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Be a Firefighter >> Browse Articles >> Day in the Life of a Probie

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Trama - Not a Television Show

Ethan Vizitei

What’s more exciting than flashing lights and wailing sirens? How cool is it to watch unusually attractive paramedics involved in desperate love triangles fiercely pound on the chests of accident victims and perform last minute emergency tracheotomies?  Look out!  It’s another Tension pneumothorax!  Phew, saved the day again!

Sometimes I think the media we consume really messes with our expectations.  Trauma is something we train for vigorously and we have a right to prefer it.  In a pre-hospital setting, there’s not a ton you can do for a medical patient.  Get some vital signs, a good medical history, apply some oxygen and an IV and keep them stable on the way to the hospital.  But trauma?  Alright!  We can splint limbs, we can carve up cars, we can do stuff!  And furthermore, we can be perpetually out of breath and rush-rush-rushing because this is an emergency, darn it!

Yeah, we all start out that way.  Even if you keep it under control, you know that as a greenhorn you’ve always got that inner picture of you swinging into action to miraculously save a victim from a horrible accident.  A few runs on the real deal can temper your enthusiasm a bit, though.  Real traumatic injuries aren’t glamorous and fun; they’re messy, ugly, heart-wrenching, sometimes even disturbing, and the odds are usually longer than you think.  My very first trauma call is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, and it’s a story that reminds me every time I tell it just what a fragile thing the human body is.

It’s summer, on a quiet weekday evening.  We’ve had one run today, but it was just a gas odor outside, nothing too terribly interesting. I’m already thinking about the meal waiting for me at home.  The night’s not over just yet, though.  Just as we’re finishing rehabbing and restocking our equipment, the tones go off again. A few smiles and rolled eyes are exchanged; always when you’re just about to go home, right?

“Engine 801, engine 1408, motorcycle accident…”

My smile drops. This could turn out to be a little more intense than I’d expected. My brother is driving the engine, and I can feel our speed increase a little as further information comes over the radio. It doesn’t sound good. One motorcycle, ran into a guardrail, victim is not moving.

I start rehearsing in my head every thing that will need to happen once we arrived at the scene. We’ll need the medical pack and the backboard for sure. I pull my latex gloves on in preparation, half anxious to help, half hoping someone else will take care of the victim so that I don’t have to.

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