A Lift

I worked with one of my old partners last week. Jerry and I used to do the dedicated Hartford car. Jerry is just a few years younger than me, although he doesn’t use Grecian formula like I do so he has had a mane of silver hair for almost as long as I have known him. He is a nice man – always courteous to the patients, no ego of his own, and if he has a complaint, it is a considered one. He is a good solid EMT.

He was only scheduled to work eight hours that morning, but when he saw I didn’t have a partner for my 12-hour gig, he offered to stay four hours later if they would team us together which they did.

I’ve written before that one of the best things about EMS is, provided you have a good partner, the job really is more hanging out than work. Sure, you do calls, but for the most part, you are just out hanging out, shooting the shit, drinking cokes or coffee instead of beers, having some laughs along the way.

We only did one call worth writing about, but it was a good day, and I hope we’ll get to work together again soon. There is some talk about rebidding the shifts, and if it ever worked out that we could be regular partners doing 3 – 12s together that would be awesome.

The one call we did that I am going to write about was for a woman with a swollen foot. We pulled into the address and Jerry said, “I’m getting a bad feeling about this. I think this might be a bariatric call.”

Now it was around four in the afternoon and the city was going nuts. There were no other cars available and our bariatric truck – a specially designed car with a wide power stretcher capable of handling the biggest patients — was already out on a call.

“Maybe we’ll get lucky,” I said.

At least there was a ramp up to the porch, but that also seemed to suggest that maybe Jerry was right. We walked in the door and there she was, sitting in her extra-large wheelchair.

There is always that moment on a call when you are walking into a house – and when I walk into a house, I am always thinking about how I am going to get a patient out even before I see them – when you realize this is going to be a lift. You are going to have to work for this one. This was the case.

Now just a few days before, working with another partner, we had opened an apartment door to see quite a large man sitting in his extra-large wheel chair, and while we were able to get him to stand and pivot onto our stretcher, we still had to get the stretcher from the low position to the high position. He was big, and worse, he was retaining water, and people who are retaining water are always heavier than they look. Back in the suburbs, we had stretchers with the power lift buttons so for the last three years, instead of getting in my dead lift stance and proving my strength, I just pushed a button or my partner pushed a button while I did the magician’s levitate command, slowly moving my hand up into the air in time with the stretcher. Shazam! No more. I bent my knees, got a good grip on the rail at the stretcher’s head and then on go, tried to drive my legs up, but the stretcher wasn’t going up. My partner offered to switch sides, but vain as always, I said, give me a second and we’ll try again. This time I stretched before hand, and then let out a Gold’s Gym grunt as I drove my legs up. But again, the stretcher wasn’t going up and this time, I started to feel the start of a tear in my pectoral muscles, so I said uncle, and we stopped. We switched sides and got a bystander to help with the head end and only then got the patient up all the way. The man said he was 370. He may have been more. I know in the past my partners and I have done 400 pounders without assistance. Still, it made me think about getting back into the gym, not just to swim, bike and run, which is what I have been doing, but to lift steel. Pump those muscles up to beat back Father Time.

So anyway, back to Jerry and me, and our extra-large lady. Jerry, who I said, does not share my ego, was already on his cell phone to dispatch asking for an assist, only to be told, it would be awhile.

“Please,” the woman said, “You don’t need to call for help. I know I look big, but you two big strong man – I ain’t that big – I lost twenty pounds this month. I don’t need that fat bus no more. You can do it, I know you can. Look at those muscles you got. Please, I know I’m big, but I’m losing weight. You don’t need that fat bus or that big stretcher for me.”

I looked at Jerry, and he looked at me. This was no medical emergency. The woman’s foot had been swollen for a week. We could sit there for an hour and wait for a lift assist, or…

“One try,” I said.

Jerry shook his head – not to say no, but to acknowledge he understood I didn’t want to be beat by this.

“Okay,” he said.

We did some stretches first. “Excuse us,” I told the woman. “We’re on the old side here and need a little prelift warmup.”

“You not old, you two fine young men in your prime, big and strong, but you go on warm up, just so you don’t have to call the fat bus for me.”

So we stretched and limbered up and loosened, and then we took our positions. Knees bent. One two three.

“I knew you strong!” she exclaimed delighted as we lifted her up. “I told you I lost that weight. I don’t need no special stretcher for me.”

“Light as a ballerina!” I said.

The patient and I slapped a high five.

Jerry just laughed to himself, and shook his head.

“We don’t need no lift assist,” I said.

“That’s right!” she said. “You two fine strong men.”

“We’re not too old,” I said to Jerry later.

Again, he just shook his head.


  • Nick says:

    I remember the calls like that one. I used to do weightlifting so I always liked being the guy that could handle any patient without a lift assist. Now as I sit here on the couch recovering from back surgery and having to use a walker to get up but still happy to be out of the wheelchair, I wish that I had waited for a lift assist a few more times. Just be careful out there and don’t let your ego ruin your career like my ego ruined mine.

  • Paramedic Pete says:

    I also think that while satisfying to get the lift done, what if one or both of you had hurt yourselves? In medical emergencies you have to be able to extract the patient promptly, no argument. As this wasn’t a medical emergency in any way, a more careful approach is better. This patient has been walking around on that leg for a week. With assistenace you can get her to the doorstep and then onto the stretcher without lowering and raising it. Granted not always possible but worth the effort. You only get one back, use your pharmacology, take your time and avoid unnecessary lifting. As someone said don’t let their emergency become yours. Take care, Pete.

  • medicscribe says:

    You are both right. Still, it is hard to age gracefully or admit that you are not as strong as you once were. In this story both the patient and I seemed to need the lift to lift our spirits. I am aware of the danger and am much quicker to give up on a lift than and not press on with it than I used to be.

    Thanks for the comments and appreciated concern,