Somedays are harder than others...


Epi: Hello?
Cool Dispatcher: Hey Epi... How are you today?
Epi: (cautiously) Ooohkay...
Cool Dispatcher: Wanna go play with a body?
Epi: *SNORT* Is that some kind of weird twisted EMS pickup line?
Cool Dispatcher: (laughing) Head over to House of Death Nursing Home. Ya'll have a body run.
Epi: You know you're my favorite dispatcher, right?
Cool Dispatcher: Make sure you get Sleeping Partner to get a set of vitals.
Epi: Will do.

I hang the phone up and head out to the day room in the station where Sleeping Partner is *gasp* NOT sleeping. He's playing XBox.

Epi: We have a run, let's get going.
Sleeping Partner: I was just about to take a nap.

I pick up my coat and coffee cup and start for the truck. Sleeping Partner is still rampaging through some mythical forest in his underwear. In the video game of course.

"HEY... GRASSHOPPER!!!" I yell over my shoulder. "Get a move on already!"

I can hear him mumble under his breath and pause his game. "Yes, Mom"

I get into the truck and key up the radio.

"Unit XXX"

Cool Dispatcher responds, "Unit XXX go"

"We're enroute, sir."

Cool Dispatcher: "Gotcha enroute Unit XXX, 1135."

The truck idles for a minute before Sleeping Partner makes an appearance.

"Where are we heading?" He asks

"H-O-D... just up the street." I put the truck in drive and pull slowly out of the garage. It's unbelievably bright outside, the sky the perfect shade of Carolina Blue. I'm extremely grateful I remembered my sunglasses.

The trip to House of Death is less than five minutes, or it would have been had I not turned the wrong way onto the street it's on. I've only lived in this area for seven years... You would think I could easily find this nursing home that I've passed at least a thousand times.

We unload the cot and start our way into the nursing home.

Two elderly gentlemen are sitting in wheelchairs by the door when we enter... I recognize one as a patient we had the week before who had spent the entire trip hitting on me and at the end even proposed. He even offered to cook me a good steak. I almost took him up on it. I love a good steak :) He recognized me immediately.

"There's my girlfriend, Frank, ain't she a beauty?"

All I could do was giggle. "I'm still thinking about that steak."

Sleeping partner offers the gentleman my phone number. I push the yellow stretcher into his backside hard. He shuts up.

Frank speaks up now, "Who are you coming here for? It's not me, is it?"

Sleeping Partner mumbles under his breath, "We're looking for someone with no pulse."

"No sir, not here for you. You gentleman have a great afternoon now," I say as we head towards the nurses station.

The hallways are for the most part empty. Unusual for a nursing home... I'm used to seeing several folks sitting out in the hallway in their wheelchairs or with walkers, and of course the nursing staff, the drug carts, the hoyer lifts... Not today, the halls are desolate. I imagine tumbleweed blowing across my path. It makes me laugh and takes my mind off of what we're about to do.

We round the corner and meet a lone nurse in the hallway. She has paperwork for us to sign to receive our patient. Business as usual for her. Not so much for me.

"Epi? You okay?" Sleeping partner asks, genuine concern in his voice.

"I've told you how I hate body runs, right?"

"You have mentioned it once or twice..."

"I really, really hate them."

"I can handle this myself," Sleeping Partner offers, "You're looking a little pale."

I put my big girl pants on and refuse. "I'll be fine, let's just get her loaded up."

We walk down the hall to her room, 408, 406, 404, 402. Our patient was just inside. Children's drawings are taped to the door, which is closed. I start to feel unbelievable sadness. I run my hand over the coloring book page before pushing the door open.

The door swings open and we see our patient for the first time, laying in bed, the blankets pulled up to her chest. Eyes open, mouth open. I struggle to find something else to look at. Pictures on the wall of her family, several generations enjoying themselves at a picnic. Several books on a large book case, classics... Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Little Women, The Bible. A dictionary with long yellowed pages.

Please don't make me have to look back at her.

"Epi?" Sleeping Partner gently says, "Are you okay?" His sweet tone makes me smile. For as much crap as I give him, right now I want to hug him. He's being a great partner.

Now we have to get her onto the stretcher. I thank god for linens and sheet pulls and for the fact that she can't weigh more than a hundred pounds. We easily move her to the stretcher. One leg gets caught and I move it into place. We cover her up with a sheet and secure her to the cot. I find myself thinking of my Grandmother who passed away almost ten years ago. I pray that whoever transported her took care of her. I send a quick prayer up for our patient and her family.

The walk back through the nursing home to the doors where our ambulance is parked is quick. Sleeping Partner and I are both quiet.

Our patient is safely loaded and secured in the back of the ambulance. I take a moment to collect myself. Why do I let myself get so worked up over these body runs? Maybe it's because I can't help but think of this patient as a Life. Someone's Grandmother, someone's daughter. Someone who will be missed. At least I hope. The alternative is too heartbreaking.

The rest of the run was significantly more humorous, and it just doesn't feel right to include it in this post... Maybe later.


Medic 61 said...

I'm the exact same way, so I understand all too well. I'm glad to know this, though, because I think these people almost deserve this at the end of their lives.
Thanks, epi.

Carol said...

It's sad when you have to harden yourself to the reality of death. It doesn't matter if you knew the person or not, but your acknowledgment that she was SOMEbody is commendable.

May you never be hardened to real life. It's what did me in, in the long run.