101 Things the Fire Department wishes you knew



Tuesday, February 10

...for the severe shortness of breath...



I love having raised voice arguments with citizens who claim to be having trouble breathing. More times than I can count I've had to tell people to calm down, stop talking and tell me more about their trouble breathing, at which point they usually start breathing irregularly, as if I don't know what breathing distress looks like.

THE EMERGENCY
A man has called stating he can not breathe.

THE ACTION
Our screen in the fire engine says the following:
"The caller states the patient is unable to breathe.
The caller states the patient is/was unconscious.
This is a first party caller."

So the caller is the patient, and can not breathe. I love it.
As we arrive, first thing in the morning, he is standing in his driveway, waving. He's dressed, shoes on, hat and sunglasses.
When we stopped and I arranged my bag to exit the cab he disappeared. A blessing? Did he see the err of his ways and go back inside?

No.

He's sitting on the tailboard of the engine, jacket sleeve pulled up, clearly proving he has done this before.
"Did you report..."
"I can't breathe." He interrupts my opening line. No one interrupts my opening line. He's off on the wrong foot already.
"Tell me more about your trouble breathing."
He goes into a lengthy explanation of his long night and morning of not being able to breathe while I'm reading his oxygen saturation in the high 90's and clear breath sounds. As he's talking the odor of alcohol is tough to ignore. I may have tested positive had I been tested right there and then.

When he stops talking he begins to do a strange, irregular breathing cycle that causes me to step back and restart my assessment.
"What are you doing? Why are you breathing like that?"
"I can't breathe. I told you. Do you understand English? I want my ambulance and I want it now. I need my dialysis." He pulls the other sleeve up to show me his shunt.
"Let me guess. The van driver won't take you to dialysis when you smell like you've been drinking right?" He's starting to squirm.
"No, I get it. Kidneys on the fritz, I'd look for an outlet for the stress too, but we're not your personal taxi service. What is the chance you'll take a cab to your dialysis?"
Sirens from the ambulance are getting louder as he looks me straight in the face and shakes his head "Nope."

Sigh.

My only smile on this one was when the ambulance Medic recognized him and walked him straight to the rig telling him, "Stop the act, we're already here."

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