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Saturday, January 14, 2006It's A Small World After All
EMS is a relatively small world within New York City. Usually, everyone defines the NYC EMS system as the Fire Department of New York. What most people would probably find surprising is that the FDNY is only responsible for maybe 30% of all the ambulances in the city.
In addition to FDNY there is what we call Voluntary Hospitals that operate units within the 911 system. The FDNY only operates 51% of the 600 something tours (a tour equals 8 in service hours) a day in the city 911 system, with the other 49% belonging to the Voluntaries. Then there are approximately 12 private ambulance companies operating in the city. A very rough estimate puts the private ambulances at roughly 500 tours a day combined. In addition to that, there are the 15 still active Volunteer Ambulance Corps that operate on a mostly part time and sporadic schedule.
Seems pretty big right? Well, not really. See, there is an awful lot of cross working. It isn’t uncommon for someone to work for the FDNY and a Voluntary Hospital, or work for two or more Voluntary Hospitals, or even for FDNY or a Voluntary and also work at a Private. Of course, there are the extremists who work for FDNY, a Voluntary, and a Private… but that is a rarer breed because the FDNY Union is totally against the Privates. So usually, if you come across someone in one shop, chances are you’ll run across them at another as well.
So, last night, after getting done with my job at my Private, I logged in at 23:00 at my Voluntary. All night the rain was on and off… and at sometimes a downright torrential downpour bordering Hurricane conditions. My usual truck, 51D has been removed from the system since May of this year, so I’ve basically been bouncing around wherever the work is in the network of Voluntaries I work for. This is somewhat of a hassle, but I do get to see the different sights and am rarely bored by it.
So at around 1:00am this morning I end up on the corner of Myrtle Avenue and Catalpa Avenue for a drug. Medics rolled up a few minutes later as we were loading “Felix”, the undomiciled drunkard into the back of the truck. I knew both medics, one I had worked the same area in Queens with and the other was a guy I actually trained back in 1996 and who eventually ended up working for me on the weekends in 1997 while he went to medic school. It was good to see both of them, and we compared notes on anything new in either our lives, the area, and of course the industry. So we transported the patient, and told them we’d see them later for coffee.
At around 3:00am this morning, I ended up backing up the same medics on an unresponsive that turned into a cardiac arrest. While enroute, the dispatcher advised that it was the family member of a Member of Service (MOS). Arriving on scene, we grabbed our scoop stretcher and headed into the house. Up the narrow staircase we went, past some shoes, piles of clothes, and a mattress turned on its side. When we got to the small room at the top of the stairs, I recognized the person holding the IV bag for the medics. It was one of my old partners from back in 1995. The patient was his father.
The medics ran through their standing orders while my partner and I pumped and blew. Than we carried the patient down the flight on the scoop, out to the ambulance, and off to the hospital. Thirty minutes or so later, he was pronounced deceased at the hospital. I spoke briefly with my old partner, and we agreed to try and keep in touch better than we had… but it made me think and ponder a bit.
To be honest, I had had recent thoughts about leaving the industry. In fact, back in August I was ready to move on the first of this year. Going down to New Orleans for Katrina, and Sabine County for Rita kind of changed that a bit… but the idea was still lurking seeing as how I’ll need to enroll in a refresher class next year. It will be my fourth refresher… signaling the conclusion of 12 years.
Yet… there’s something about the job. Something about the camaraderie when you show up with people who have been doing this as long if not longer than you that just makes everything go smoother. Of course, there’s also the fact that you never really know who you’re going to meet or help… someone you may know, someone you may not, or someone you may get to know who might change your life forever.