Monday, October 31

You Make the Call - Still Hanging Around?

PD often asks us to preserve their crime scenes before we can get in and do our work, but this situation seems unique indeed.


While the particulars have been decently obscured, there was no hesitation on my part when faced with this situation.  We have a "reported" hanging and judging from the past medical experience of my callers it could actually be a car accident out on the lake.  We're loading up the boat and making our way out there.

Until we can assess and determine a clinical plan other agencies will have to work with us, not delay us, in completing our task.  If we wait for PD dockside a viable patient could deteriorate making our interventions more complex and leading to a poor outcome.


So, on the boat we go.

10 minutes later, after listening to PD screaming for us to wait, we come around the bend in the lake to a cove where we see a small sailing boat with a person clearly hanging from the mast, motionless except for when the boat slowly rocks as our wake disrupts it.

His feet are about 6 feet off the deck and it's been awhile since you were a Sea Scout but the rope tied around his neck does not appear to be there accidentally.  A jacket is hanging on the same mast and his shoes are neatly arranged below him on the deck.


Your primary assessment as the boat approaches includes the notation that the patient's neck is deformed and elongated in such a manner that suggests internal decapitation.  The fingers are flexed into the palm and the arms appear rigid as the body slowly rocks on the boat.  The entire body moves as one.  Do to his dark skin color, no pooling of blood is noted, cyanosis and bruising are also difficult to distinguish.  Judging from the marks measuring the mast the length from his mandible to his clavicle is almost 12 inches with the possibly 3/8" rope hidden withing the skin behind the mandible, taught.


The dock manager feels now is a good time to tell you that the person who found him was in a kayak and first noted him an hour ago.

PD seem to have been able to find another boat and have radioed for you to not enter the crime scene if the person is deceased.


Well, is he?

You make the call, based on your local protocols and policies.

Friday, October 28

You Make the Call - Hanging around

The title is a bad pun, but has a dual meaning, trust me.

You have been dispatched in your first response vehicle to a boat yard for a reported hanging. The location is about a 10 minute drive from your posting spot and no other rescuers are responding with you.

About half way there dispatch advises the reporting party states the victim is in a boat out on the lake and will take rescuers to it when they arrive. The local Sheriffs used to have a boat but budget cuts have it on a trailer in a parking lot.

Arriving at the scene, or at least the closest your rig can get, a man identifies himself as the boat yard manager and motions you to a well kept vessel dockside with 2 other men staffing it. It is larger than a house boat and has plenty of room for all your gear, even the gurney!

Local PD radios you and states they are 10 minutes out with a field investigator and camera and request you do not board the boat until they arrive.

The man on the boat is adamant that you hurry and come with him immediately. It is a 10-12 minute ride to the boat anchored around a corner.


What do you do?

You make the call.

Sunday, October 23

ring ring

We've been here at Station 51, the San Francisco Fire Department's newest fire house, for just over a year.  As you may recall we took over for the Federal Firefighter's who were no longer going to be staffing the Presidio of San Francisco.

We moved into the almost 100 years young firehouse and began to make it our home.

Funny thing about old houses though, is that they have quirks and this house is no exception.


My absolute favorite thing is the incredible number of phone jacks here.  There are dozens of all shapes and ages.  In the old apparatus garage, now a make shift gym we plugged in a phone to answer when exercising.  Makes sense, but it never rang.  You can make calls on it just fine, but it never rang when the other 2 house lines would.  We dismissed it as a broken ringer since all of our phones are hand me downs.

Then one morning I heard a faint ringing coming from he gym.  Curious, I went to investigate.


It was ringing.


I think we have Rod Serling's old phone because the people that call that number are the most interesting people I have ever spoken to.  They often have no idea they have called a fire house, or are using a telephone to begin with.

One woman was calling to ask if I would give her $5 to get home to her dog.  When I asked where she was she admitted she wasn't sure and hung up.

Another woman called and after I answered "firehouse" which is how we answer the non official phone, she asked "Is this AT&T?". "Uh, no, this is a San Francisco Firehouse." "Are you sure?" "Quite sure."

Sometimes we get butt dialed and I try to listen to hear if I can figure out where these people are.

Could they all be in one place?  Could it be a prank?  If it is it is the most well thought through prank I've ever been hit with since the calls keep getting weirder and weirder.

Just the other morning I was on my way out when it rang and I ran to answer it.


"I'm trying to find out about a fire extinguisher?"

"OK, how can I help?"

"It's gone off the wall.  Did you guys take it or what?"

A semi-fair question, not the first time I've heard it.

"Where are you right now?" Thinking the answer 'home' or 'at work' would come next...

"I'm in a bathroom and there's a sign that says fire extinguisher but no hook or anything."

"Sir, what City are you in?"

"Why do you need to know?" *click*


The pace of speech and accent would have caused anyone on the other line to crack up laughing if it was a prank.


I love that phone.

Friday, October 21

Did anyone notice the rolling boil?

What happened to us? I woke up this morning and it seemed that suddenly we're all at each other's throats. Disagreement has turned into pure hatred and there is very little discussion anymore. Pundits spout half truths and opinions to achieve a political goal while those of us out here trying to live our lives do our best to navigate a minefield designed to enrage us.

Did you get that email from your brother about Obama's secret camps for Tea Party supporters? What about the one years ago about Bush instituting a draft to cover the war in Afghanistan and the coming war in Iraq? How Pelosi is ruining America, or Boehner or who ever?

We used to keep our political leanings more or less to ourselves until it became easy to have a one sided conversation. TV interview shows and the internet have allowed opinions and beliefs to evolve without any connection to fact whatsoever, drawing instead on the writings of whoever agrees with them. Whether it's the 9/11 truth movement or Obamacare we now see the world in strong shades of red and blue and it's making me sick.

Sick to think that it's only going to get worse. That an armed Tea Party group will confront an Occupy ____ crowd and someone will say something stupid and before you know it we're at war. Civil War.

Taking it too far you say? Think back to when we got along. Sure we all had our differences, but it was subtler, we all made decisions based on the facts at hand. Some more than others, but there was always a back and forth, a sharing of ideas.

Now we have two groups locked in a fight that can never end without BOTH of them backing away. Abortion, healthcare, finance reform, banking regulations, job creation...these are not things any one party has figured out. Our current situation is not the result of our current administration, Congress or Court, but a continuous failure of all three for decades. The offices are inundated by monied interests looking to have the path cleared for their project, drug trials, regulations to the point that law makers have no choice but to take the easy way out and simply do what they say.

Our system fell apart and we all picked up our red and blue glasses and looked for someone to blame. We were told by new voices to hate the right wing gun loving nut job neocons or the leftist commie hippie liberals, each of us told what we wanted to hear.

And the voices only got louder and told us more half truths about who we were supposed to hate.

Then one day we looked around and instead of having a discussion with our neighbors and learning about WHY they feel the way they do, we just hate them.

We hate them because of a bumper sticker, T-shirt or slogan, for an avatar on facebook or a picture they linked to they believe in. We hate them because we're not sure who we're supposed to hate so we take the easy way out and just do what they say.

No one is without blame these days, we've all taken things way too far. Wire taps, healthcare mandates, war for oil, protecting some stupid salamander, we take something we dislike and assign an evil doer to it and nothing we read, hear or feel will dissuade us from even thinking, "Hmmm...I wonder if I might have this all wrong after all?"

The melting pot of America has had the heat turned up slowly for decades, most noticeably in the last 10 years. Choose your bogey man, blame whoever, but look in the mirror first. Hate the banks, but look at what you're doing in relation to them first. Hate immigrants or food stamp recipients but examine your own life for things you can do about it.

99%, 53%, 1%...
...100% of Americans believe something is wrong on some level. Perhaps instead of looking for a trigger in this current administration, Court or Congress, or the one before that, or the one before that, we should take a look at the only thing that has been a constant throughout it all:


The American people.

The same people currently loathing half of our Countrymen and Women and for what? Why do we all hate each other? Skin color? Religion? Cheeseburger or plain? Kids or no kids? Booze or no booze? Last I checked all the things I disagree with had little to no impact on my day to day life with only minute changes to behavior.
"But (insert politician here) wants to take away my (thing you think is going to be taken away)!"

And we're back to hating each other instead of looking around for the cause to our troubles. Maybe they want it this way. James Andrews, the character from the film PCU summed it up nicely when he said "It used to be us against them, now it's us against us."

US against US.

I'm so tired of trying to figure out why so many people are so insanely upset at things they may know nothing about, but simply need to hate something.

We're all like toddlers who will spend more time crying about cleaning our room and how our sister never cleans hers than just getting the job done, being proud of it and moving on to other more interesting things.
There will always to a part of every society who doesn't carry their weight. The young, the old, the crippled, the sick, the just plain lazy...but should we hate them? There will always be those who excel at what they do and rise above us to higher position and stature...but should we hate them?

Depending on your bumper stickers I can guess which side you come down on because I've been conditioned to draw assumptions and build barricades. Just because I disagree does not make you wrong. We seem so quick to destroy someone else's opinion just because it clashes with our own preconceived beliefs.


We're all fools to have let it get this bad.

Wednesday, October 19

the Crossover Episode 17 - We raised how much?

Kilted to Kick Cancer was organized to raise awareness about male specific cancers.  Thanks to Kelly "the Blogfather" Greyson, it turned into a massive fund raising effort that raised...well...have a listen to the show to find out.  And your guess is way too low.


This is also the first episode of the show where we invited not one live guest but 2!  Alex from Unkilted stopped by to discuss his part in making the kilted to kick cancer .org site actually look nice allowing us to bring so many people together from so many different places.


I also throw out my target fund raising goal for KTKC 2012.  Who's with us?


Tuesday, October 18

Common Spelling

I always knew San Francisco was filled with the rich and famous, but I never thought I'd meet them in the course of my duties as often as I do.  Worst part is I can't tell you which comedian's neighbor I've been to and looked into his living room or which movie actor almost choked on a fish bone.  Oh well, until I can figure out how to clearly hide the events in details and time passed, I wait.  However, one night on the ambulance I had a run in with a very rich old woman who...well...let's just say we had a good laugh.



Code three for the fall.



Again we're upgraded to meet a stopwatch, and arrive on scene of the swanky apartment building to the usual cadre of managers waving for us to quiet down.  Odd how they want us there immediately, but demand we keep the noise down because "this is a quiet neighborhood."  Whatever dude...

After explaining very clearly that we will not be parking around the back, then walking back around the front to the elevators, we are led to the top floor.  You know the one, where the elevator requires a key and opens directly into the apartment.  No, that's not the right word. Palace.  The top three floors of this building belong to one person and it looks like it was redesigned sometime in the early 70's then left for us to find.  Almost like a time capsule except for the giant flat screen TV and staff scurrying around on cell phones advising someone of the impending transport of their elderly boss.

In the staff kitchen on the interior of the space (yes, there is a staff kitchen separate from the main kitchen) sits a woman in her late 80's dressed for a party sitting in a chair at a small table.  Half a dozen folks in black shirts and ties are explaining what happened, not one of them starting at the same point in the events so I distract them by telling my partner was in charge and they shifted their attention to him.

Crouching down to say hello I'm met with an embarrassed smile and an introduction.  Her name is Mable and she stumbled over a rug in the hallway helping the staff clean up from this evening's fund raiser.  At her age she shouldn't be getting her own coffee, let alone clearing dishes especially with a hired staff on hand but "'s my house and I can do what I want..." she reminds me as if we've had this discussion before.

There is no injury, she has no complaint, she simply stumbled coming down the hallway and dropped a tray of glasses.  Everyone panicked and we got involved.  They carried her to the staff kitchen and told her to sit tight until we arrived.

She asked to stand and go have a martini and I was obliged to allow it, but only after I finished my chart.  As I confirmed her name my pen stopped and I said "How do you spell your last name?"


"Oh, Levi*, like the jeans."

"Yes, like the jeans."

Holy crap.  I looked around.  Not like the jeans.  The jeans.  She laughed and so did I.  Unfortunately I had to decline the offer of the martini.  No gifts you know...


*not her real name, but the real one was just as bitchin', I assure you!

Friday, October 14

Overheard in the Fire Engine

From the resident Irishman in full brogue:


"I'm so hungry I could eat the hind leg of the lamb of God."


I made sandwiches instead.

Thursday, October 13

On Not Liking People

New EMS Blogs writer CCC from Captain Chair Confessional posted recently that he does not like people and the post got me thinking.

Have a read for yourself.


I left a brief comment but wanted to expand on it here.  I too hate people.  We all do to a certain extent.  There are those who would like us to believe that having a large circle of friends somehow makes us better, or that loving everyone equally is the norm.  Some think that my political leanings dictate I love everyone no matter what.  The truth could not be farther from the truth.  That doesn't sound bad out loud.  Try it.

CCC's post is more about hating the BS floating around these days and I have to agree there is plenty.

There is an order to things.  When this order is disrupted it causes after effects, ripples.  That is why there is traffic on a road where everyone is going the same direction.  Someone who does not understand this order or who can not see it in their lives is doomed to disrupt it.  As I said in my comment over at CCC's place, this isn't some kind of "God's plan" order, or some other deity of choice, or even some love-in touchy feely new age crap.

I'm talking about the beams.

I read Steven King's Dark Tower series when going through an interesting part of my life: My OCD.

OCD is not just washing your hands 30 times or touching every lamp post, but has many manifestations.  OCD had penetrated my life and lifestyle to the point that when I got frustrated that I could not manipulate my environment to make things work better anxiety and depressions were not far behind.  When confronted by a stack of magazines at the dentist's office, I had to straighten the pile.  HAD to.  No matter what else was happening.  Crooked pictures got straightened, things out of center got centered.  Water rings on tables at restaurants had to either overlap to create only one or make a pattern.  Salt shakers, chairs, store displays anything and everything that was out of it's optimal place HAD to be manipulated to meet my specifications.  Funny thing was, I had no idea I was doing it.

This irrational behaviour (miss you Mark) led to a deep disgust of people who did not understand the way things were supposed to go.  People who cut in line without thinking about those now behind them, all inconvenienced because of one person.  The guy at Costco who clogs the main isle getting a sample of pulled pork salsa, then gives you a dirty look when you move his cart out of the way.  I disliked more people than I liked.  When it came time for a shift at work however, everything seemed to change.  It wasn't until later on, with the help of therapy to understand what I was doing and why, I learned that EMS is a form of OCD all it's own.

Not to say that CCC's not liking people is obviously a nervous disorder, or even maybe, just that reading that post was like looking into my own past.

Not liking people is not a bad thing.  I hate some people.  I have said on multiple occasions I do not carry a firearm because of my opinion of many person's driving abilities.  Liking people or not liking people, I think, means you need to find some new people.

Many of you in the business of helping others will relate to CCC's post and likely agree that you too hate people.

But I would ask each of you to stop and think WHY you have these emotions towards certain people and if, perhaps, there is something in your past or present that is filtering what you see.

As was mentioned above, for years I had no idea that what I was experiencing was any different than anyone else until someone commented how funny it was that I was arranging the colored sugar packets at the table while inside I was hating whoever had left them that way.

The things that bothered me before that I was compelled to fix still catch my eye and I can control the impulses to alter my environment but it took a long time to realize my own hatred for most people was because they did not jive with my path.


Sunday, October 2

From the Archives Oct 2 2008 - Assist a Citizen

It doesn't get more vague than this. When nothing fits, they call it "assist a citizen." Well, on this day I happen to be assigned to a very specialized unit, a Ladder Truck that specializes in forcible entry and ventilation at fires, not to mention search and rescue. For those with no fire service background...The truck with the big ladder and the steering wheel in the back.

Someone at City Hall has called asking for help at an address in a questionable neighborhood. Upon arrival the very large and heavily equipped unit finds a man and woman looking into a storm grate near a van...wait for this is good...parked in a red zone. They dropped their keys and can't move the van.

We establish that yes, they are in fact calling for help for lost keys and the van is in the red zone, "Just real quick while I checked in on a friend." This neighborhood is famous for drug use and I was pretty sure I saw a person using this grate as a toilet earlier in the day so I advised the man that the auto club may be the best way to go in this situation. "But the Mayor said you would get the keys for us." "Oh really?" We asked. Gloved up and wondering how to get this old grate off the odor was indescribable. Just as we figured a winching system to pull the heavy grate up and look for the keys we heard from the man behind us, "Don't worry Hon, this is what these men are trained for."
I took a deep breath, nearly gagged, and sighed. It reminded me of those credit card ads. You know: 5 Firefighters for 1.5 hours $750, 1 Ladder Truck $375,000, 1 damaged storm grate $500, watching the Fire Department recover your urine soaked keys while you were parked in a red zone, priceless.