101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Thursday, October 16

...for the difficulty breathing...


Lately our dispatchers have been asking odd questions of our callers since what we're sent for rarely matches what we find. As usual, it's early in the morning and the unknown awaits upstairs in a part of town known to be highly suspect of their blood pressures.

THE EMERGENCY
A man in his mid 40's has awoken at around 3 AM with a strange sensation in his shoulder. concerned it might be a heart attack, he takes his wife's expired phenobarbatol and attaches a home blood pressure monitor to his arm. Concerned as he is, he decides to attach another one to the other arm. With both monitors attached, he instructs the wife to turn them on. When the numbers are different from one another he panics and calls 911.

THE ACTION
Since he has ingested a substance that makes our assessment inaccurate we have to assume the shoulder pressure was somewhere else. But looking at the man with blood pressure monitors on both arms I had to smile. The systolic reading (the top number) was off by 3 mm/Hg, what is considered a margin or error for sure. Even better was that both readings were in a safe range, there was no cause for concern. The wife insisted his blood pressure was the problem and insisted he be transported immediately. I informed her that because he had taken an expired medication that was not his own, there was no longer a chance of him staying. As we walked to the ambulance he was moving his shoulder in a fashion similar to when I sleep on my arm wrong. "Does that make it any better?" I ask him, "Yes, that is much better," he replies in the thick accent.

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