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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ladders and Seniors Don't Mix

When I was 10 tears old my dad went up on the roof to hang a banner. I guess he decided that the ladder was the slow way to get off the roof. Ever since then he was banned (by my mother) from getting back on the roof. IT became my responsibility. Evidently my patients wife had not banned her husband from the use of ladders...yet.

We were toned out for a fall with injuries. We arrived on scene at an apartment to find the patient laying on the floor in the kitchen. The 88 year old man was using a ladder on the linoleum floor to reach the light. The ladder kicked out from under him and he fell from the second rung. The problem, he tried to catch his weight with his left arm, dislocating his shoulder and bruising his ribs. We quickly triaged his injuries and started treating him. We had to put him in C-Spine precautions because of his distracting injury (an injury that causes enough pain so as to possibly mask head, neck or back pain). We also started a line and gave him some morphine to take the edge off the pain. We then, with the help of the AMR crew, set up an elaborate splint to hold his arm in place. Then we loaded him up to go to the hospital.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Auto vs Bicycle

Just as we were getting read for bed the tones went off. We were dispatched for a vehicle versus bicyclist. I have to admit that I was more than a little excited because it's been quite a while since I last saw a good trauma. As we pulled up I saw a man sitting on the center median being next to a truck. It appeared that the driver had turned right (he only had a yield sign) and failed to see the cyclist. The man had been drug over 50 feet and then crawled his way out from under the vehicle. His bicycle was still lodged under the drivers seat. The cyclist had not been wearing a helmet but luckily never hit his head. He did have road rash to all of his extremities but the worst of his injuries was an avulsion, to the bone, about 4 inches across. Every time I see tendons working I think "how cool is that!?" I'm sure he wasn't feeling that way. I did a quick physical exam looking for any other injuries then I bandaged up his foot. By now we had enough manpower there so that I could attend to his foot while others placed him on the backboard and strapped him down. With all said and done it wasn't the best trauma I've seen but it was better than nothing.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Academy Week 1

The Sunday before the academy we met as a class to meet each other and to go over some basic facing movements. We decided that the best way for us to survive the academy was to bond together in a "us vs. them" mentality. So with that in mind we all decided to cut our hair (since some of us already sported the near shaved head look). On day one we all met at a about 0545, in a parking lot down the street from the drill tower, in the rain, to make sure we all had our names on our uniforms in a uniform way. A little excessive, maybe. We also made sure that everyone had the same socks on (we didn't go so far as the underwear but it was discussed). We wanted to make sure that no one stuck out as a target.

Our drill tower. You can see a couple of our roof props in the background.

Once in the academy we were lined up by engine companies. Every recruit would have an opportunity to be a follower and a leader during the academy, helping to teach us qualities like, responsibility, chain of command and leadership. Once lined up we were introduced to a firefighter who was a former Navy SEAL. It was his job to get us acquainted with the academy and each other. We learned not to like him too much. We played some fun games like "line up, single file, by age, oldest to youngest, in the next 30 seconds or run (distances varied)" or "Line up in reverse alphabetical order in 30 seconds or do push ups." These were not a fun games. We almost always lost. Another thing he had us do was race for a 5 minute break. We had to pick one recruit that could run up the tower, raise a hose with a rope, go back down and move a skid with a sledge hammer. If the recruit was able to do this in under 2 minutes we got a break. The hard part was next time we wanted a break we had to beat the previous recruits time to get it.

We also quickly got into the academic portion of the academy with quizzes every couple of days. We always had to meet the standard which was 80%. So when we got home we nursed our sore bodies and studied. Some of us a lot more than others. One of the guys from my department and I didn't spend that much time studying at all. After paramedic school this was a breeze. Other recruits would spend hours each day. I don't know how they did it.

Forcible entry day
We had a USAR tower as well where we learned how to get people out of all types of difficult situations. If you look carefully there is a car smashed above these recruits. This is where we practice what was learned in the bay bridge collapse.

That first week we were issued tools. Some recruits received axes, some sledge hammers, yet others were issued halligans or pike poles. They were in deplorable condition. They had been dulled, rusted, spray painted, taped and damaged in any way the instructors could manage. We were instructed that these were to be our tools for the rest of the academy. We were to clean them up and make them better than new. We had to carry them with us everywhere we went. If we ever forgot them there would be adverse consequences. Some of the guys had to to major repairs, others just had to shine their tool up. We were also told that we had to name our tools. I was given a flat head axe with a fiberglass handle and I named her Samantha. Other names included Bam Bam and Chocolate Thunder.

We also learned that the academy has a tradition of a class guidon. The previous class creates their guidon and the next class carries it with them where ever they go to help them remember those that have gone on before them. The instructors informed us that they would be looking for the time(s) that we were going to leave the guidon unattended. We were allowed to post the guidon in one of three spots; outside the classroom when we were in class, in front of our locker room when we were on break, or in front of the drill tower while we were on the training grounds. And it had better not be left posted in an incorrect location. Let the fun begin.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Line of Duty Death, Pilot Jamsa

Jamsa, David

Cause of Death: Vehicle Collision

Age: 45

A single engine air tanker (SEAT) crashed in the Clan Alpine Mountains of Churchill County on Thursday (8/20) dropping fire retardant on the Hoyt Fire. The pilot, Dave Jamsa, was transported by helicopter to medical facilities in Lovelock, Nevada, where he was pronounced dead.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Line of Duty Death, Fire Chief Zeeks

Zeeks, Jimmie

Cause of Death: Stress/Overexertion

Age: 54

Fire Chief Zeeks passed away from an apparent heart attack while in command at the scene of a serious motor vehicle accident. Members of the fire department immediately started life saving efforts. Chief Zeeks was rushed to a local hospital where he succumbed to his injury.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Line of Duty Death, Firefighter Warhola

Warhola, Paul

Cause of Death: Stress/Overexertion

Age: 47

Incident Description: Firefighter Warhola, who was driving the fire engine, responded with other members of Engine 221 to a fire alarm activation in Brooklyn, New York, on August 12, 2009. Upon arrival, Firefighter Warhola checked for a working fire hydrant outside the structure while other firefighters entered the building to investigate. When the other firefighters returned to the street, Firefighter Warhola was experiencing dizziness and had difficulty breathing. As a result, he was provided medical treatment and was transported back to the firehouse. After examining Firefighter Warhola at the firehouse, paramedics recognized his symptoms as possibly stroke-related and transported him to the hospital. Firefighter Warhola's condition worsened, however, and he passed away at the hospital on August 14, 2009.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Going the Extra Mile

Every morning, after we check out our equipment and engine, we have our morning meeting. This is just on the company level and in it we discuss the plans for the day. We cover what we need to do such as inspections and drills, then go over the things that we would like to do (I set up time to do the things I need to do while I'm on probation). The other morning our meeting was interrupted by a phone call. I answered the phone and an elderly lady asked if we could come by her home to inspect it for safety. She was recently placed on home oxygen and was a little worried about the flammability issue. I took down her name, phone number and address and informed her that we would be there sometime this morning.

When we arrived at the house we met Anna. She was in her late 80's and lived alone in her house. Inside she stored everything she had collected over most of a century. She had a long tube connected to a nasal cannula that followed her around the house. My Captain sat down with her at the dining room table and talked while the other firefighter and I went and inspected her house. The only problem that we found was an abundance of electrical cords. We warned her about this but I don't think it will do much good. After spending a good 45 minutes there we excused ourselves. Up to this point I think we had done a great job of providing service. MY Captain would go above and beyond.

The next shift (2 days later) during our morning meeting, my Captain said that he wanted to go back by Anna's house and drop off some pamphlets. He was worried about her being home by herself and had looked up city information on senior services and groups. We went back over there,much to the surprise of Anna, and dropped off the pamphlets. It was a nice reminder to me that we are there to serve the public. Not just be there when they have an emergency.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Ride a Long

A few weeks ago I went and did a ride along with my old crew. We had a good time. We did what we do A lot. Around dinner time we got toned out for a fall with injuries, second hand report. Once we arrived on scene we found our patient looking for his keys in his car. He had fallen about 30 minutes prior to our arrival and had called his son to tell him about it. His son, being worried, called 911 for his dad. Our patient was fine and didn't want medical attention. While I was standing in the front yard I hear someone call my name and as, "what are you doing here?" I wasn't expecting to hear my name out in the middle of town. It was one of the local kids whose family more or less adopts the firefighters at their station. She was just surprised to see me. She immediately went home and told her family. They all stopped by the station a little later to say hi. It's nice to be missed.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Dangerous Job

This is a post from It's dangerous for us long before we get to the emergency.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009
A Spring Volunteer Fire Department truck and van collided in far northwest Harris County this afternoon, sending three people to the hospital. The wreck occurred about 12:30 p.m. The van's driver was trapped inside his cab and workers are trying to get him out.

The fire truck, which was headed eastbound on FM 2920 in response to a motorcycle wreck, overturned. Two firefighters and the van's driver were transported to a local hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

Deputies have closed FM 2920 in both directions near the crash site as workers clear the area. An unknown substance spilled from the van in the crash and crews were cleaning it up.

People in the immediate area were evacuated as a precaution because of possible danger from the chemical.

The apparatus was on an emergency call with its siren on and lights flashing when the crash happened.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Line of Duty Death, Firefighter Tinkham

Tinkham, Eric Allan

Cause of Death: Stress/Overexertion

Age: 44

On Saturday morning, August 1, 2009, at shift change, firefighters discovered Captain Eric Tinkham in cardiac arrest. He was treated by his crew and transported to the Gilbert Hospital Emergency Room where he was pronounced dead.
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