A five story walk-up on the Grand Concourse. Why do folks who need to be carried always live on the fifth floor or higher with no elevator? The patient’s wife opens the door and she looks like she’s not sure whether to be irritated or worried. (Strange to have our own expressions mirrored back to us for once.) She leads us inside where we find a pale, sweaty, agitated, half-drunk 40 year old with bags under his eyes, clutching his chest and yelling that he’s fine and he doesn’t need to go to the hospital so dejame en paz, carajo!…
We finally coax him to calm down and sit down and usher his teenage daughter and five year old son into another room. Turns out, the doctor told him that he ever drank again he’d have another heart attack.
And I jus had a drink.
And I’m fine. I’m- AAAAH MY CHEST!!! (Sweat sweat, clutch clutch…) But is not that bad, I swear!
It’s funny because…wait a minute, in writing that I realize that a lot of you might not find anything funny about a man having a heart attack in front of his whole family. And you’d be right not to. But in reading ahead i would encourage you to let go of preconceived notions and all that right/wrong junk and just appreciate what a pleasurable thrill the twisted disasters of life and death bring. That’s all. People die in horrible and ridiculous ways day after day and when you’re there to see it, well, sometimes all you can do is laugh- once all the busy work is done of course, and you’re having a cup of strong black coffee at the Lechoneria around the corner with your partner. It’s not that if you don’t laugh you’ll cry, it’s that if you don’t laugh you’ll become a fucking shell of a person who can’t function.
AAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaanyway, it’s funny because we spend SO Much time, Most of our Time, dealing with people that have no business at all calling 911, or even 311 for that matter, but really just want a little human touch. Okay, I’m full of sidetracks tonight, but I’m restless so bare with me- like the lady last week who said: “I was opening a window and I think I pulled a muscle and then my whole left side of my body went numb.”
And then what happened? (because you could tell there was more coming..)
So then I took my asthma pump and…
Wait, why’d you….nevermind
And it worked!
Yeah, I can feel my left side again. But my pulled muscle is still kinda bothering me.
You wann go hospital?
(Later in the elevator)
By the way, ma’am, how long ago was it that you tried to open the window, an hour or two?
No, it was like three, no four day ago.
I really enjoyed that call, actually, because it really truly had me laughing. Like LMAO kinda laughing, not just a sardonic chuckle.
AAAaaanannnnnyyywayyyy again- back to the story at hand:
Where was I? Ah yeah- it’s funny Because: we spend all this time with folks that truly don’t need us, or our 40 pounds of equipment, and then here we have what turns out on the EKG, the 12 Lead and in every possible way to be a bonafide Myochardial Infarction AKA The Big One AKA a fricken heart attack- and homeboy has no intention of letting us treat him. We practically have to beg him to let us put an iv in, and all the while:
I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fucking AAHAHAHAHA MY FUCKIN CHEST OH CONO CARAJO MY CHEST JESUS MARY AND JOSEPH!!!
When we finally convince him to come with us to the hospital and not commit suicide by stupidity in front of his family, he want s to walk down the 5 flights. Now, believe me- just about any other patient I would’ve actually hid the stair chair from so they didn’t get any dumb ideas about being carried, but the Llaaaast thng you wanna let someone having a heart attack do is walk down 5 flights of stairs. BUT- one the other hand, the last thing our patient wanted to do was get paraded out in front of his whole building looking weak and being carried in a gimpy EMS chair by another man. So we were at a standstill.
My partner and I wasted many graphic explanations of how the heart crinkles up and dies without oxygen and what it feels like when you’re lungs fill up with fluid and you drown inside yourself (more on that in some other posting, I’m sure…) trying to reason with our dude but it was no use. He didn’t even seem to be listening, mostly just sat there sweating and clutching his chest and whining that he was okay leave me alone, papa, estoy fucking …bien… (ow! Shit!…ow!)
Finally, I lost my patience, my temper and my cool all at once and launched into a satisfying, curse-laden tangent, (any of you who’ve seen my do a workshop…like that, but without the stupid smile…)…(why should patients be the only one’s who get to curse?)…
DUDE, I said, yer gonna die. In fact yer gonna fucking die, more than likely, on this staircase, in front of your family and it’s gonna suck AND me and my partner gonna haveta stick a tube down yer throat and pump on yer chest. . It won’t be poetic, it’ll just be ridiculous. I don’t like carrying people down 5 flights of stairs, but for you it’s how it has to be. Sit in my chair. Put this sheet over your head. And stop screaming in pain and saying you’re okay, cuz you’re not. Then, we go to the hospital. Okay?
I knew he would concede when he looked at me the way I look at some EDP’s (like the one hiding the rock in his sock). It’s a look that says: Are you gonna kill me or am I gonna kill you? Or are we just gonna fucking pretend to be friends and go to the hospital without a problem?
BUT…oh, the but.
Before he could go, he had to have a pep talk with his successor. And this…really, this was one of those moments that I could kinda feel civilization crashing around me.
Before I go, he said, Bring me my boy.
Someone brought the boy (age 5 remember).
Boy- he said. He said, Papi’s going away for a little while. You da man of the house now, hear? You in charge.
His grown ass wife and mostly grown ass daughter looking on, traces of embarrassment plain to see.
You running things round here, he continued. You the boss. Okay?
The boy nodded but his face said WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU DAD?
And with that, we draped the sheet of shame over his head and carried his ass down the five flights to the ambulance.