Even Simple Calls Can Be Rewarding
We met the most delightful woman tonight.
Her name was Jane, and she was ninety-nine years old. A neighbor had come over to visit, and Jane had stumbled while getting up to answer the doorbell, striking her her on the linoleum floor and raising an enormous lump on her forehead.
I asked if she felt pain anywhere. She said no. I pressed on her ribs, arms, hips, and legs. "Any pain here?" Again she said no.
We rolled her gently onto an immobilization board. The lump on her head, coupled with the age of her bones, made it impossible for us to ignore the possibility of an undetected spinal fracture. Looking up at us from the board, she said, "Three heads. I see three heads." In her own way, she was trying to express surprise that so many people had come to care for her.
Jane lived alone. At such an advanced age, this seemed an impressive achievement all by itself. We'd been called because the neighbor at the door had heard a shout of "Oh, God!" followed by a crash. She'd called Jane's daughter, who had rushed right over. Now, as we lifted Jane onto the stretcher, the daughter snapped a photo of the head wound on her cell phone. "I want to show it to her later," she told us, "when she tries to tell me that she wasn't really hurt too badly."
We were just about to wheel Jane to the ambulance when the daughter mentioned something about diabetes. On a hunch, we checked Jane's blood sugar, and found it to be 39, roughly half of what it should have been. This amazed us. For a ninety-nine-year-old woman to hold lucid conversations was remarkable by itself, but for her to speak coherently with a blood sugar that would have left most people unconscious was simply amazing.
Rather than torturing her with an IV, we fed her some oral glucose paste and took her to the hospital. Her blood sugar gradually returned to normal. Later, as we brought another patient into the same emergency department, the daughter told us with a smile that her mother wouldn't even have to be admitted. The head injury was superficial, and she would get to go home.
Nobody goes into EMS hoping to care for old ladies who have fallen. There's nothing challenging or prestigious about those kinds of calls.
Sometimes, though, these can be the most rewarding calls of all. While the situation amounted only to a minor emergency, the family truly needed our assistance, and we gave it to them. The family was grateful, and we left the hospital feeling as if we'd genuinely made a difference.