101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Sunday, December 28

...for the not alert...2:13


Trying to honor the wishes of someone who has been told they are dying can be difficult on this job, especially when the lawyers want us doing so much in conflict with people's wishes. But when the public takes our sympathy too far, what do we do?

THE EMERGENCY
A woman has called 911 stating her mother is not alert.

THE ACTION
Mother has been diagnosed with a painful form of cancer and is deteriorating quickly. She has signed a Do Not Recuscitate order with her doctor and asked that no more chemotherapy be administered. She has, ultimately, chosen to die at home. Trying to honor the spirit of that decision, we're tip-toeing around the situation trying to get all the facts before acting. The patient, it turns out, has a low blood sugar level, which is a quick and easy fix.
After administering the medication of choice our patient is able to communicate clearly with us. Usually this is where people ask for a ride to a doctor who will likely bill them $600 to tell them to eat something and watch their sugar more closely. Since it's never about the money, we offer our standard service and the patient's eyes glow red.
"I'm not leaving this house son, not if you drag me." I like that kind of resolve.
"Your sugar was very low, you need to have something to eat."
"I'm not hungry." She tells us as the daughter begins to get upset that she wasn't tracking her mother's blood sugar closely enough.
"Well, you just need to sign our form if you don't want to go, but call your doctor in the morning, they may want to see you in the office tomorrow." I offer the pen and she looks up at me and asks one of the oddest questions of my career , "Will you stay and watch me eat?"
30 minutes of discussion and near argument later, and after using the tactics usually reserved for children, she was able to finish a sandwich and some cheese.
She thanked us for coming and hoped not to have to bother us again. I was almost losing my cheerful disposition when she said, "I'll probably be dead before I need you again anyways," and she smiled.
I realized we were going to be the last non-family members she ever sees and we made her smile.

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