Patient for a Day

Yes, I’m still up to my eyeballs in revisions, which explains my absence. However, I crawled out of my cave yesterday for some “research.” Sort of.

I received an email a few weeks ago, sent to all members of the Pittsburgh Citizen’s PoliceAcademy, seeking volunteers to help out in the first responder training for the new police recruits.

I’ve many times taken part in these kinds of things from the other side. When I was in EMT training, we had to practice on pretend patients. And while I worked on the ambulance service we’d have mock disasters and training drills to hone our skills. So this seemed like a chance to give back.

I arrived at the police training academy with thoughts of being covered in fake blood, having practiced my agonized moaning and shrieks of pain. Instead, I was assigned the role of a woman with a history of congestive heart failure presenting with shortness of breath. So much for the blood and the screams.

Rich, the EMSI observer, gave me a script of sorts. The medications I was on, my medical history, length of time since the onset of symptoms. And then, one at a time, the recruits came into the room and proceeded to demonstrate how they would handle such a case. It was interesting and sort of fun…for about the first five or six times. Then it continued for another two hours.

One recruit, upon hearing that I was on albuterol, stated his brother was on the same medication. And why didn’t I just take one of my breathing treatments when this happened? I looked to Rich for guidance. This wasn’t on the script! That’s when I realized that my answers weren’t nearly as important as the questions they asked. So I let my creative juices flow and told him I’d run out of my medication and hadn’t gotten my prescription filled. Rich gave me a thumbs up.

After that, I looked for any opportunity to ad lib. Mostly, though, they didn’t venture far from the constraints of their training.

However, everyone handled the situation differently. Some were obviously nervous wrecks. Some came into the room exuding quiet confidence. Until faced with an oxygen cylinder that didn’t operate quite the way they expected. A few had a hard time with the blood pressure cuff.

Have you ever had your blood pressure taken twenty-some times in two hours? I’d lost the feeling in my fingers after the first thirty or forty minutes. One poor guy was doing an excellent job until he got to the blood pressure stuff. Then the valve stuck. He couldn’t hear my pulse through the stethoscope. He pumped it up again. Let it out S-L-O-W. My fingers were turning blue. But I remained quiet, remembering when I’d first encountered that same problem as an EMT trainee. But I felt bad because I could see this guy’s confidence level tanking. His face turned red and sweaty. I know he never did get it and ultimately made up a number, because he said my BP was 160 over 40. I’m familiar with my BP. It’s closer to 100 over 50.

But I give him credit for the effort. Same goes to all of the recruits. It’s hard enough studying to be a cop. Trying to learn some basic medical stuff to help the citizens they’ll swear to protect and serve is definitely above and beyond. Kudos to them all.

Oh, and I have to mention my favorite recruit. He’s the one who didn’t ask my age, but when giving his “report to the responding ambulance,” glanced at me and announced that he had “a 33 year old female patient…”

Give that boy an A+!


Ramona said…
Annette, you are such a good sport! And very kind hearted to be patient with recruits while they cut off your blood supply to your hands.

It sounds like you were the perfect person to play this role. Maybe next time you'll get lucky and get covered in fake blood.
Annette said…
Ramona, I'm just glad they weren't practicing starting IVs on me!

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