Your Choice

He was on his way out to the car when he slipped on the ice. We find him on his knees, leaning into the open front seat of his car. He says he isn’t hurt, but he needs help getting up. He is a big man. I’m guessing three hundred pounds of dead weight. It takes three of us to get him up and even then, we just barely do it. He is unsteady on his feet and we lead him carefully back into the house. In the doorway, his knees buckle and we have to slowly lower him to the ground, unable to support his weight. We finally manage to get him up into a chair. I’ve got him in a bear hung from behind, but can barely straighten my legs up from a squat during the lift. My partners are on each leg.

We let him sit a bit to catch his breath. He tells us he has congestive heart failure and it has been a struggle of late. He can barely walk a block on his own. All this weight, the water pills can only do so much, he says. I try to talk him into going to the hospital, but he wants no part of it.

Well, if you are not going, we need at least to see you stand up.

“I understand,” he says. “Just give me a minute, just give me a minute to get my strength.”

The house is cluttered with newspapers and old books. The light shade is heavy with dust and dead insects.

“My mind still thinks I’m young,” he says, “my body is a different story. It doesn’t want to work anymore. Just give me a minute here. Just let me rest.”

***

We see him standing by the side of the road, a strong lean man with a long white beard, wearing a baseball cap. He is there most days; hands in his sweatshirt pockets, watching traffic go by. Every once in awhile he gets an inkling to go for a walk, striding mightily along the avenue. Sometimes we hear about it on the radio. Elderly man doesn’t know where he is, talking gibberish. They call us to check him out. His eyes are bright and engaging, his arms muscled and veined. “Pork chops sunny running through only one ninety nine, how about that, Ford Fairlane!” he exclaims, but doesn’t wait for an answer. “Titille lovely yesterday, huh? Googen corn whoosh, Hmm, hmm.”

We take him home.

***

Your mind or your body? What kind of choice is that.

2 Comments

  • FireResQGuru says:

    I just got back off a call like that. The female patient is in her 70’s, sharp as a tack. Knows all that’s going on, knows she doesn’t want to go back to the hospital or the nursing home, but keeps falling at home trying to walk. “It’s terrible getting old” she says to me “My mind works fine, but the rest of me is shot.”I hope I fare better, but knowing the abuse I put my body through in this line of work, I probably won’t.

  • Mordechai Y. Scher says:

    And I had one of the other calls. Elderly lady with some dementia. With it enough to know that ‘they’ are trying take away her independance and get her into a facility. Moments later, will make silly or outrageous statements matter-of-factly. We spent 3 1/4 hours with her and her family, trying to create some order in their situation. More nursing than EMS, at that point. There was no way she was going to the ER (after supposedly threatening suicide), and there was no way I was giving Haldol and using restraints on her. The ER trusted my judgement and I brought her to a local doc who could deal with the emergency and address the family issues. Very sad call, but I was really pleased we were allowed to handle it that way. My new, first time partner (fairly new EMT-B) was glad I had the patience to see this through.One more reason I love rural EMS.

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