Sunday, March 29, 2009


Saturday night in my apartment. Try sleeping through this. I'm working on my patience :)

Bloomington has a very large and active Buddhist community, and I'm sure that my biggest regret once I leave here will be not exploring and participating in that opportunity more. I need to find a way to make time in my remaining schedule; I've heard so many great things.

I became part of a conversation yesterday as a paramedic was describing a mutual acquaintance of ours to me, "He's a Buddhist, but a little extreme at times. If someone kills a spider or a fly he gets upset and will say something". I smiled and acknowledged the fact that I'm also a practicing Buddhist. The paramedic asked me if I thought the fact that killing a bug was 'extreme'. "No, I stated, that's pretty much it".

All of this led into a discussion on how I could have been a Buddhist and a Army Special Forces soldier at the same time. I often get asked this. I really don't have a good answer, and I never did. Certainly I was not the only one, clearly there are Buddhist police officers, doctors, and others that make life and death decisions on a daily basis. Somehow answering that particular question was never very important to me. I'm at peace with my spirituality and my profession. They may seem incongruent to some, but to me they just... are.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Pushing Hard and Fast

I've got almost two weeks to straight "clinicals" ahead of me, where I'm functioning as the lead paramedic on a 911 ambulance. The didactic portion of the paramedic class is over and now it's just a matter of finishing up the hours that we need on the ambulances before we test out. These clinical rotations are normally a lot of fun, albeit hectic and grueling as they're stacked back-to-back offering little or no time to rest and recover. Each 24-hour period I will move to a different ambulance service somewhere around the state, quickly learning and adapting to new "truck set-ups" and treatment protocols. I'm expected to be proficient in all of them.

What I've found thus far:

Nursing homes depress me. The smell is always the same. Eyes follow us as we arrive with our equipment to treat and transport one of their own; knowing that someday it will be them on the stretcher- IV lines, oxygen, cardiac monitors, drugs, etc. Elderly, paper-thin skin; mouths so dry that they stick, eyes uncomprehending what is happening to them.

Kids make me nervous. Little people de-compensate so quickly; one minute they're fine and the next they're limp and lifeless. As a parent myself I can feel the unspeakable panic of mothers and fathers as they watch their whole world stop breathing and turn blue in their own quivering arms. They offer you the lifeless little body; tears and screams of desperation follow.

I do not understand drug seekers, but am amazed at the lengths they will go through to get 4 mg. of morphine from me. They know all the right things to say, the coded phrases that almost force me to treat them with narcotics. It's a game to them. When they're found out they go off in a huff, looking for a new source; no embarrassment or remorse, the game goes on.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Take-Away

This is the one post that, for quite a while, I've known that I would write. For the past three months I've been living with three 21-year old college students and their associated friends. I fell into this situation by sub-letting a room, in their four-bedroom suite, from one of their friends who was traveling for the semester. It's been an interesting and often entertaining experiment.

Firstly, these guys are no different than when I was a college senior back in '86. Nothing has changed in the past 23 years, and most likely going back a lot longer than that. There is still copious amounts of alcohol, good friends, girls/boys, sports, classes, and an over-all attitude of reckless invincibility. The only notable difference, however, is the advent of video games; my suite-mates sit for hours playing all manner of games, including Rock Band, which can be very annoying when you're trying to sleep at 3:00 a.m. I've found this to be the only game that can penetrate the protective cocoon of my Bose noise canceling headphones.

My only epiphany during the entire experience came when realized that these kids are often inebriated, loud, and "out-of-control" only because society allows them to be that way. They're cut free from the confines of home and allowed to rapidly grow and expand with almost no tempering force. The college culture expects/encourages/demands them to act in this manner.

On a side note, what happens when you re-introduce a dampening or controlling force, e.g. you remove the kid from college and enlist him or her in the military? My experience has been that they still grow and mature but not at such an exponential rate. The environment is more supervised, and prone to a lot less recklessness; but that's another post.

During my stay here I've treated several college kids in the ER, one for a very serious alcohol intoxication. The sad part was that her mother came to the ER and had to see her near-naked daughter lying on the table engulfed in an octopus of tubes, wires, pumps, and monitors. I first tried to empathize with the mother, but found it difficult as she viciously blamed everyone for her daughter's condition except the young girl lying before her reeking of vomit and alcohol.

My "take away" has been that if left unchecked these kids will eagerly sprint down an often dangerous path, just as we did at their age; as most of us are lucky to still be walking this earth. There must be some sort of societal, peer, family, organizational, tempering force that allows them to grow and mature, but at a reasonable and less self-destructive rate. When I get home to my five-year old, we're going to work on that one pdq.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Levity In The Final Stretch

Taking a moment to goof around in medic class. Levity and a sense of humor are all-important.

I have a month of paramedic training left; I'm almost done and can see the light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. I'm anxious to get home again and spend some quality time with my family. What's the next step is after that, I'm not exactly sure. I have several options that I'm looking at, one of which is working full-time as a medic in Atlanta. I have some security options, as well, that I'm looking at, but right now the priority is to successfully finish up and to get myself home.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Hanging In There

Little boys, a shovel, and dirt... perfect

OK... I've been blog-lazy for the past few months. I haven't even taken a single picture. My camera lays on my apartment desk, dead batteries and all. I'll fix that.

I'm currently in Bloomington, Indiana attending a paramedic course, and living in an apartment with three 21-year old students. Life is indeed interesting. I spend my days either attending class learning about advanced emergency medicine, or doing clinical rotations on a 911 ambulance or in an emergency room. I've met hundreds of patients with countless illnesses and problems. The fact of the matter is that I quickly forget most of them, however I've come to learn that I'm the most important person in their lives at that particular moment in time, and they will often not forget what I end up doing for them. This is the nature of emergency medicine. I love being a paramedic; mostly because I can have a direct and often monumentous impact on someone's life; someone who is a father, a daughter, a girlfriend. With every patient that I touch, I effect countless others. What a great job!

As I mentioned I'm living amidst college students, which creates its own set of challenges and observations. I look at theses kids, all are 21-years old, and I have to believe that I was once that "innocent"; a word that is a analogous to whatever concept that you want to apply. On a whole they're great guys, and treat me with a bit of awe and wonder. I tell them that I'm not anything special, I've just lived longer than they have.

More to follow in the coming days. I hesitate writing about many of the patients I meet because I'm entrusted with their privacy and confidence, an honor and a privilege that I take very seriously. Nonetheless, I'll try, in the future, to provide some colorful stories and insight as I progress along this path.