It’s OK to Not Be OK

As many calls as I’ve shared in this forum, there are still those that won’t make the cut.  Not because they’re “gruesome” or “funny” or even filled with heroic actions or memorable scenery, but because of the little things.  Little things that are mine and mine alone.  Frozen moments in time that impact me to this day.

On a recent call one of my most memorable calls came back.  Not like a wafting scent or a slowly rising tide, but like a slap to the face and a punch to the gut, taking all my breath away.

The dispatch was a simple fall in the bathroom.  A bread and butter call.  Likely someone with one too many drinks and not enough sleep.  As I walked towards the restroom, donning my gloves and admiring the large artwork in the lobby a woman came running out covering her mouth in fear.  She was hunched over and moved erratically as she exited the restroom.

In half a heartbeat I was taken back over a decade.  My pace quickened, my heart in my throat.  The little things were there.  A glimpse of broken mirror.   The faint smell of bleach long mopped up.  The first drop of blood.  I was afraid.  I went to work doing what we do.

All I’ll say is that I didn’t sleep much that night.

Then or now.

We deal with things that most folks fall apart after seeing.  Trouble is, so do we.

If you experience something and need to talk about it please reach out.  It can be a friend, clergy, co-worker, even drop me a line.

You don’t have to keep what we do inside.  You don’t have to make sick jokes or make fun to get along in EMS, all you need is an outlet.

We all have calls that wake us from a sound sleep like a clown in an old horror movie.  The trick is finding someone to help you through it before it eats you away from the inside.

It’s OK to not be OK.

It’s not OK to let it get worse.  Everyone feels like you and I feel, some are simply too scared to share it.  You’re not the problem.  If this job doesn’t shake you to your core, chances are you’re doing it wrong.

I’m reminded of that every time I see a handful of calls from my past.

I’m reminded of that when I read Kelly’s story about the swing set.

I’m reminded of it when I see a young EMT freeze up at a scene and wonder if I’ll be in their nightmares in 20 years, a simple bystander on their worst day.

I wonder if they know they’re in mine.

It’s OK to not be OK.


See also: CISD with OK GO, a 5 part series on addressing trouble using the music of OK GO

An EMS Expo Blogger Scavenger Hunt!

Here is a pic of a bunch of EMS Bloggers (and our ZOLL hosts) from 2011

Can you find them all in Baltimore this week?

If you find them, tag them and me (@thehappymedic) in a pic and throw it up on twitter.  Whoever finds the most gets bragging rights for at least a year and special perks at EMS World in September!


And if you are in this photo and don’t want to be found, better get to hiding!

Don’t Let Your Bucket List Fill Up

There is a common trend for folks to create a “bucket list” of experiences to complete before they “Kick the Bucket” a euphemism for death. Often I meet these folks when it is too late to complete the list. A bucket list should never be allowed to fill up.
Don’t hesitate to experience life while you can.
If you put off that trip to Paris until “later” will you be able to enjoy it?

Recently I met Amy. Amy was diagnosed with a host of cancers at the age of 63 and deteriorated rapidly. At one appointment her oncologist told her husband to “get started on her bucket list while you can.”
They quickly emptied the savings account and made a mad dash to the airport for a trip around the world.
Sounds romantic, right?
The first leg of their journey was cut short when Amy lost consciousness on the plane before they left.

Amy never made it to Paris. Her husband had already come to terms with her situation and explained to me that they kept putting off the trip for this reason and that, always assuming they’d have decades together to complete the list.

Sometime next month he will pass through my first response area again, with his wife’s ashes, and leave her where she always wanted to go, but never got to see.

If you’ve started a bucket list, start crossing things off while you can. Live life while you can still enjoy it and get the most out of your list. Imagine being able to revisit all those places on your bucket list via memory, photo and video, instead of wondering what you could have done when you had the chance.

Welcome to [insert City here]

On a recent job we went running up the jetway and onto the awaiting plane after being told a person was unconscious. Much like most other calls in my almost 20 years it was not what we were told.
After ensuring the person on board was assessed, removed and healthy, we gathered our gear and started making our way back to the jetway door.
As the large aircraft is unloading we’re like salmon swimming upstream. Part of the way there a flight attendant is passing by and tells one of the passengers, “Enjoy your stay in San Diego.”
They laughed and kept moving. For those of you new to the blog, we are not in San Diego.
However, it is late and we decide to have some fun as the crowd moves towards us faster than we can get to the door to get back to the rigs.
I jumped in first.
“Welcome to Toledo, folks.”
“Snow in Chicago tonight” the Medic calls out as a new group was nearby.
“You’ll need flip flops in Vegas tonight!” the EMT said as we finally got to the door and started our way out.

I think I’ll be trying this game far more often.

Write to Rufus – Share a Firehouse Story with a Retired Brother

On January 16th 2015 the folks over at Senior Wish posted an interesting request.  It seems that retired Houston Fire Department Senior Captain Rufus S (Last name not mentioned) is suffering from Alzheimer’s and he can only recall  things he reads.

According to the SeniorWish folks Rufus got a few letters from current firefighters telling stories about their careers.  Apparently Rufus reds them often, reminiscing as if he was there.

Well, time to give Rufus some reading material folks.

I challenge you to write Rufus a letter about your day in the firehouse, exciting or not and send it along to him to read and relive as if it was his own.

Rufus S at Houston Station 7, back row right

Senior Wish has included the following address for all letters:


Spread the word at morning muster and dinner, will ya?


It was cold when they left the house.

In the early morning hours they gathered a bag from the trunk of the car and walked to the end of the icy block.

At the stop sign was a friend idling, waiting.  Waiting to run.

Climbing into the warm car they felt a glimmer of hope for the first time in years.  The drive to the airport was silent, the younger one in the back seat falling asleep almost immediately.

It wasn’t until the plane finally left the ground that she took a deep breath, confident in the decision she had made.  4 year old asleep on her lap she allowed herself a drink to calm her nerves on the first flight to Anywhere But Here, USA.

Unfortunately the stress, lack of sleep and drink caught up to her when they arrived and the gate agent was concerned.  Medical assessment finding nothing of concern rescuers turned to the events leading to their arrival without bags or a ride anywhere.

“We are trying to get to Anytown*” she said through teary eyes.

The 4 year old seemed curious about the tiny fire engine outside the window.

“We have a connecting flight but I think we missed it because of…” she pointed to the rescuers, the gate agent, the airport and broke down crying.

The agent confirmed the flight had been missed bit because of circumstances causing their delay and the next flight was being arranged.  That flight was tomorrow morning, a good day away.

After the ambulance ride had been refused and the airline snacks consumed, the gate agent approached with wonderful news.  He had arranged for a hotel room and a shuttle for the woman, her child and their grocery bag of earthly belongings.

As she was assisted to the shuttle stop the reason for their sudden departure crashed awkwardly into the conversation.

“It just wasn’t safe for us anymore,” she said to the 4 year old boy.

“Not for me, not for him and not for who he’ll turn into if we stay,” she mentioned casually over her shoulder.

They were on the run from an unsafe home or telling the most believable cover story ever known.  Violence and intimidation had turned fear into action late the night before.  She had a plan, a friend she could trust and took the next opportunity to run.

“Do the local police know about the father?” I asked looking for the shuttle van.

“He left three years ago.  Decided he didn’t want a kid after all.  His replacement didn’t know what he wanted most days.”

We stood in silence for a good 10 minutes.  I wanted to go straight home and hug my family.

After the van pulled away from the curb local law enforcement was notified of their physical description, origin and location for the night just in case the story didn’t hold water.

A week later I was informed an officer had followed up at their location and confirmed they had arrived safely with family in Anytown.  Hopefully the little guy only remembers the little fire engine outside the window and not the reasons they had to run.



image credit Shanon Wise via creative commons

8 Things Every Internet List MUST have! #3 Will Blow Your Mind

Number 1 on the list is the reference to something changing your world, blowing your mind or in some other creative way changing your basic presence on the earth.  It rarely happens, but what if #17 on the list of ways to reuse tin foil really does change my life?

Second on the list is the image of an attractive woman, this one used from Flickr user Vladimir Pustovit and used under creative common license.

Oh, that reminds me of number 3 on the list of things every internet list MUST have!  This introduction you likely skipped over, just like everyone else.  Who reads these intros and, even worse, who has to write them?  All I want to do is scroll down to the 33 times Scarlett Johannsen smiled in a film.

#4 – Surprised we’re at 4 already?  You skipped the intro didn’t you?

The first listed item is by far the most interesting and will convince you to scroll down to the rest of the list of things you already knew.

#5 – Most lists will maximize advertising by making you click to a new page for every entry or for the “next 4 amazing hacks!”  All they’re doing is getting 1/8th of a cent for the ad that pops up before the content.

#6 – Finally show you the image from the click link, completely out of context, proving they just wanted to click bait you.


#7 – This is about the time you lost track of which of these items was supposed to blow your mind.  It was #3.  You’re welcome.

#8 – Links to other useless lists of images from your favorite films listing facts you learned about the film while watching it. “Tom Cruise added scenes shirtless for his female fans” isn’t included on my list of 21 things I never knew about Top Gun, it’s #1 on my “You Don’t Say” list.

Did I miss any?

Best Fire Department Social Media Presence?

I’m looking for someone who is doing it right.

A Department who understands the power of social and sharing media as well as its dangers and pitfalls.

Do you know of such an agency?  Mention them in the comments, I’d love to learn from their example and possibly recognize them at FDIC in April!


So, I’ll ask again:

What Fire or EMS agency is doing social media right?

Inspiring our Peers

Ambulance Chaser, Driver and friend of the blog Wes Ogilvie has an inspiring post up today I just had to share.

“But if we, those of us who consider ourselves to be ‘good’ providers, motivated by the right things in emergency medicine, don’t make ourselves available as mentors, resources, or peer support providers, then someone else surely will.   These may be the the Low Information Voters who chant the shopworn phrases of low EMS standards.” – Wes Ogilvie

Go read the post HERE.

So many folks in EMS focus on patient care, training or licensing.

So many folks in EMS focus on QI, vehicle design or discipline.

But how many are looking around their immediate area:

The driver’s seat.

Chances are the biggest positive impact you can make as a Paramedic is to mentor or inspire another provider, starting with the grunt taking you from patient to patient.  That person we often think of as simply a means to an end was once us.

Think back to the moment you realized you wanted to be a Paramedic.  It wasn’t watching Emergency! or Mother, Juggs & Speed, there was someone in the right hand seat that made you want to be better.

I’ve told you about my inspiration to do better, but instead of thinking back to your own glory day of inspiration, Wes reminds us that we have an obligation to inspire others.

If you don’t someone else will and there’s a possibility that person believes in EMS Anchor myths of kidnapping, starting large IVs on combative patients, ridiculing the under-served and wants nothing more than to pass along their bad habits.

Perhaps one of the problems in EMS is that we’ve forgotten to inspire while spending too much time looking backwards?

Not a medic? What about inspiring a young beat cop or firefighter instead of just hoping they run into the right folks in the future?

We are the future we’ve been waiting for.