A nugget of EMS organizational wisdom every day.#2 Become part of your neighbourhood
A giftwrapped box of chocolates held with an unsteady outstretched arm by the diminuitive seventy-something year-old woman who came by The EMS House to say, “Thank you for the wonderful care” she received from our providers.
She was on her way out of town for the winter months but said she felt it was essential to stop by to properly express her thanks. She told me how she had developed nausea while on a round-the-block-stroll near her home in Montreal West (a couple of blocks away). Her husband drove her to The EMS House because she wanted to have her blood pressure checked. During their assessment, the EMS providers discovered PSVT and requested an Urgences Santé ambulance be dispatched to our House.
The woman said she felt as if the Team EMS members who treated her had “a divine calling to provide care.”
She was the third client to walk in to The EMS House in seven days.
One Wednesday evening, I was strolling out onto the front porch looking for the crew to say my “g’nites.” I saw the rig parked by the side of the House with all the doors open but not a soul in sight. Strange for them to have finished their pre-shift checklist so quickly and to have left their truck wide open. And then I heard JD Silver on the radio requesting an Urgences Santé ambo for a “fifty-year-old woman with crushing retro-sternal chest pain.”
To be honest, my first thought was “Oh no, not again.” I guess that thought came on the heels of the realization that our House had become more than just our EMS Family’s home-away-from-home: it had become a recognized destination for the folks in our neighbourhood.
CSL EMS was a collection of compassionate, dedicated souls—we were an eclectic yet tightly-knit group that brought together folks from every point along the emergency care spectrum. Like the best big families, we put the word “fun” back into dysfunctional—and our House is where we went to unwind and prepare for the next call (basic axiom of EMS: the further you are from the last tragedy, the closer you are to the next one). I guess I was just having a plain old-fashioned selfish reaction to the thought our clients had found their way to our home instead of the other way around.
The “fifty-year-old woman with crushing chest pain” had just left her office—a few blocks from our House—and was on her way home. She said the pain had overtaken her as she drove, eventually forcing her to pull over to the side of the road. She said she remembered seeing our House nearby and drove into the parking lot hoping against hope that someone would be able to help. She wasn’t doing well. The chest pain was 10/10 and her breathing was laboured… when the ambulance pulled up thirteen minutes later her condition had further deteriorated. The next day, her husband came over to retrieve her car and told us she was being treated for a PE in the ICU. Good thing she remembered our House in her travels.
The very next evening a sixty-something-year-old neighbour wandered into our House complaining of chest pain and shortness of breath. She was transported by ambulance to the nearest ER as her ecg threatened R on T in a truly menacing manner.
You start to wonder if perhaps there’s something awful in the water after a week like this one draws to a close. Of course, was pleased that we were able to play such an integral role in our neighbourhood—honoured actually that our neighbours came to us for help.
One of our members asked me about the number of complaints received each year concerning siren noise. It was an interesting question given that our House is in the middle of a mainly residential neighbourhood and that our crews responded to more than 3,000 calls each year. I paused for a moment and replied, “We have received three complaints about our sirens. Three complaints in the last six years.”
What I’m trying to say is that it wasn’t so much The EMS House. It had become The EMS Neighbourhood – and it was a nice neighbourhood to call home.
Be well. Practice big medicine.