Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Lessons Learned and Thoughts Provoked

I was rather excited to discover that my area as a whole may have learned a few things after the Blizzard of 2009 for the Blizzard of 2010. For the large part, no one was out. This is in sharp contrast to the 2009 blizzard in which many people were out driving in cars that could not handle snow and on roads that really were not good for cars, ambulances too for that matter, period. Its was eerily quiet on the medical side of the fence where I was. Unfortunately, I know that our engine had to go out numerous times for downed lines and tree limbs despite the weather. Further, I know several other stations in the area around us were running numerous medical and engine calls in drifts of snow that were waist deep almost the whole blizzard.

Now, right at the beginning of the 2010 blizzard, my crew and I did get a call which made me think. It was after dark and the snow was just starting to really come down. There was maybe four inches of snow on the ground, enough for us to take twice as long getting to the house as it would have normally, even with chains on the tires.

When we get there, we find a patient and his wife in the bedroom. He hasn't been feeling well and was throwing up a bit earlier. His vital signs were stable and he had been able to keep some water down earlier. Now, I am no doctor but I was fairly confident that he was not about to code, have serious dehydration, or die on us in the next hour at the very least. In fact, he looked rather good for being sick, maybe a bit warm and a bit weak, but that is expected if someone if fighting off the flu, be it regular or stomach.

Now here comes the sticky part, when we look out the window, its snowing cats, dogs, mice, rabbits, and maybe a few horses thrown in for good measure, significantly heavier than when we had arrived at the house. Now, we had no qualms about transporting the patient to hospital, but we were worried about his ability to get back home after he was discharged. If this was the "nice" end of the storm, the middle was sure to be horrible (and it was, nearly white out conditions by morning. They actually stopped plowing a bit at one point) and driving was going to be nearly impossible.

After some conversation and discussion about what we could and could not do (sorry, we can't treat you, we really only can transport you as an Basic unit and even an ALS unit could not have done much more for you but have your tried calling your doctor or pharmacy?), the patient decided that it was probably best to wait out the night and see if he felt any better in the morning. He would call us if anything got worse, encouraged by us really to call if anything got worse, and call his doctor in the morning. I don't like refusals in general, as I feel that if someone called 911 there probably was a reason, but I did agree with this patient that perhaps the risk of leaving his house was greater than staying in with a currently non-life threatening illness.

This is where I do truly envy the system over in the UK where medics are able to contact other forms of medicine than just the ER to help their patients. As an EMT, I can only encourage people to contact their doctors, not call one for them. It would be great to have other options beyond transport or not transport, particularly when the call is not life threatening and the patient really wants someone to help him figure out what to do or just get a ride to the local ER. Particularly in the middle of snow storm!


  1. It has to be incredibly frustrating not to be able to get to a patient because of weather. And like you, I wonder why EMTs and paramedics are only allowed to transport patients to hospital, when there are times when other medical options would better serve the patient and the situation.

    Thanks for the thoughtful comment on my blog. I'm delighted that you're one of my readers, and I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts in the future. Have a grand weekend!

  2. The weather makes life very interesting. Thankfully we were always able to get there with a little help from the plows and some creative thinking at times.

    Transport options are something I hope to see happen sometime in my lifetime :)

    Thank you for the comment!