and let it roll off our backs like it’s nothing.  No matter how tough your co-workers pretend to be they are suffering just as much as you are, they may just not realize it yet.  The longer you keep these emotions locked inside, the more that little flame grows until it spreads into other parts of your life.  Ever wonder why the divorce rate is so high in emergency services?  Some will claim it’s the schedule, but it’s the inability to control stress that leads to self destruction.  I was on the doorstep of said destruction, not because I got hurt, but because I was having trouble externalizing the fear of what would happen to my family if the next ceiling that falls kills me.  That thought lit the flame of my impending burnout.

My first response when that idea popped into my head was “Bring it.  What ever doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I had no idea at the time that in retrospect long after the event (like me here right now) we can see how we learned from the experience is what makes us stronger.  For a few weeks my fear of death was replaced by a hint of invincibility.  If that ceiling falling that far only rung my bell, how bad could I really get hurt?  I mean really?  I always took full safety precautions, I didn’t have a death wish, but the little voice that often told me to be careful crawling down hallways, or to duck when the truck was breaking windows was drowned out by loud music in my mind to energize me to keep going without fear.

I felt invincible.

But we are not.  Of course we know we are not invincible, but why are we acting this way instead of grieving properly?  At this point it is a good idea to talk to someone who has experience dealing with stress.  If unchecked, that growing flame inside you will soon be too big to put out without leaving some intense damage.

Next we’ll discuss which OK GO song reminds me of when I suddenly realized I had no idea what was going on and asked myself “WTF is happening?”

CISD with OK GO – Part I

CISD – Critical Incident Stress Debriefing

OK GO – A band


When we get in stressful situations in fire and EMS we have a tendency to assume that being macho and “sucking it up” is the right thing to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I speak from experience on this folks.

Fancy programs exist in some Departments for you to talk about what’s bothering you, but some don’t have much of a support group.  In my experience some of these programs are a bit intimidating, swooping in and asking us how we feel.

I don’t want to tell you how I feel. I want to just forget what happened and move on.  We don’t understand just how damaged we really are yet.  I know these folks have a lot of training in talking to folks suffering from a traumatic incident, but when I first reached out I felt almost smothered.

Friends and family would call me while lying on the couch wondering if my head was bleeding on the inside and ask how I felt, how I was doing.  How am I doing? A fracking ceiling fell on me and I’m on a host of meds and I can’t have caffeine or alcohol! I want to scream but am afraid the ringing in my ear will only get worse!  We get angry, upset, confused and begin to push away.  Every person I talked to wanted to ask me how I feel.

This is my response:

Just leave me alone.  Don’t ask me how I feel.  Quit acting so friendly…

The lyrics to this song fit so perfectly with how I felt soon after my injury that every time I hear this song I flash back to 2007 and wish I could make this the answering machine message.

Next we’ll cover what happens when we push everyone away and start to buy into the BS line that whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  Well, at least not right away.  We are not Invincible.



A Tip of the Helmet – Literally

South of San Francisco, as the funeral procession for Vince Perez and Tony Valerio weaved along, countless thousands of people took time out of their day to say goodbye.

I recently posted a video of the procession, but a video making the rounds on facebook stopped me dead in my tracks and made me cry like a…well…six year old.

It is another video of the funeral procession, but has a very important story to tell all it’s own.

I’m sure this young man’s parents had no idea they would be inspiring those who had lost a lot of momentum in life, just shooting some video to remember how their son reacted to a firefighter’s funeral. How did he react?

Well, he got his coat and helmet and stood at attention and saluted the engines as they passed by.

My brother from another mother, MotorCop, messaged me soon after sharing it and told me we needed to reach out to whoever posted the video and let them know what an impact it was having. So we did. And we heard back today:

Hello MC & Justin,

Thank you so much for your comments on my Youtube video of the SFFD funeral procession with the little boy & for reaching out to us. That is such a thoughtful and generous thing you would like to do but I have to tell you, his father (my husband) is a firefighter who was on a post that day and I am a police officer and the little boy is our son. We felt it would be a learning experience for him to be a part of the funeral and to understand what those men sacrificed for people they didn’t even know. We wanted him to pay his respects, to experience the brotherhood, love and support for those real life heroes and their families. He is six years old and aspires to be a firefighter, then he wants to be on “mom’s team”and aspires to be a police officer then a medic on the ambulance so he can save and help people. Of course, we would be thrilled and honored with either.

We were equally moved by the overwhelming number of firefighters who saluted and waved at our son as well as the family members of the fallen firefighters who opened their windows to smile and take a photo. To know for that moment they were able to divert their thoughts away from their grief and feel the love, support and admiration we all have for their loved ones, is why we were there. To honor and support the fallen firefighters, their families and extended families of first responders.

We thank you all for your dedicated service and for reaching out to us. Words cannot express our sympathies and sadness for the San Francisco Fire Department and the families of the fallen firefighters. Thank you ALL!!!!!

No. No, thank you. I was having a hell of a time coming to terms with what has happened recently. Suddenly my thoughts would shift to how Vince and Tony died and I’d be frozen, unable to speak, unable to feel, unable to express myself.
The video of the procession gave me some closure, but then I saw this.

And I felt better.

I saw the honor you have taught your son, and at a young age to understand it and stay waving that flag, salute never wavering…
I saw myself to be honest, and I’d imagine MC did too. Both our fathers were firemen and I’m sure he felt the same connection to this young man that I did.

They say some children have a wisdom beyond their years and it is seldom by accident or by chance. No, this child is an inspiration because he is more respectful than half the adults I know and that is a direct reflection on the quality parenting he is receiving.

I, like MC, wish more people took the time to share with their children the importance of family, honor and tradition.

I was ready to make this young man an honorary San Francisco FireFighter, but there is no need. Not only because of his family being already in the business, but because he already is. I’m sure that was handled by Vince and Tony on Friday.


Well gentle readers, you may have noticed a slight change in the blog in the last few days.

OK, a touch more than slight.

Happy Medic is no longer linked into the Fire EMS Blogs Network, but settling in here at the new First Responders Network.

The guys at Fire EMS Blogs invited me in at the very beginning and being a part of their network was awesome. There I was amongst some of the best bloggers out there, my little link popping up on the pages of AmboDriver, FireGeezer, Statter911, Life Under the Lights…the list goes on and on and on. They have added literally dozens of bloggers since the beginning and it was a tough decision to step away.

It turns out the TV and Film industry is suspect when someone else “controls” your content. Even though the FireEMSBlogs folks never once edited, redacted or guided my posting (other than some really great links and suggestions, thanks) the powers that be outside our close knit blogging family saw my blog outside our network as a liability rather than an opportunity.
Countless times I have explained to folks the relationship between me the writer and the guys managing the network, but repeatedly I would get a blank look, a “huh…” and then no word.

So with a number of exciting projects on the horizon, I’m stepping away from FireEMSBlogs and parking my therapy experiment here at FRN. We’re not as flashy or dialed in as the old network or, another successful network worth following, but this removes the only road block that has been voiced to us regarding other projects. Projects bigger than my ramblings about annoying clients but, rest assured, you have not seen the last of ol’ HM.

The site has changed, both the look and feel, but the crappy content will keep coming. In just a few minutes I’ll be adding another edition of the Crossover Podcast and things are right back to normal.

So keep your links to pointed right where they need to be, but perhaps check that RSS reader to make sure you have the new feed dialed in. Check the link at the top of the page.

Updates as they come…thanks for sticking around.  And if you think THIS is a big change…

I give you Justin Schorr on bass, Ted Setla on drums and Motorcop on lead guitar!

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Hey Motorcop! It’s on like Donkey Kong!

My Brother from another Mother, Motor Cop, spent another day at his “duck pond” monitoring facebook and scouring youtube for something to ridicule the FD.

He found a video you can watch at THIS LINK and proves that Fireman have all the moves down.

Don’t believe me?  Just compare that video to this one, featuring the REAL Motor Cop.

Village People – YMCA (version originale)
Uploaded by scorpiomusic. – Watch more music videos, in HD!

*No Indians, Manly bikers, cowboys or construction workers were injured in this posting, the Soldier, I’m not so sure.

e4, e6

Test time – Can you help me?

Rogue Medic could tear the science apart on this one, but I can attest it is true:

I learn and recall memories linked to music.

You can play me a song and I can tell you things I was doing, sometimes in odd detail, when that song was playing.

Some folks have dabbled into the science on this but it stands that it works for me.  So with that in mind I have been studying listening to a certain kind of music that gets easily stuck in my head and is easy to hum over and over in my head during the exam.

I was wondering if you might sing along to this and send the good vibes my way.

My study buddy and I had the mock test earlier this week and both chose the same two scenarios to challenge each other with, a botched refusal form and a complaint about an esophogeal ET placement, let’s see how well we guessed.

I’ll be recovering later this afternoon and spending tomorrow gathering the call sheet for our next round of A Seat at the Table episodes to be filmed in San Jose, CA in June.  We’re bringing in some industry folks this time to talk about equipment, upcoming conferences and the like, so stay tuned for details on that.

And does anyone else know what on earth Mark and Ted have planned for June 4th in relation to Chronicles?  This image seems to leave a lot of questions unanswered.