Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Packrats and EMS

Sometimes it pays to be a packrat. The worst part of moving is the packing. House hunting took longer than expected, but that move date was upon us quicker than income tax day. Initially, the boxes we neatly packed and marked, but as the moving day approached, chaos reigned.

So here we were, just the other weekend, going through ‘mystery’ boxes. We needed to clean out a closet to put in shelving. As we opened the brown “Home Depot” large size, it was discovered to be full of EMS training materials. Considering my husband had taught a class since the late 90’s, we had no idea what was buried within the stacks of papers and files.

One of the ‘gems’ included a stack of EMS sniglets. We read them, laughing hard enough to cry. I’d like to pass the list on, but most of the terms would earn me hate mail (none of them are PC). Here are a few of the lesser of the evils:
                ALP - Acute Lead Poisoning – Gun Shot Wound
                EMS – Earn Money Sleeping
                EMT – Every Menial Task *
                FPO – For Practice Only
                IBD – I Be Dyin’
                WWI – Walking While Intoxicated

Okay, so maybe those aren’t the best, but as I said, just about all of the rest can only be passed on to in person…sorry. A note in reference to the asterisk on the EMT; way back when, paramedics were ‘new’ in many regions where EMTS were still running first in on 9-1-1 calls. As ALS units were added, the BLS units slowly were relegated to the non-emergency, or in dual response areas, the medics handed over the BLS calls and cleared the scene.

One must keep in mind, many of the Mom & Pop companies wanted to get the most out of their employees. During the down time hours, it wasn’t unusually for crews to wash vehicles, do marketing runs (take pads/pens/other company logo items) to convalescent homes & hospitals, do errands for the boss, clean the office, watch the office manager’s kids, or any other task he/she could think up. That’s how I how learned dispatching – someone had to fill in for the dispatcher’s lunch and/or days off.

To those reading the above, don’t think I, or any other EMT, medic, or Public Safety personnel are heartless or cruel. On the contrary, we do care. In my case, I chose to work in impoverished areas (East LA, Gardena, Inglewood, Oakland) when I could easily picked companies in ‘nice’ areas. Over the years it becomes difficult, whatever the capacity or position one works in, to not become callous or burnt out. Using humor is one way of coping with the profession. Many EMS workers are not paid very well, or, are volunteers. They do not stay in the profession to become wealthy; they do it for a desire to make a difference.

Another fun piece of history in the box was a magazine called ‘Paramedics International’. Paramedics International was the precursor to Journal of Emergency Services (JEMS). The one issue we have was the last issued PI, fall 1979. It contained the introduction by James Page, explaining about the transition to JEMS; an excellent, in depth article on national Paramedic Problems; and, how Salt Lake City had come up with an approach to system abuse. The ads are almost as fun as editorial content, including an ad for the new Datascope M/D3 (it weighed less than 25 pounds), the patented Sager Splint (only $159.00), and a new book by James Page entitled “The Paramedics”.

Other EMS related items were lesson plans using trade-marked characters. Want your students to remember psych drugs? Use characters from Winnie-the-Pooh. My husband wasn’t the first to do it. There was a professor who wrote up a thesis the psychosis of the Pooh characters decades ago – I think you can Google it. Patches from companies we worked for and photographs we thought we’d forgotten. It’s all part of a past we can’t seem to get rid of, along with out old County EMS ID cards, certifications, and EMT business licenses from the City of Los Angeles and the City of Carson City (true relics of an era gone by).

Somewhere in a box there is a journal, writings from long nights worked in Oakland (CA) while during stand-bys. I bet there are even a few of you out there who may even remember adding a few tidbits to that journal of Sam’s.  Just whose idea was it to rate the less distinguished eating establishments of Oakland?

As a quick note, if you get a chance, not sure if Page’s books, “The Magic of 3am” and “The Paramedics” are still in print, but both are well worth the effort of obtaining and reading.

Stay safe out there.

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