My preceptor was out on vacation today, so I spent the day doing calls with my EMT-I partner, swapping every other call as technician and driver. It was something of a nice change: to sit in the front of the ambulance again where the AC blows cold and windows surround every view. It feels like a long time that I have been locked in the back of the truck, relegated to the uncomfortable seat and stuffy atmosphere, removed from conversation and left to my own thoughts.
I was reminded again of the experience of driving. Priority 1 to a call, flicking the sirens and blaring the horn. Talking trash about drivers who freeze or do the wrong thing when we come racing their way. It all seems to add to the experience, and I hadnt realized how much I missed it until I got the chance to remember it today. I like to quickly switch the "wail" siren on and off through intersections, creating my own - custom - wah wah wah sound for all to heed. Some people like to use the air horns constantly, blaring for long, drawn out tones as we slip through traffic. I like to use it sparingly, though, saving the obnoxious blast for only those who do something really stupid, or are about to hit our ambulance. I like to keep something in reserve so that I have a "next level" if the situation requires.
My partner drove to a call today, a particularly long distance across town on a priority 1-- his favorite kind of response. He settled into the seat and gripped the wheel tightly with his left hand as the right worked the siren and horn. He is aggressive behind the wheel, moving his body to the left and to the right as if cornering on a tightly wound motorcycle. Our heavy ambulance tilted and swayed in turn. By the time we got on scene we could smell the hot brakes, a potent acrid odor that satisfied my partner in affirmation of a well-driven response. He could barely wipe the smile off of his face. The experience of responses like these are somewhat less enjoyable on days when I am trapped in the back of the ambulance, arms and legs spread out in four points of contact as I attempt to anticipate the next pitch and roll of the lurching vehicle. Today, though, I was in the front.
I got to drive slowly, too. On the way to the hospital with a patient in back, I had the chance to talk with family members or friends who came along for the ride. On one call we took along a friend of a patient, a nurse for 15 years who suffered through the experience of becoming her friend's healthcare provider for the 10 minutes before we arrived. It was horrible, she said. She couldnt separate herself from the situation, become the objective observer that the job really required. Several times she would stop mid-sentence, to turn around over her shoulder and, worried, check that her friend was "still doing okay" in the back. She turned forward, catching my eye each time with something of an embarrassed look: as if she wasnt supposed to behave in such an emotional manner as a "professional provider." She apologized and I told her not to worry.
It was a nice break. Tomorrow I am back in the rear of the truck, my preceptor returning to supervise me on another day's worth of calls. We are hoping for a "good medical," maybe a CHF or a profound MI. I haven't had a chance to use our new CPAP devices yet, either.
I look forward to learning something new.