EMS Chronicles: Asthma and Alcohol

It’s midnight and it has been one of the busiest shifts I have worked. It’s pouring rain, and the call is 15 minutes away. My partner is just as exhausted but, as with every call, we are ready to help.

We arrive on scene and the police (PD) are there talking to the patient. The patient is standing on his porch and does not appear to be in distress. We approach the group of them and ask what we can help with. PD informs us that patient has been drinking, quite a bit, and believes he will have an asthma attack in the next few hours. That’s right. Not currently, which would be an emergency. He will be having an asthma attack in the next few hours.

We assess the patient and inform him his vitals are stable. He still prefers to go to the hospital, which is our routine, so we let him know we are happy to oblige. Once inside our truck, the patient argues with me about which finger is his ring finger. I was using his ring finger on his right hand to check his sugar but he insists his only ring finger is on his left hand with a ring on it. He is partially correct, but he does in fact have two ring fingers.

Finally, we are en route. The patient calls family to let them know he will be going to the hospital yet he informs each one differently. One, he informed he would be going to the urgent care. I corrected him and reminded him he was going to the ER. The next, he informs he is going to the children’s hospital. I again correct him and let him know he will be going to the ER.

We arrive at the ER. At this point, it is nearly 1am. I give the nurse a full, but pointless, report. I ask if she has any questions and she tells me she is all set. Our work is done. The call is complete. As we exit the hospital, we see another crew has brought in a gun shot wound. My partner and I laugh to each other. Not at the victim of the shooting, but at the fact that the two patients so accurately represent the vast array of calls we in EMS respond to.

Was our patient experiencing an emergency? Well, I suppose that depends on a person’s definition of emergency. Although it seems trivial to us, our patient felt he was in distress. And we treated him with the same respect we would have if we had taken the gun shot call.

We return to the station for some much needed sleep. On the ride, we giggled about some of our calls and the nature of them. In EMS, we take calls like this one that seem so silly. But, it’s our job! This call just happened to be a fun one to share and give a lighthearted insight into our shifts.

We pull into the station and turn off the truck to head inside and sleep.

And the tones drop again; “239 med 3”. And so the cycle starts again.

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