Since I grew up halfway across the country from my extended family, going to the East Coast for a few weeks was the highlight of my summer. I always loved being able to go to my grandmother’s house so I could spend hours listening to her pet birds in her front entry way. She took fantastic care of the imaginary dog, Hoarse, that I gave to her. I recall many a days where she would be curled up on my Aunt’s basement couch, pink curlers in her white hair, a crossword puzzle book resting on her chest, and her glasses slipping off the tip of her nose. If anyone ever tried to pick up the crossword book and move it, she would wake and exclaim that she was still working on it, firmly pushing it back onto her frail frame.
My Grandmother loved her job as an ER nurse and often talked fondly of those she worked with, especially the EMS personnel. She passed away in 1986, I was 8, and there’s not a day that doesn’t go by that I don’t miss her. She would’ve turned 92 today.
Several years later, I received my first ambulance ride. My mom had a friend with her children over for the afternoon. My siblings, friends and I begged our parents to let us go to the last-day-of the local carnival to fill up on sugary sodas and candies. By that point, I’m sure they just wanted the combined six of us kids out of their hair. Our parents gave us some money, and as we headed out the door, my mom mentioned she “knew someone on the ambulance.” When the concessions and vendors began packing up, it was our signal to head home. After walking around for hours and the sugar wearing off, one of us had the idea to try and convince “the ambulance” to bring us home. Our rag-tag group did an about-turn and headed back towards the emergency vehicle. I think it was my friend who convinced one of the EMTs to give us a ride home. I think she played into their sympathy based on my then-5-year old sisters’ exhaustion, our combined exhaustion of watching her, and the ever-long-mile walk home in the heat.
Ten minutes later, the ambulance pulled up into the steep driveway of my childhood home, and did a quick flip of the siren. My mom and her friend came running out of the house in a panic. We had no idea why, all of us kids were smiles and giggles, how cool it was we were able to ride in an ambulance and get to hear the sirens! Both of the adults at the house counted us kids numerous times to make sure we were all accounted for, and then sent us inside while she talked with the EMTs. We knew we weren’t in trouble when we heard laughter, but it is a story that has been told at any and all family events.
When I graduated from High School, I was lucky enough to attend an all-woman’s college in the middle of no-where. I chose it not for the fact it was all women, but for the fencing class and the gourmet 5 star cuisine it had. Even the locals would come to the best place on town on Sundays for the brunch. A few weeks into class, a group of us ladies were asked to take part as victims in an MCI. At the time, I had no idea what it was, but I was interested in acting, and this sounded like a fun gig. When the time came, a group of us gals walked to the High School and sat down for a briefing on what our roles would be.
While my face was being painted a pale white, I was told I would be portraying “shock” and to act confused and a little belligerent. After my masterpiece of a performance that night, never having been exposed to someone in shock, I’m surprised I wasn’t taken in as a psych. But that night I feel in love with both the adrenaline of EMS and a cute boy in the corner who was hanging with his friend the EMT.
Several months later, I gave birth to my son. It was not an easy birth, and it left both of us gravely ill. He was very jaundice and not keeping food down among other things. I myself had some kind of unknown infection and illness. When my son was three days old, I was moved into the ICU, and he was to be transferred to a neonatal unit two hours away. Unbeknownst to me, my ICU room with the window had a view of the Helli-pad. I knew they were taking my son when I saw the crew exit the helicopter with what looked like a fish tank on wheels.
My mother was at my side, and if she had said anything to me, never registered. The Flight Paramedics came in with my new born son in their bassinet. He was naked except for a diaper, and had an IV line taped to his head. They told me he was sick and they needed to take him to a neonatal unit a couple of hours away. They opened the cover of the cradle so I could kiss him, but in my state, I couldn’t lean over my bed. Even if I had wanted to the wires of the blood pressure cuff, pulse ox, IV’s, the EKGs, the fluids and medications running in and out of my subclavian central line prevented any extra movements.
My heart was breaking and joyous at the same time, I knew he was going to survive and pull through, but I had no idea when, if ever, I would see him again. Just before the flight medics left the room, they told me I was their next run and they would be back for me. I lay on my death bed watching the helicopter lift off from the Helipad outside my ICU window, counting the minutes until the flight crew came back for me. An hour later, after many behind-my-back discussions with the doctor in the hospital I was in, the receiving hospital and a 3rd party impartial doctor, the flight crew decided I was too sick to move. They feared the chance of me dying mid-flight was too great, and since there was no known cause for my illness, no chance of being able to revive me in transport. Exploratory surgery was set for the next morning, in hopes of finding something. When my helicopter left without me, it was as if I could feel the last little bit of fight take off with it.
After two weeks, my son and I reunited at the children’s hospital and our recovery was slow. My weight had dropped to skeletal levels, and I had to teach myself to eat and walk again, even sitting up required more energy than I could handle most days. My son spent the next 3 years of his life in and out of hospitals and doctors’ offices. We never knew exactly what happened to either of us, even to this day. I eventually left my son’s dad, and moved back home with my mother. I went to work, took college classes and tried to live the 9-5 day. I thought it’s what I had to do to be a “good mother”.
When my grandmother passed away, it left a huge hole in my heart. She passed away from lung cancer and I never got a chance to say goodbye to her. Even though I’m sure she knew I loved her, knowing that I didn’t get a last hug or kiss from her still haunts me to this day. So when my last living grandparent, my Grandfather, began to decline in health I moved to the East Coast to be close to him. It was important that he knew how much I loved him and how much I respected him.
Continued in Part 2 tomorrow!
[table id=4 /]
#paramedic #EMT #guestpost #EMS #story #family #Life