Category Archives: Fiction

New AED plan draws criticism

At the SXSW conference, a company called BBH equipped homeless employees with wireless devices to allow internet access.  They wore T-shirts that stated ‘I’m a Wifi hotspot” and were paid between $20 and $50 a day, plus asking for a suggested $2-$15 tip for each person requesting the password to their internet access device.

The idea was niche, drew massive attention, and was a huge flop.  Human rights organizations made claims of exploitation, doctors shouted that carrying a cell phone constantly streaming to multiple devices could be harmful and some groups simply stated the move was in bad taste.

Building off that experience, the local Austin Travis County EMS service is preparing a bold new program that I am stealing right out from under them.  Sorry guys, you shouldn’t let your research Captain chat with me on skype.

 

The San Francisco Fire Department has received a federal grant to deploy a fleet of state of the art automatic external defibrillators using our large homeless population in the City.

The homeless will be paid a stipend of $100 a week to carry the device so long as they wear the issued parka with the phrase “I’m an AED, I can save your life.”  Should the AED be deployed successfully a reward of $5000 is to be paid if the victim survives.

With the homeless population in San Francisco hovering around 10,000 and most of them in the downtown corridors, we could see an AED on scene within seconds, not minutes.

Homeless outreach programs are against the plan, claiming that the homeless will simply not carry the AEDs or try to sell them in exchange for food or shelter, but if we focus on the 500-1000 that refuse shelter, I think we can be successful.  Sudden out of Hospital Cardiac Arrest is a big deal these days and I’ve been told we need to flex every resource in the community to make a bigger impact on the survival rate, so I am.

Next time you’re in the City and see a homeless person begging for change, ask them if they’re an AED, they just might save your life.

 

April fools

Fiction – The day I died

I died this morning.  It was somewhat unexpected, really, I guess it always is.  I wanted to share what I learned about death and how amazed I was at what happened.

 

First of all, it hurts.  They say it doesn’t, but there is a burning in your core I can only assume was my spirit severing ties with my body.  I say assume because I’m still awaiting my formal orientation here in the afterlife.  It’s kind of weird, every religion had it right, all at the same time.  You get here and there’s seperate groups for each belief system.  I met a really nice woman from France who was excited to meet Jesus while another fellow had reserved a re-incarnation as a bluebird.  Me, I’m still on the fence about it all, and you kind of get to change your mind if you want.  But that’s not the reason I’m writing you this message.

When I died I was in the back of an ambulance.  I know that happens to a lot of people, but I was the Paramedic treating the patient.  Oh, she died too, long story there, but it was what happened after the burning subsided that amazed me more than anything else.

You see, angels don’t swoop down and carry you away, your family doesn’t meet you to guide you into a light, but there is a kind of hallway of light.  OK, I take it back, you kind of do go into a light.

Thing is, when a Paramedic dies, everyone they’ve helped  comes to walk with them through the tunnel.  The angels stand aside proudly as they come walking towards you and the faces are all smiling.  I saw the first code I ever ran, the little girl that got hit by the car, even a few of the regulars who I took to the hospital multiple times a week years ago, each and everyone exactly how I remember them.  Some were recent patients who weren’t sick enough to be dead.   Before I know what they were I was frieghtened.  I was confused.  There were hundreds.  Last thing I remember I’m taking a blood pressure, then a loud tearing sound, then the burning from inside and now hundreds of people are walking towards me in some weird tunnel.  It’s hard to explain, but feels amazing.

Each one of them comes forward and I’m not sure how, but you can feel each and every one of their spirits pick you up from under your arms and guide you down the tunnel.

When you reach the end of the tunnel it’s like a parade and everyone you know is there, even people you know to still be alive when you died.  This place exists outside of time.

As the parade approaches the main gates there is a giant angel who guards the door.  I assume this is where the St Peter reference comes from, but this guy is huge.  No book, no podium, he’s just blocking the gate.  When we approached he made eye contact with me, bowed his head and turned.  Just as I thought I was in trouble, the gates opened and the angels standing inside all turned towards me and smiled.  As the crowd forming the parade slowly let me walk forward alone, each one of the angels bent on one knee and bowed their heads as I walked by.  I turned around, wondering what was happening and saw the crowd of folks slowly dispersing except for one little old woman in a housecoat and faded slippers.  She was the one who was in the ambulance when this all happened.  She blew me a kiss and I motioned her to follow, but she simply held up her hand, shook her head ever so slightly, then shuffled off in the direction of a little old man in a dirty brown suit and hat holding a single sun flower.  She took his arm and they walked together towards another group I could barely see.

As I turned back to where I was headed it suddenly ocurred to me I was dead and this was heaven:  A pureness of joy that can’t be described. Not a city in the clouds, but a fulfillment of love and hope that leaves you wanting nothing.

And that was the day I died.

The Pup – Conclusion

The smell can not be described accurately.  The intensity of the putrid home is a testament to the ability of the human nose to warn it’s owner of something not right.  The ability of the Pup, a brand new Paramedic, to ignore the odor and continue on looking for the source is a testament to curiosity in the face of overwhelming evidence to go away.

Initially called in to confirm the dead body in the back room was the source of the neighborhood aroma, Pup has discovered the body has not yet begun to decompose and now, along with the officers, we’re searching for the source.

 

Pup hesitated at the top of the stairs leading to what could be a basement, or a dungeon, or simply a vent hole from hell.  The mask Pup was wearing filtered out some of the smell of rot to make this experience one step short of disgusting, but it was beginning to become uncomfortable.  The mask was already permeated with what Pup could only imagine were the fine particles of solid decomposition now floating in the air.

Just as Pup considered discarding the mask an officer came running by holding a hand to their mouth heading for the exit down the cluttered hall and out into open air.  Pup leaned back and looked around the corner down the hall just in time to see the officer trip on the trash in the doorway and land on the porch, gasping for fresh air, gagging all the while.  Just seeing this action made Pup’s stomach file a petition demanding to release it’s contents.  It was a compelling argument and Pup almost gave in, but decided this was no time to lose it.

Heading back down the hallway to a small alcove, Pup saw what would later haunt many a dream, turning it to nightmare, eventually leading to a complete change in diet.

In the alcove, in front of one of the officers, was a freezer.  A chest freezer 3 feet high and maybe 6 feet wide.  It looked as if it began it’s life in a deli in the 60’s, the avocado green blending in well to the green hued walls and brown stained carpet.  Had the home been clean the color would surely be out of place.  But here it is, at the end of it’s days, sitting in the back hallway alcove of a dead man’s home.  It was just then that Pup noticed there were no lights on in the house.  It was daytime, but not a single light was on.  Reaching over to the push button switch that preceded the rocker switch we all know today, pressing the button did nothing to the hall light above.  No power.

Pup took a deep breath and reached out slowly to the freezer lid, now noticing the cover was open ever so slightly.  Touching it through the gloved hand, Pup felt a surge of fear.  In horror movies there is a body in the freezer.  In cop shows, there is a body in the freezer.  But what about in real life?  What’s in the freezer?

“Nothing” said Pup’s conscience, already leaving Pup’s body and heading for the fresh air.

Pup flashed to the movie Se7en when Brad Pitt’s character is crying to see “what’s in the box?” and Pup shouting at the screen “You don’t want to look!”

But fascination and curiosity can be a powerful foe to reality and common sense.

Pup gripped the lid and opened it ever so slightly.

 

Back outside Jims the engine officer is talking animatedly with the medical examiner who has arrived for the man in the back sun room.  They’ve been waiting to receive official word from the police that the building is not a crime scene and from the Pup that the person is, in fact, dead.

Pup walked out of the rotting house, head held high, and pulled the mask down.  The stench outside was a field of roses compared to inside and Pup felt released from a prison of filth.  The dishes piling up in the sink weren’t such a bad thing, Pup thought, neither was the occasional extra load of laundry left undone.  But a fear suddenly overcame such relieving thoughts.  A fear of where hoarding and conditions like in this house started, possibly from an initial “It’s no big deal” attitude and blossoming from there.

 

“Well, kid?  You keep your lunch down or what?” Asked Jims, genuinely curious to hear about the inside of the house.

“1 decedent, just a few days gone, Sir.” Pup turned to the medical examiner, “He’s still in tact, shouldn’t be too much trouble for you.”

The medical examiner looked at his aide and looked back at the Pup, “But what about the smell? Did you find the source?”

Pup’s stomach stood and shouted an objection.  If Pup had to describe the freezer, all hope of containing the contents of lunch would be lost.

Instead Pup smiled, “You’ll see.”

 

-the end

The Pup – Part II

 

Stepping through the doorway into the run down house was like stepping into a light syrup.  The air was heavy and seemed to be nearly visible.  Rotting boxes, papers, food items and animal waste of many kinds was piled up against the walls as far as the Pup could see.  Two clear channels were dug into the waste showing carpet worn down through the pad to the wooden floors below,  like ancient Roman wagon roads permanently dug into rock.

Curiosity took over, thankfully distracting Pup from the odor of rot that was now permeating the crisply pressed uniform. How could someone live in this filth?  Pup got nervous when dishes were left in the sink to soak overnight at home.  The corner of Pup’s eye caught something running between the piles.  It looked to be the size of a small cat, but the chances were good that the creature was something else entirely.  Something that in other homes would be hard pressed to find food and a place to sleep away from predators.  In this environment, they thrive.

“Back here!” an officer calls, no urgency in their voice, but shouting as if the stench and heavy air will stifle regular conversation.  Following the ruts in the floor, Pup feels almost like a train, unable to turn off the path even if needed.  It was then Pup saw the doorknob.  Halfway down the entry hall was a door to a room.  Judging by the waste and trash piled in front of it, this door has not been opened in years.  A brief moment had Pup wondering what might be in there.  A memory too powerful to let out? The bedroom of a dead child?  Perhaps where this hoarding pattern began and the room is full of discarded items from decades ago?  If Geraldo Rivera was here, he’d want that door opened live on camera.

Carefully stepping over assorted animal and human waste in the hallway, Pup now stands in the doorway of the kitchen, near the far end of the hallway.  Here the officers have opened a window about 4 inches, “as far as it goes, the others have been painted shut forever,” the older officer notes.  There were 3 of them standing in the kitchen, as if late for a dinner party and wondering who gets the last of the guacamole.

Pup’s stomach did another back flip when thinking of the food and vomit was close by.  If this sensation was still present when encountering the body, it was going to make it out without a fight.  Pup began looking for the bathroom in case a mad dash would be needed but there was no dashing through this house.  Each doorway was covered in years of greasy, dirty hand prints where the occupant, or occupants, had tried to pull themselves over the piles of trash and into the next room.

After a cursory look around the hallway it suddenly occurred to Pup where the bathroom was.  The forgotten door in the hallway.

“Oh God, Oh God, Oh God” Pup’s inner child began to panic.

Led to a rear sun-room the odor is almost like a curtain.

There on the porch, lying face down, was an elderly man.

But something wasn’t quite right.  Pup was new, sure, but the amount of odor in this house could not be created by what appeared to be a recently deceased person.  At least not as deceased as the odor was giving away.

“Is this the only body in the house?” Pup asked, noticing the volume of the responses of “Why? He’s right there!”

Pup approached and noticed the discoloration of the parts of the man that touched the floor giving away that the blood inside him was pooling, not pumping.  The body is still slightly rigid, allowing Pup to avoid the awkward task of finding a clear level place to put down the cardiac monitor.

“He’s not the source of the smell, guys” Pup called out, voice also raised in an effort to be heard over the smell.

“Sure he is, he’s been dead for weeks, right?” An officer asked while coming to the doorway.

“No, he’s been gone only a few days, he hasn’t started decomposing yet.  Something else in this house is though.”

 

The Pup – Part I

Taking a line from our buddy MC, I’ve decided to try a little fiction.  Instead of changing so many details to protect privacy, let’s try making it up!  Comments encouraged.

Pup – Noun. A young, green, unsure paramedic.

The engine is sent code 2 to the quiet neighborhood and has trouble finding a spot to park.  The narrow street is littered with patrol cars and the decision is made to circle the block and walk in from a ways back.  As they get closer what they thought was a waft from the nearby sewer gets stronger and they’re covering their noses with their hands from 2 houses away.

The house they approach  seems a bit run down, with paint chipping away, stairs out front warped and rotting and the car in the driveway looks like it was parked in 1983 and left to rust.  Back in the 1930s this would be a gleaming new single family home.  Those days have long passed but the rest of the neighborhood seems to be keeping up alright.

The first indication of what was going on was in the side yard where a young police officer was gagging, then vomited in the bushes.  As the engine crew got to the steps another officer came out of the building covering his mouth only to vomit on the way down the stairs.

“How many more are in there?” the Pup asked, uniform neatly pressed while the other members of the crew were in untucked navy blue T-shirts listing their membership in a variety of departments no where near them.

“Judging by the street, at least 5 or 6 more officers unaccounted for. No idea why they’re in there,”  Said the engine boss, a tall rough skinned man in his late 40’s who the crew referred to as Jims.  He went on to to explain that their uniforms will never get the smell out and with much more exposure their skin will smell like this for a week.

“Alright kid, this is why you get the big bucks.” The officer says as he motions towards the door.  The young Paramedic grabs his monitor and sees the EMT has wrapped it in a wool blanket with a chux pad taped to the bottom.  Clearly he has seen this before.  The Pup has no idea what he’s getting into.  Suddenly his mind flashes back to the day he spent in the Medical Examiner’s office and the foul odor that arose when they opened the stomach and intestines.  That raw gut wrenching stench of a thousand portable toilets on a one hundred degree day at the chili cook off caused his stomach to do a back flip as he mounted the staircase.

Whatever was making this smell had to be confirmed dead using his little machine.  That was the protocol.

‘You can do this’ he told himself.

‘No I can’t’ he told himself back.

Another police officer emerged, a sergeant by the looks of the stripes, and motioned to Jims, the engine boss. “You guys can go Jims, this is a CLEAR 802.”  802 was the code for a DOA, Pup knew all the codes from fire college.

“Let the Pup have a look, needs his bubbler cherry broken.” Jims grinned when he said bubbler and Pup suddenly realized the other 2 members of the engine company had gone back up the street towards the engine.

‘Bubbler?’ Pup heard his inner voice cry, ‘what the hell is a bubbler?’

From the side of the monitor bag Pup pulled an N95 mask and placed it over his mouth and nose, suddenly realizing this is why the nurses in the ICU carried small tubes of toothpaste.  A dab of wintermint sure would be nice right in front of his nose.

The front door of the rotting house is slightly open, just enough for Pup to slip inside.  With a sigh and a quick moment of quiet reflection he steps into the house.