I finished my half marathon on Saturday, limping across the finish line in 2:34:14. Part of the run went through streets and neighborhoods in Hartford where I have responded over the years to motor vehicles, drunks, cardiacs, asthmas, shootings, diabetics and general illness. When I started as a paramedic in Hartford, I did most of my calls within the city limits. I liked that. I felt I knew the streets, knew the people, many by my patients I knew by their first names. I felt a part of the neighborhoods. Hartford was “my town.”
Over the years as ambulance companies consolidated, and territories changed, my response area became much larger, and fewer and fewer of my calls were in common neighborhoods. I also then became assigned to a contract town north of the city. Still until a year ago when I got my clinical coordinator job, I managed to worked 20-30 hours a week in “the city,” which basically now means a combination of towns as well as a fair number of transfers.
I’ve worked in the suburban town now for ten years or so. While I have been losing touch with my Hartford, the suburban town is now my true town. And one of the good things about this town is there are not as many carry downs as there are in the city, and that is my primary concern today as I head into work, stiff and sore from my race and barely able to lift my legs off the ground. No carry downs, please. I don’t even want to have to walk up a set of stairs as each step is a source of pain. Even worse, going down stairs. I am hoping for a quiet day, a day to rest my weary body. After checking my gear, I head to the bunkroom, where I am soon fast asleep, my cheek against the pillow.
The tone sounds.
It turns out to be double good news. A first floor apartment and a patient who insists on going to the hospital in her daughter’s car. The patient, who lives on the first floor, says she called 911 only because her she was unable to shout loud enough to wake her daughter, who was sleeping upstairs. She has a chronic illness, and apologizes for bothering us, and refuses our earnest offers of transport.
Our second call (after a nice two hour nap) is for a disoriented man with slurred speech found wandering along the road. The officer on scene is one of the newer recruits and he is concerned about the man’s orientation and speech. The man is in his seventies, but impeccably dressed in his Sunday best. According to the officer the man claims he was walking to a church far on the other side of town — well beyond his means to walk.
As I begin to question the man, something about him strikes me as familiar. I seem to recall him being in a minor motor vehicle accident and the officer at that scene, also concerned about the man’s speech, called us to access the man. The more I think the clearer it becomes. That call was outside a church, and some of the church members came out and said that he had had a stroke a year before and they vouched that this was indeed the man’s normal speech and behavior. That church was on the other side of town from where we are now. While the man denies ever being in our ambulance, he tells us the name of his church, and it is the one we responded to before. My partner speaks up then, and says he remembers that call as well.
We now do our run forms electronically and the laptop we carry has the ability for me to access any calls I have done. I enter the man’s name in the computer and it comes back with a hit. He is in fact the same man from that accident.
With that knowledge we are able to assure the officer that there is no medical issue here, just a man who likes to go to church on Sunday, and with the loss of his license following his inability to drive safely, it seems he still makes his effort to attend the Sunday service.
We get a refusal and the officer takes the man on to church.
After ten years in a town with a large elderly population it is quite common to have repeat customers. I like walking into a house or apartment and recognizing a familiar face and calling someone by their name without having to be introduced. I like that all the officers know me and that we have such a good working relationship. Community policing has been advocated as a solution to crime. I really believe in community EMS, and am glad that I can work in a town where that seems like it will always be possible. Patients in this town may have their own doctors and they largely have their own paramedics — the four of us who cover the town between us 24/7. All four of us have been responding in this town for more than ten years.
There are no half marathons in the suburban town. If I do want to run these streets like I ran Hartford’s, they do have an annual 5K road race. It, however, falls on Memorial Day – always a Monday, one of my regularly scheduled days. I could take off to run the streets of my now adopted town, and that would be great fun — to run on sneakers instead of ambulance tires — but that would mean losing my holiday pay. As much as I love running, I love triple time holiday pay more.
Here’s a link with an account of my run and some photos: