All In Just A Few Short Hours

After work yesterday I went to the school to sit in on the EMT class.  Last night was a very long, drawn-out, not terribly succinct lecture on anatomy, given by sir stutters-a-lot.  It was good review, but I remembered pretty much everything he talked about.

Mr. Williams gave “the kids” the test in groups.  I can’t remember if we took it in groups or individually, but I think they should have to take it as individuals.  I hung around in the front of the room with the other non-students and watched and waited.  I helped grade the tests, which most of the kids stood around and watched because they wanted to know how they did.

They seemed to be under the misimpression that I’m someone special, because they kept asking me questions.

Can we look at the test papers again and see what we missed? I don’t know you’ll have to ask Johaun. (Johaun, pronounced Joe-Hahn, is the Teachers Assistant)

Will we review the tests in class? I doubt it, but you could ask Johaun about it.

Will there be another test on Wednesday night? I don’t think so, but maybe.

What will it be about?  I don’t know.  You’ll have to ask Johaun.  Now stop talking to me, I’m trying to grade this test.

Are you sensing a trend yet?  Johaun is the TA.  Johaun is the man who knows the plan (assuming there really is a plan.)  Johaun is the one with the authority.  I’m only putting on an act while I wield the red pen.

~~~~~

I didn’t get home until nearly 10:00.  I hadn’t had dinner.  I didn’t have any clothes ironed and ready to wear today.  My kitchen was a mess and all the cat food bowls were dirty as were both of my blenders; which I would need this morning for feeding my household.

I changed clothes and went into the bathroom to… take care of business.  While I was sitting there, Mischa came wandering in and stood on his back legs putting his front legs on my knee and asking for some attention.  I noticed a significant amount of mucous in the corner of his right eye, so I used a tissue to wipe that away and scratched his head a little bit.  He walked away and came back a few minutes later.  I noticed that his eye lid was glistening and he was blinking his eye a lot, keeping it closed more than opened.  I scooped him up and held him in my arms and said, “you’re not going to like this very much, but hopefully it will help you” before I dripped a few drops of Visene is his eye.  I was right, he didn’t like it much.  I was wrong, it didn’t help any.  I looked into his eye but I didn’t see any obvious injuries or problems.  It looks like the corner of his eye, might be cut or torn slightly, leaving a larger space than his left eye, but I may just be imagining it.  If the favoring and/or discharge persists, we’ll have to make a dreaded trip to the vets office.  He’ll like that even less.

I quickly emptied, refilled and started the dishwasher.  I chopped the green onions and cilantro that would go into my Chicken A l’Orange that I had for dinner.  Fortunately, I had some left over rice in the refrigerator so I didn’t have to cook that too.  While the Chicken was browning I mixed a cocktail that I discovered a week ago at The Olive Garden.  Citron Vodka with Lemoncello and Strawberry puree.  Really tasty.  Really fun to make.  Really shouldn’t have bought the stuff to make it at home, but I digress.

I ate dinner while watching Live with Regis and Kelly.  It’s their 10th anniversary and naturally Gelman, the producer, is making a big hoopla about it.  I used to watch Live with Regis and Kathy Lee every day, but I really watched it for Kathy Lee and I only stuck around after her departure out of idle curiosity and just long enough to find out who would replace her.  I started recording the show again yesterday, because after 117 years on the air, Regis Philbin is finally retiring… Apparently.  I’m curious about how things will go and who will replace him.  (In my opinion they should just end the show, but what do I know.)

Chris Colfer from Glee was one of their guests and they played a clip from tonight’s show.

SPOILER ALERT:  Kurt and Blaine are standing at a counter in a coffee shop.  Blaine orders, “I’ll have a tall regular drip and a [I forget the name of the actual drink] for this guy.  And let’s get one of those [insert some cookie or pastry item here] to share, please.” He takes out his wallet and begins fishing for the money to pay for his order.

Kurt has an astonished look on his face as Blaine turns and looks at him.  “You know my coffee,” Kurt says disbelieving.

“Of course I do silly,” Blaine says while Kurt reaches into his pocket for the cash.  Blaine smiles sweetly while looking Kurt in the eyes and tells him to put his money away before walking out of frame with his coffee and cookie.

Kurt looks at the cashier as he reaches for his coffee drink and says, “This is my new favorite holiday.”

AND, SCENE.

Kurt has an astonished look on his face as Blaine turns and looks at him.  “You know my coffee,” Kurt says disbelieving, as I say to no one in particular, “OF COURSE HE DOES, stupid.  He’s in love with you and has been since the day you met.”

I ironed my clothes for today and I went to bed.

I dreamed.

~~~~~

I was at the school, sitting at one of the tables, grading a test.  Students were around and talking, but not crowded around me, as was the reality last night.  Other seats at the table which I sat were filled with students, primarily chatting amongst themselves.  I’m aware of a student sitting next to me and as I dream and my unconscious mind must fill the void, the student takes on the form of this guy. –>

My focus is on the paper in front of me.  My right hand holds a pen as I scan the page prepared to mark wrong answers.  My left hand is lightly placed on top of the table, my fingers slightly curled leaving a space below my palm.

As I continue to grade the test I’m aware that the student has placed his hand on the table as well, near my hand, but not touching.  I smile lightly as a tingle runs down my spine.  As my mind narrates the dream and fills in the voids of knowledge and emotion, I’m aware that there has been an unspoken attraction toward this boy and an uncertain perception of reciprocation.  I continue to grade the test.

After a brief, trepidatious moment – perhaps he was testing the waters – he lifts his hand off of the table and slides it under my arm, placing his hand back on the table on the nearer side of mine.  He scoots his chair closer and there is electricity in the air between our bodies.  My smile grows and spreads to my eyes as I briefly redirect my gaze at his strong, sinewy hand, which grazes ever so slightly against my thumb.  I return my attention to the test.  I don’t know exactly what is happening, but I like it.

After another moment, perhaps because I have not resisted, perhaps because he sees my smile, he turns his hand over and slides it under mine, interlacing his fingers with mine.  I stop grading the test and I turn my head to look at this boys handsome, sweet face.   As I look at him, he turns and looks back at me with the kindest eyes I think I’ve ever seen and he smiles a smile that conveys so much innocence and sincerity.  I am taken aback for a moment as I realize the air of casualness with which he performed this act of simple affection, completely devoid of any self-consciousness.  I realize that while I was aware of his presence and his movements, I was not aware that he had been engaged in conversation with another student, the entire time and this feels like the most natural thing in the world.

The class ends and he asks to meet me at my house.  I have to make a stop on the way so I tell him I’ll see him there.  As we part ways I begin to worry.  I’m not your stereo typical gay man.  I’m not out, running around looking for the next hook up, the next easy lay.  I want a relationship with substance and commitment.  What if I misread his intention.  What if he just wants to fool around and then move on?

I stand in front of my apartment door, knowing, inexplicably, that he is inside waiting for me.  I’m nervous and anxious about what I’ll find on the other side of the door, but I know what I want to say and I’m optimistic about his reaction.

I open the door and look inside and there he is, sitting on my couch looking happily toward me as I walk in, encouraged about the direction this conversation will take, hopeful that he wants more than just a casual fling.

I walk in, close the door behind me…

And then I woke up.

~~~~~

Today, I am sad.

I Survived to Tell the Tale, Will They?

On the first night of my EMT class my teacher, Mr. Williams, spent an inordinate amount of time talking about how hard the class is (he was right) and how most of the students weren’t going to make it to the end (he was right) and about all the possible ways that we might get kicked out of the class (lot’s of people did.)  He was quick to tell us that we weren’t going to be able to get through the class on our own (I did) and if we were smart we would form study groups early and rely on each other (wasn’t for me.)

Mr. Williams talked for a good forty-five minutes about how most of us were doomed to failure in this arena and when he was finally finished, I thought, Oh thank God.  That was ridiculously unnecessary.  Finally we can get on to the business of class. And then the “co-instructor”, Mr. Harvey, got up and said a lot of the same things… with a st-st-st-studder.  This guy went on for a good twenty minutes saying all the same things that Mr. Williams had just said, just sl-sl-sl-slower.  Obviously, Mr. Williams repeated a lot of the things since it took him twice as long as Mr. Harvey to say it.

When Mr. Harvey was finished, I breathed another sigh of relief and looked at my watch.  More than an hour of the first class had passed and we hadn’t really even started yet.  Finally we could get to it.

Um, the TA got up next and, you know,  um, said a lot of the same things, you know, that um, you know had already been said.  Um, he included a lot of, you know, “um”s and “you know”s, you know.  But, you know, um, things were looking up, ’cause, um, you know, he only spent five or ten minutes, you know, talking about it.

This is getting ridiculous! I thought to myself as I consciously instructed myself not to take any of it to heart and not to let them succeed in discouraging me.  I was determined to finish the class and not allow the naysayers to shake my resolve.  One by one, each of the instructors, and helpers and former students and possibly a janitor, anyone who wasn’t part of MY class, got up in the front of the room and told us about how we weren’t going to be able to finish this class and how it was going to be an impossible struggle for each of us.  Finally, everyone had spoken but one.  It had been nearly two hours and I was desperately ready for us to move on and do something productive.  Mr. Williams turned to the one young lady who hadn’t spoken yet and asked her, “Do you want to say anything?”

“No,” she said, “that’s OK.  You guys have all pretty much covered it.”

“Ah, c’mon,” he chided.  “Everyone else has talked.  You might as well too.”

So she did. She got up in front of the class and told us all how this class was going to be the hardest thing we’ve ever done (not so sure about that) and how many of the students wouldn’t make it to the end (she was right) and that we would just have to work really hard to get through (have you read my blog lately?)

That first night, the class, which was supposed to be over at 9:20 lasted until after 10:30.  I left determined to do my best.  Determined not to let him rattle me.  And determined to do everything in my power to prove them wrong.  I also left that night determined that I wouldn’t spend a minute longer dealing with that man than I had to.

~~~~~

On my last night of class, after finishing my final exam and earning a 90% on the 167 question test, I told Mr. Williams that I wanted to come back and “just sit in” on the next class, my motivation being to keep refreshing the information.

Mr. Williams said, “JUST sit in?”

I said, “Well, I guess I could help out, if you want.”

“Good,” he replied enthusiastically.

I walked out of the room that night surprised how much the situation had changed.  I still think his tactics are less than productive and I would rather see him be encouraging and supportive but he’s going to do what he’s going to do.

~~~~~

Mr. Williams seemed to be pleased that I planned to come back and I assume he wants to put me to work with the new bunch of students.  I had assumed that he would contact me prior to the start of the class to talk to me about his needs or expectations and any arrangements that might need to be made, but it’s pretty cut and dried, I guess; show up, work with the new students.  I never heard from him the whole six weeks.

~~~~~

Two weeks ago, I looked at the on-line course catalog to find out when he was teaching so I could be sure and show up to the first class.  It said that this semester Mr. Williams was teaching a Tuesday/Thursday class.  I thought about the first night of my class and wondered if it would be similar.  Mr. Williams mellowed a lot over the course of my class, and I wondered if we’d be dealing with a kinder, gentler Mr. Williams, of it would be the return of Captain Blood.

I didn’t really want to have to make a speech in front of the class about how horrible this is going to be for them, but I remembered the last girl to have to speak in my class and imagined he wouldn’t let me off the hook.  I began to formulate my speech in advance:

“Boy, they made it sound really bad didn’t they?  It’s not really; or anyway it doesn’t have to be.

“If you came here tonight thinking this class was going to be easy, you were wrong.  If you came here tonight thinking you were going to get by just listening to the lectures, but not reading the book, you were wrong.  If you came here tonight thinking, this class was going to be a lot of work, you were wrong.  If you came here tonight think this class was going to be a lot of work, take however much work you thought this class was going to be and double it, or triple it.  It’s going to be at least that much work.

“If you’re not committed to this class, to learning the material you might as well not waste your time.  BUT, if you’re committed to learning this stuff, to doing well in this class and if you’re willing to make the sacrifices for the next four or five months of this class to make sure you do, then you can forget everything they just said.  Just work hard, do your best, and this can actually be fun.”

I imagined giving my speech and wondered how Mr. Williams would feel about it, but I wasn’t going to participate in the fright fest that they tried to create my first night.

I decided to leave work early on the first night, so I cold get to the class ahead of the new students and check in with Mr. Williams and be there for the whole class.  So I left work, yesterday at 4:00.  I went home to change clothes and feed Mischa.  If my class was any indication, I could expect the class to run very late and I didn’t want to make him wait ’til I got home to eat.

I showed up to campus about 4:50 and after running by the restroom and stopping at the concession stand to get a drink, headed into the building that housed our classroom…

And found a sign on the door stating the Tuesday/Thursday class to be cancelled.

I called Mr. Williams.  Turns out they cancelled the class due to funding and he’s teaching the Monday/Wednesday class again…  Which means, I missed the first night of class altogether.

Amber Alert

I was running absurdly late for work yesterday, made all the more unreasonable by the fact that I decided not to take a shower in the morning.  I intended to restart my gym routine this week and I would, of course, take a shower after my workout.  I needed to get to work earlier so I could go to the gym.  I piddled around the house a little bit due to the “extra time” I thought I had allowed myself by not showering first.  And then a few minutes after I ate my breakfast, I started getting that feeling.  You know the one.  The one we don’t discuss in polite society…  woops.  The one that says, You are never going to make it out of the house without a stop by the porcelain throne, first. Dammit!

All the “extra time” I had allotted myself was suddenly gone, and I was very late!  Now I’m not even going to be able to justify time away from work to go to the gym! Major Planning Fail!

I was standing in front of the mirror, working on my now arduous oral hygiene regime when I got a text on my iPhone from a 918 phone number:

918 Phone Number, 9:45 AM: Hey Kevin!!!! Guess who?!

Waiting waiting waiting…..(Jeopardy Theme)

Clue: been friends since 1992

I had a feeling I already knew, only I thought I had a cell phone number for this person.  I thought I had a cell phone number for everyone in Tulsa that I cared to interact with.  There are other people in the 918 that I wish not to interact with ever again and so I didn’t want to reply blindly.

I texted the number to my mother to find out if it was a number she recognized.  Mom confirmed the identity and I realized the number I had for this person was one digit off.

I waited a while to reply.  I needed to finish getting ready and get to work and I didn’t need a conversation with anyone to slow me down.

Me, 11:28 AM: Hey Amber!  How’s it going?  Been a while!

Her: Hey!  Good!  Congragts on EMT!!

Me: How’d you know that?

Her: Haha…..I’m watching you…..don’t look over your shoulder…..

Me: That would be impressive.  There’s a 23rd floor window over my shoulder.  With closed blinds.

Her: Ha!  I had to e-mail your mother to see if you were still alive!!! Lol.

How the story tracks from “to see if you were still alive” to “Congrats on EMT” I do not know.

~~~~~

Amber and I became friends in 1992 when we both worked in the grocery store in my mother’s back yard.  I’ve mentioned this before.  There used to be a big empty field behind our house and then they built a grocery store there.

I swore at the time that I had met Amber somewhere before, but neither of us could figure out where.  To this day, it seems like I had to have already known her (though, to be honest, my impression is that we weren’t friendly.  I thought she was a snob, and in fact didn’t talk to her for a while at work because of it) but who knows.

One summer evening, I had gone to the store to pick up my pay check and Amber was just getting off work.  I ran into her in the magazine aisle as she was heading back to the staff lockers to get her purse.  We chatted for a little while and it came up that we were both hungry.  Amber had a car and I had money burning a whole in my pocket (nothing new about that) so I convinced her that she should drive us to my favorite (no longer in existence) restaurant and I would buy her dinner.

We found that we had a lot in common at the time; at least enough to build a friendship on.  We started hanging out regularly on weekends.  She would drive and I would pay.  We became good friends.

Amber is two years older than I, and at the end of the summer she started classes at Oral Roberts University and I started my Junior Year at Broken Arrow Senior High School.  Our friendship continued and we hung out many week-ends and talked on the phone all the time.  It occurs to me now, Amber was probably the only person with whom my mother never rushed me off the phone.

Amber is beautiful and very flirtatious and never wanted for guys attention.  Eventually she told me about a guy who was asking her out.  She told me she really wasn’t all that into him but she was going to go anyway.  That seemed strange to me, but then what do I know about relationships.  I said nothing.  A while later, I was on the phone with Amber one day and she told me that she was “going steady” with this guy and that we couldn’t be friends anymore because he didn’t think it was right for her to spend time with another guy when she was “with” him.  I told her that was stupid, we had been friends for a while,  I was here first and she didn’t even like him all that much.  I told her it was her loss.

A couple of weeks later she called me and told me I had been right and that she wasn’t going to see him any more.  I told her this was the only time I was going to take her back after being dumped for a boyfriend.  She promised never to do it again, and she didn’t.

A while later Amber met Brian, a handsome, brilliant, multi-talented, disgustingly self-confident man who fell head over heals in love with her the minute he laid eyes on her.  Amber’s biggest complaint about Brian was that he wasn’t jealous of our relationship.  A few months before I moved to California, they were married, have been together ever since and have three children together.

In college Amber studied Physical Therapy and she was all about physical fitness and nutrition even though she never struggled with her weight a day in her life.  She even joined Weight Watchers even though she was thin.  I used to resent that attitude, but now I understand it better.  Despite getting her degree, she hasn’t worked a day in her adult life.  She’s a stay at home wife and mother and her brilliant husband makes more than enough money that she’ll never have to think twice about that lifestyle choice.

When I moved to California I used to communicate regularly with Amber by way of instant messenger programs.  I enjoyed implementing these tools to stay in touch with people I cared about while I was working.  Though there is only a two-hour time difference, by the time I get home from work and get settled in and have dinner, it is too late to call people back “home” even if I were so inclined, which I’m really not.  I’m not a phone person.  So using Instant Messenger to talk during the waking hours was a nice treat.

The problem was, Amber usually initiated our conversations and they were usually about nothing.  She would sit for hours typing messages to me while I was trying to work and they were about things like recipes and her workout that day and how she’d just found out there were x number of calories in y food item.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to talk to her, I just didn’t have time for meaningless rambling while I was trying to work.  I started ignoring her messages and then pretending I had been away from my desk while she was typing and “Oh so sorry I didn’t see all that!” lying.

We drifted.  A few times I tried to have deep, personal conversations with her and she just blew them off and diffused them with her idea of humor.  We drifted more.

Several years ago I began having conflict with my mother.  Amber has known my mother for years, but she know’s the mother that outsiders are allowed to know, not the mother that her children know.  One day, Amber asked me if I had any plans to come back for a visit any time soon.  Up until then I had always made time for Amber and Brian when I came to town.  I told her I really didn’t have any plans and didn’t really know when I would because I was no longer on good terms with my mother and I couldn’t see myself coming to visit her, maybe never again.

The appropriate response to that would have been sympathy for a friend.  Curiosity about what could have gone so terribly wrong and why I might never want to visit my mother again.  Understanding for how hard parent-adult child relationships can be.

Her response?  “Don’t say that!  As a mother it hurts me to hear a child talk about not talking to their mother.  You don’t have kids so you can’t understand…”

Few things in this world piss me off more, or faster than, “You don’t have ____, so you can’t understand” or “You aren’t ____, so you can’t understand.”  It just belittle’s the person’s intelligence and it’s not a valid argument for anything.  We drifted some more.

A few years ago, an e-mail was making the rounds.  By today’s blogging terms I suppose it would be a “meme”.  It was one of those, replace-my-answers-to-these-questions-with-your-answers-and-forward-this-to-all-your-friends-and-back-to-me, blah, blah, blah e-mails.  One of the questions on the e-mail was about how many piercings you have.

When I left Oklahoma, I had one ear pierced.  Interestingly, right now, I can’t remember which one it was.  Several years ago now, my friend Heather begged, bullied, convinced me to get the other ear pierced stating that times had changed and it was no longer trendy to wear only one ear ring.  She promised that it was not a statement about one’s sexuality.  I hadn’t yet worked out my issues and I cared a great deal about that fact.  When I completed the e-mail and sent it out to my friends (and my sister) I simply answered the question honestly.

“How many piercings do you have?”

“Just my ears”.

I wondered if anyone would notice or comment.  Amber’s response?  “So what?!?  Are you gay now?”  Coming from the private school, good-little-Christian-girl background that I know she does, I automatically interpreted the tone as being derogatory and insulting (I still do).  We drifted completely.

In contrast to that, over the years Amber has asked me repeatedly, almost obsessively about my love life.  “Do you have a girlfriend yet?”  “Why don’t you have a girlfriend?”  “Don’t you want to have a girlfriend?”  “When are you going to get a girlfriend?”  “You need a woman.”  Somewhere inside me, every time she asked these questions I knew the answer, I just couldn’t face it and I sure as hell couldn’t tell her.  Her incessant prying combined with my own internalized shame only served to make me resent her for pushing.  I always answered her tersely and she just laughed it off as thought it were nothing.  She never could take the hint that this was something she ought not ask me about.

~~~~~

We exchanged text messages as conversation for about 15 minutes when she finally asked:

Her: OK- so- do you have a woman yet??

I waited several minutes to answer.  I wanted to tell her the truth, but– well, there is no but.  I was scared.  Plain and simple.

Me: What are you?  My grandmother?  Would you like to pinch my cheeks and talk about my punum too?  No.  No woman.

She waited nearly twenty minutes to respond.  I wondered if she’d finally gotten the message and was leaving the topic alone.  I wondered if she was considering the possibilities and going to ask me, again, if I was gay “now”.  I made up my mind to answer her honestly if she asked.  I wondered if she had gotten her feelings hurt and was pouting in silence as she was prone to do.  And then she replied.

Her: hee hee hee.  Oh well, just checking.

Finally

Read part 3 here.

The class ended last Wednesday; went out with a bang.  I was pretty worried about the final exam really.  I was basically all studied out and I didn’t really know how much I remembered of the material we had covered.  I didn’t know what to expect.  The three classes prior to the final, we had played a weird, not quite right, version of Jeopardy with questions that were based on but supposedly not directly off of the test.  (Some of them really were.)  I made note of some things that came up during that time that I wasn’t so confident on and I took the day of the final off work so I could prepare.  I spent the day reviewing the subject matter I had noted, which proved to be helpful because I’m sure I’d have missed more questions on the test if I hadn’t done so.

The final was 167 questions long, and about 2/3 of it were scenarios and not black and white questions I could’ve answered in my sleep.  It took some time to get through it all and I realized immediately on the 4th question that very careful and detailed reading of every word of the test questions was going to be necessary.  Question number four asked something about delivery of a baby being the expulsion of the fetus from what internal female sexual organ.  One of the answers was the cervix and another answer was the vagina.  I was stumped for a minute realizing that both were correct answers and being unsure of what was the “more true” answer he was looking for.  And then I re-read the question and this time “what internal female sexual organ” stood out.  I had completely missed the word internal the first time I read it.  After seeing that, the answer was clear and obvious.

One hundred sixty-seven questions carefully read and answered took a while to do, and still I was only the third person to finish the test.  It took me just under two hours.  I handed the paper to my teacher and started to walk away and he asked me, “Don’t you want to see how you did?”

I said, “Yeah, but I have to go the bathroom.  Grade it while I do that and I’ll be right back.”

When I walked back in a couple of minutes later he had a big grin on his face and he said, “I wouldn’t have expected anything less.  Ninety percent!”

“Exactly?” I asked somewhat surprised.

“Yeah!” he told me.  Now I’m no math whiz, but 90% of 167 questions tells me I missed 16.7 questions (how you miss .7 of a question I don’t know)  I’d say 16 or 17 questions out of 167 is pretty damn good!

“So, next semester,” I told him, “I’d like to come back and just sit in on the class.”

Just sit in?” he asked surprised.

“Well, I guess I can do more than that, if you like,” I answered.

“Good!” he said.  So I guess I’m doing more than just sitting in.  Does the fun ever end?

I know this probably comes as a surprise to anyone who read some of my earlier posts toward the beginning of the semester.  My teacher was a bit of an ass hole early on and I still don’t really agree with his attitude and some of his methods, but as the class progressed and as the student body dwindled (we started with 45 and 15 people took the final) his attitude and demeanor softened quite a bit.  I have no doubt that it was all by design (which is the part I don’t agree with) but I made it through to the end and I passed, possibly at the top of my class.

I probably said to more than one person early on that I would never come back to help out next semester, but I’m realizing now, that can only benefit me and if I refuse to do it, I’ll just be depriving myself of a learning opportunity, and a chance to get more experience.  I’d have to be stupid not to take advantage of that.

Trauma

Read Part two here.

 

On Thursday, December 9, not that exact dates are important, I spent twelve hours working in the emergency room in the county hospital.  You may recall that I was a wee bit anxious about that.  We’ve all seen the televised drama of hospital emergency rooms and we all know that they are hustling, bustling masses of controlled chaos; blood everywhere, people maimed and disfigured, writhing in pain and crying out for help.  In short, barely contained hysteria.

Before this I had only ever been in an emergency room three times, two times accompanying the patient and once a hardly-even-qualifies-as-an-emergency recipient of mediocre at best care.  In each of those instances, things were so calm and serene in the working areas of the emergency room I felt sure the real traumas were brought to a different and isolated section of the hospital, protecting those of us with weak constitutions and weaker stomachs from the sights and sounds of such mayhem one could only imagine.

I was pretty worried about what I was going to encounter in this twelve hours working “in the county trauma center” as I was told over and over again, I would be doing.  The hospital in question is the County Hospital, the County Trauma Center, the County Teaching Hospital.  “You see everything there,” I was told more than a few times, and while I knew I needed to test myself and prepare myself for what I might encounter in a career as an EMT, I was still worried about what the day held in store.

When I arrived at 6:55 in the morning, the registration area was packed with people but it seemed to be the entry point for all who had business with the hospital.  There is no way I saw all those people pass through in my time on duty.  After a couple of missteps I found my way to the appropriate area where I was directed to one of the staff who would give me my assignment for the day.  The nurse I would be working with had not yet arrived and I was told to just hang out for a few minutes until she checked in.

I took the opportunity to get the lay of the land and understand, as best I was able, what was going on around me.  I was at Nurses Station 1, which amounted to a big open counter top ringed workspace with computers and chairs inside, and three computer terminals on the counter at one end.  Surrounding the Nurses Station were rooms and alcoves with hospital beds and various equipment inside.  On one wall was a white board which had each of the patient rooms and assigned staff scribed on it.

When Johnna, the nurse I worked with, arrived I found out we were assigned to three rooms, ten, eleven and twelve, and she set about showing me the ropes.  I followed Johnna around much of the time, observing her work, helping out where I could.  As an EMT, I am not capable or legally allowed to start an IV or administer any medications, but I was able to check and monitor vital signs and document them, I was able to provide comfort where possible both with my bedside manner and by providing pillows and blankets, food and beverages.  I watched as the over night nurse explained to Johnna what was going on with each of our patients at shift change and then we went about checking on and caring for each of our three patients.

I was surprised by how calm and serene everything was.  No crying or screaming in pain, no blood on the floors and walls, no severed limbs lying around or entrails dangling from eviscerated abdomens (abdomi?).  In fact, there were no trauma patients at all.  Well, that’s not true.  When you hear the word “trauma” you tend to think of violently injured patients in dramatic situations, or anyway I do.  The truth is, a trauma is any injury that is the result of outside forces, as opposed to a medical condition that becomes an emergency.  So knowing that, there were plenty of traumas, but nothing dramatic

I was also surprised to find how quickly it all became run of the mill.  No sooner had the patients left our care than I forgot their names.  The moment I walked out the door at the end of the day, I forgot most of the conditions we treated.  And the truth is, we didn’t treat all that many patients.  In fact, on two separate occasions the third of our three rooms, room 12, sat empty for more than an hour between patients.

When I arrived, the young woman in room ten had been there since 8:00 the night before, hooked up to monitors and with an IV in her arm.  She was complaining  of severe pain in her neck that worsened when she moved.  The nurse would give her an IV pain-killer and the pain would go away for a while and then it would come back again.  There were no obvious, outward signs of illness, but then there often aren’t.  Her vitals were unremarkable, she just periodically asked for more pain medication.  Being the cynic that I am, I considered, more than once, that she was just there for the drugs, but she didn’t look the type.  She was released without any definitive diagnosis and directed to follow-up with her Primary Care Provider (PCP).

The not young woman in room eleven was in early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and lived in an assisted living facility with her husband who is apparently confined to a wheel chair and insists that she be the one to push him around.  She, apparently, fell while trying to help him in or out of his wheel chair and hit her head on the corner of the coffee table.  She was slow to respond, but we were told by the care facility that this was normal behavior for her (this is called “baseline”.)  I helped clean up her wounds and held her neck in place while the doctor rolled her onto her side to examine her back.  I observed while a technician conducted and Echocardiogram.  There was no benefit to my seeing this, but it’s not something one gets to see everyday (and it got me out of Johnna’s hair for about 15 minutes.)  A CT scan revealed that she had a subdural hematoma, which we learn in class is a serious problem worthy of priority transport to the hospital, (a subdural hematoma is what killed Natasha Richardson)  but no one seemed too concerned about it and she wasn’t showing any signs of being in serious jeopardy.  We monitored her condition while waiting for a room to open up and after a couple of hours of cooling her heals in the ER she was transferred to the ICU.

I was asked to assist one of the other nurses as he was about to clean a patient and change the bedding after he (the patient, not the nurse) had defecated on himself.  The patient had an open head wound and was in a cervical collar which needed to be supported while he was rolled from one side to the other for this procedure.  I was standing at the head of the bed, gloved hands holding his head and neck, ready to give the count to roll the patient when the Doctor walked in.  The nurse explained what we were doing and asked if the Doctor wanted us to wait till he stitched up the wound.  The Doctor wanted to examine the wound and see what needed to happen.  While I was standing there holding the man’s head, the doctor removed the bandage that was taped over the wound and started “digging around” in the wound to see what the situation was.  I was pleased to find that I was not bothered by this and had no inclination to pass out or vomit.  I didn’t voluntarily stand there and watch the whole procedure, (which frankly I don’t think makes me a wimp – like I told my teacher, “I’m not going to volunteer to look at things ‘for fun’.  I look at what I have to look at.”)  Also, I was in the way.  Twenty minutes later they called me back in and I held the patients C-spine while the nurse cleaned the patient and changed the bedding.    When we were finished and I let go of his head again, I had blood on the palm of my gloved hand.  My first time having someone elses blood on my hands…  Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

We had another patient, a 24-year-old, developmentally disabled woman accompanied by her mother.  She’d been seen the Saturday prior at another local hospital and diagnosed with Bronchitis, but she wasn’t getting any better.  Interesting the correlation between not taking the medication prescribed and not improving.  Anyway, this young woman had had her fill of needles and poking and prodding and she wouldn’t allow the nurse or myself to come near her.  She wouldn’t get fully on the gurney and every time Johnna walked in with an IV kit the young woman went into hysterics.  Johnna told the mother that we couldn’t treat her daughter until she was properly seated on the bed and that we had to put in the IV because the Doctor was going to require blood tests and there may be some medications to be administered.  She told the mother we’d come back when the daughter was properly seated on the bed.  For two hours we check back and the patient was sitting on the side of the gurney with her feet on the floor and every time we walked in she watched us warily to see what we might do.  Ultimately, it took four of us including the patients mother to forcibly hold her down and get the IV port into her arm.  She wasn’t happy, but once the port was in she was OK.

There were three “Level 2 traumas” that came in that day.  I assume “Level 2” means more dramatic as previously discussed.  The irony is not lost on me that two of those traumas came in while I was eating lunch in the Hospital cafeteria and the third came in while I was holding the C-spine of the head injured, soiled man.  I have no idea what those traumas were, what condition the patients were in, or what I might have seen had I been in the corridor at the time, but as luck would have it, I missed all three.

I observed a couple of EKGs, something else an EMT does not do.  I cleaned and prepped a handful of rooms, well, three rooms a handful of times.  The fact is, the experience is not the same as EMT work, at all, but it still exposed me to some of what I can expect.  While it was a long day, the first ten and a half hours seemed to go by fairly quickly for me.  It wasn’t until about 5:30 PM when there was a lull in activity and I stopped wandering around that the fatigue hit and my legs started to ache.  I would have given just about anything to sit down, but I didn’t want anyone to think I was being lazy and I was afraid if I sat down, I might never stand up again.  That last hour and a half dragged on and I was elated when 7:00 rolled around.  Elated that I got to go home, but even more so that I had made it through the day without incident and got a little more proof that I am cut out for this job.

~~~~~

Read Part 4 here.