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 didn’t feel well and no one was really counting on me, I stayed home when I was sick. “Uh, sorry, I won’t be in today, I’m feeling a little under the weather.”
In EMS, most people can’t 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, aren’t as fortunate. Thinngs happen — family issues, sickness, child care issues — and suddenly they are just plain out of personal time, and can’t take another day.
I don’t think any EMS worker beyond a few months experience hasn’t had one time or another, or many, many times, when they had patients who weren’t as sick as the responding EMT. “You’ve got a fever?” they say to the patient. “A bad chest cold? You vomitted a few times? Diarrhea? Poor dear.” If they were playing Can You Top This? they’d be rich. “You want to see some phlegm? I can show you some phlegm,” 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 who’s 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?
It’s a good thing morphine is controlled and locked up because if it was as common as the baby aspirin (and there wasn’t 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, I’ve had partners puke and stay on the clock and I’ve had strong partners who uncharacteristically stuck first responders with the carry-down because their stools were so loose they didn’t dare attempt a dead lift. I’ve seen asthmatics work through treatments, diabetics work through unresponsive hypoglycemic episodes after getting their D50. I’ve heard people on the radio who’s voices were so shot you’d 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 doesn’t account for all the microbes and cooties we deal with. Prove, you didn’t get that home. I guess the excuse is we have gloves and masks and gowns and hepa-filters and hand washing supplies.
I don’t 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 won’t be a problem for me for the next couple days. I made it through another working week. The monthly mortgage is paid. I’ve got food on the table. I’ve got a few days off to regain my strength.
Pass the hot water bottle.