Working sick. It happens all the time in EMS. Why? In EMS you get exposed to so much, its hard to make it through a winter without getting whacked by at least one bout that would put a salaried worker in bed with a thermometer in their mouth and a water bottle on their chest. Not anything against salaried workers, only that when I was one, and I didnít feel well and no one was really counting on me, I stayed home when I was sick. ďUh, sorry, I wonít be in today, Iím feeling a little under the weather.Ē
In EMS, most people canít afford the time off. Sure you get a certain amount of sick time every year. I try not to use mine if I can help it, so I can cash it out at the end of the year as needed pay. Other EMS people, well, arenít as fortunate. Thinngs happen — family issues, sickness, child care issues — and suddenly they are just plain out of personal time, and canít take another day.
I donít think any EMS worker beyond a few months experience hasnít had one time or another, or many, many times, when they had patients who werenít as sick as the responding EMT. ďYouíve got a fever?Ē they say to the patient. ďA bad chest cold? You vomitted a few times? Diarrhea? Poor dear.Ē If they were playing Can You Top This? theyíd be rich. ďYou want to see some phlegm? I can show you some phlegm,Ē they feel like saying to the patient.
On a cold night like tonight, I wonder how many EMS workers are getting breathing treatments in the back of their ambulances or whoís partners are sticking them with an IV in between calls and hanging a bag of saline running wide open to fight back dehydration? Does all the phenergan go to the patients?
Itís a good thing morphine is controlled and locked up because if it was as common as the baby aspirin (and there wasnít the certainty of losing your job much less the fear of becoming a skanked out drug addict), maybe people would use it for their back pains.
In my days, Iíve had partners puke and stay on the clock and Iíve had strong partners who uncharacteristically stuck first responders with the carry-down because their stools were so loose they didnít dare attempt a dead lift. Iíve seen asthmatics work through treatments, diabetics work through unresponsive hypoglycemic episodes after getting their D50. Iíve heard people on the radio whoís voices were so shot youíd think they were on their death beds. Without complaining, their partners, who hate to tech, will tech every call to protect their coughing, wheezing, puking other EMS half.
Most lines of work, you get injured on the job and miss work, its comp. But that really doesnít account for all the microbes and cooties we deal with. Prove, you didnít get that home. I guess the excuse is we have gloves and masks and gowns and hepa-filters and hand washing supplies.
I donít know if I was a patient I would want a sick medic taking care of me. At least most of us cough onto our shoulders instead of our hands. Plus we all wear gloves. Especially when we’re sick.
It wonít be a problem for me for the next couple days. I made it through another working week. The monthly mortgage is paid. Iíve got food on the table. Iíve got a few days off to regain my strength.
Pass the hot water bottle.