Life is amazing. I continue to be floored by the way people's lives intersect and have incredible impact on each other. How the events of a day sometimes unwittingly bring us into contact with others, sometimes hours later. How our decisions, meant to effect only ourselves, produce undeniable changes or surprises in ways that we could never predict or expect. Like ripples in a pond that change the course of other waves and ripples, we tread through our lives, the repercussions spreading into the world around us. I challenge you to pay attention to how what you do has an effect on other people. It can be downright intriguing to study this phenomena, sometimes the twists are better then any drama on television.
To drive this point home I would like you to meet Dave. Please understand I have never met the man. I only saw him once, on the side of the road, sitting in his car. I don't even know if his name was Dave, he just kind of looked like a Dave. But you could tell the kind of man he is. He was efficient and obviously a man that took great stock in his routine and doing the same thing, the same way everyday. He believed that if something worked so well it should be done that way everyday. If it's not broke, don't fix it.
0553 hours. The tones go off for County Medic to go on a diabetic male way up in north county. Altered mental status, blood sugar is 34. My partner Steve and I drag ourselves from bed groaning, get dressed and stumble out into the rising sun to fire up the ol' beast and head north with lights and sirens running. Bleary-eyed, bad breathed and craving coffee we start our trip staring sullenly at the road, unknowing that this call was going to change an unwitting bystander's day completely.
0600 hours. Dave's alarm goes off, slowing increasing the volume of his country music station to a decibel that brings him to consciousness. His eyes pop open and he smiles to himself. He can feel the morning sun through his window and hear the birds chirping. Perfect morning. He can hear the last few gurgles of his preset coffee pot finishing up, just waiting for him to come in and pour a cup. Life is good.
0618 hours. We arrive on scene, a little more awake. The county volunteers meet me at the ambulance to give me a short report and vitals. We get inside, the patient is minimally responsive, covered in sweat and pale. Heart rate in the 130s, blood pressure is good but the glucometer reads 28. Steve and I now end up in a wrestling match with this big sweaty patient but finally get our IV and start some IV dextrose 50%. The patient starts to blink and look around in surprise at all these people standing over his bed.
0630 hours. Dave has already had his two cups of morning java, taken a shower(putting his towel in the laundry basket, he's not the kind to leave a mess), and starting on a breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast. After all, breakfast IS the most important meal of the day. After eating and looking out his big picture window to watch deer cavort in his field, he carefully cleans his dishes and put the salt and pepper away, leaving his kitchen clean for his evening meal. It's exactly the same as yesterday, and probably the same as tomorrow. There's just no reason to change anything. He lets a very small belch of satisfaction and heads for his car keys and morning paper and that last cup of coffee.
0647 hours. After feeding the patient a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to get some carbs on board and talking to the emergency room physician we leave the patient's house. Leaving him and his family instructions to follow up with his primary care doctor and to eat frequently through the day to help level off his fluctuating sugars. We are now fully awake and really starting to anticipate hitting the mocha stand when we get to the city for shift change over. We are talking about the calls we ran last night, or maybe about our wives, I don't really remember. Just that we were talking amicably as we traveled down the canal on that beautiful sunny morning.
0655 hours. Dave reaches the end of his driveway at exactly the same time he does every morning. He turns off his car and rolls down the window to listen to the birds, open his paper and takes a long pull of the last cup of morning coffee, full and steaming in his hand. His buddy will be there in moments to pick him up for their carpool to work. He sees that his neighbor's cows across the highway seem to be doing well this morning. He does not see the big ambulance coming down the highway however.
0657 hours. Steve sees the cows. I think it is important here to explain that most EMS workers LOVE their PA system. Not many will mention this and some may even feign indifference, but having the opportunity to pick up that microphone and raise our voice several hundred decibels to project out the front of the ambulance is extremely satisfying. So like I said, Steve sees the cows and suddenly becomes very animated, eyes wide with excitement jumping up in down in the passenger seat.
“Oooo, cows! Cows! Give me the PA! Quick!” I hand it to him. Steve does not see Dave on the opposite side of the road sipping his coffee and contentedly reading his paper, window down.
Steve raises the mic to his lips, the volume cranked and lets loose his best Brahma Bull moo at sound levels that would give a Blue Angel a run for it's money. The cows jump and stare with alarm at this giant white and blue bull that moves 55 miles per hour. Steve giggles and claps with glee, like a little kid.
That's when I notice Dave. For the first and last time in my life. He appeared to be seizing inside the front seat of his car. His newspaper is in shambles. There's coffee across the windshield and dripping from the ceiling. He may have wet himself, though I couldn't be sure from the drivers seat of the ambulance. And that quick he was gone. We were past him and down the road. We never got any complaints at the office which leads me to believe he never did know what it was that disrupted his morning in such a dramatic fashion. That or he was just too good of a guy to fault a couple of immature paramedics. Steve never even saw him. Never realized that the events that started in motion early that morning made an unbelievable difference in another person's day, completely by accident. I told Steve about Dave and he just looked at me, I don't think he ever believed me. I hope Dave's doing all right.
I've always wondered if he changed his morning routine at all, to protect himself from high-speed mooing ambulances.