I’m currently a firefighter intern stationed at Engine 3 in downtown San Francisco. They are the busiest engine company in the entire country averaging over 10,000 calls per year. Our primary coverage area is a squalid 50 square block neighborhood called the Tenderloin; the largest drug ghetto in the United States. Crack. Feces. Meth. Vomit. Needles. Stabbings. Blood. Shootings. Alcoholics. Urine. Bodies. Glass. Noise. Mayhem. As much as you can handle.
We never get a call to rescue a group of swollen titty’d sorority chicks stuck in an elevator. No way. We only get patients whose sex is a mystery until you cut off their piss-soaked pants with trauma shears. Patients rotting from the inside out from a lifetime’s worth of drugs, booze and stupidity. They stand on the corner all day shooting up and assaulting each other, and when one of them drops, we get the call.
Monday morning we ran 17 calls before lunch. Most departments are considered busy if they run that many in a week. I had chugged a Monster Energy drink before we pulled out of the engine bay on our first run. 5 back-to-back calls later – I had that nagging pain in the abdomen, where if I knelt down too quickly I’d leak a little. My angry bladder eventually found relief – lesson learned. The medic I work along side tells me to never kneel down beside a patient as I had done earlier, “around here you’ll end up with a syringe in your kneecap”. Two lessons learned.
The day progresses: I’m crawling into the back of a smashed up sedan to stabilize a driver’s neck, Naloxone vaporized into the nostrils to revive a heroin overdose, pouring water into the eyes of a pepper-sprayed, spitting tranny. Alcohol poisoning, chest pains, pediatric seizure, sliced fingers, allergic reaction… never a dull moment.
Some apartments we’re called to, you literally have to shovel your way through garbage just to get to them. Yesterday this old codger fell in his apartment and had been laying there for almost 2 days, he owned a huge tropical parrot caged in the corner. During the fall, his dentures must have flown out of his mouth and into an adjacent flower pot filled of dead stems and dirt… or that’s where he keeps them. the crew doesn’t miss a beat. Get a set of vitals, put him on a stretcher, feed the bird, away we go.
Another call was a DOA (dead on arrival) – that is to say, if we had arrived 4 days ago. He had started to decompose around his face, blood pooling in the extremities, the apartment was rank with biology; his patient little dog sat confused by his side while we hooked up EKG leads. The TV still on, broadcasting the Olympics. We notify the coroner, call PD, call animal control, on to the next. Unfortunately, these eerie scenes will probably replace fond memories of being on a beautiful beach in Ko Chang with my lady or something. The brain is just like the bladder, it can only hold in so much before it causes pain. You’ve gotta find a release or go crazy. Writing is like kneeling down – leaking a little.