The Chair

Last week, (due to medic vacations) the company put me into a volunteer town as the paid paramedic (on an ambulance staffed with volunteers) for my shifts. Many years ago, I worked three days a week in the same town in addition to three days of overtime in the city back in the days when overtime was like fruit on a tree in full harvest not COVID bare as it is today (declining call volumes mean no more OT for those who want it and no forced order ins for those who don’t.)

The volunteer town was a pretty good gig. I would punch in at six in the morning, check my gear and ambulance, then head to the bunk room where I laid my head down on a pillow and pulled a flannel blanket up to my neck, and with good fortune, I would sleep until 8 when the morning volunteer crew change occurred. I’d have breakfast and sit down at the computer and write, play on-line poker or just surf the internet. Every now and then the horn would blast and I’d have to do a call. Sure there were busy days where I didn’t see the “barn” until 6 in the evening, but they were not common. I did three or four calls on an average day, five or six on a busy and one to two on a slow one. Many were the days around noon, I’d get on my bike and ride around the industrial park. One day I rode 26 miles straight (well in a circle). The only thing keeping me from going longer was a sore butt and thirst, or of course the radio on my hip going off. But there was also the lure of the recliner. I’d get a cold drink, sit down in the chair, pull the lever and up the feet went. Hopefully the eyes would close until I’d get a tap on the shoulder that my evening relief had arrived, but inevitably, the horn would go off again. I’d curse and then head out to the ambulance.

The town had a large elderly population (both living at home and in the town’s five nursing homes). I did a lot of diabetics, a lot of asystole codes, and a ton of hip fractures. There were some high speed roads that produced some bad crashes, but overall, not a lot of trauma aside from self-inflicted.

Both days I worked last week were slow and I got a lot of computer time (alas no bike riding). I quickly remembered the old feeling I had that the longer I went without a call, the less I wanted to do a call, and when a call came, it came as an intrusion. I don’t want to be in that mindset. In the city, other than in the last half hour before crew change, I like constant calls. Constant calls make the day go by, they increase the chance I’ll do something really interesting, and I am doing what I am there for–to help people. Making matters worse for me last week was the new recliner in the TV room. This new one had buttons and drink holders. All that was missing was the massage, which it may have had (I may just not have hit the right combinations of dials).

In the volunteer town the most stress I felt all day was waiting for six o’clock when my relief came in. In the city, on a normal day, we are sent in a half hour before crew change. Sure there are late calls, but they usually come before you are sent in. In the volunteer town, until your relief’s car pulls into the parking lot, you are on the hook. Fifteen to six. Ten to six. Five to six. Please horn don’t go off. One to six. Then finally the car in the lot and you breathe a sigh of relief.

I don’t begrudge all the work I got done on my computer, as well as the rest time, but the older I get, the harder it is to get up out of a comfortable chair. I’d just as soon not get used to. This week I should be back in the city, back in the vehicle seat.