Occupational Hazards Finally Hit Home

The fact is simple.  EMS is a dangerous job.  On the surface, most people don’t think of the job to be as dangerous as the Fire Department or being a police officer.  But it  definitely can be.

  • EMS personnel constantly get attacked by drunk/high/delusional patients.
  • Ambulances have a tendency to explode.  The compressed oxygen tanks, if not secured and maintained properly, are highly susceptible to leaks leading to combustion.
  • Ambulances roll EASILY.  A sharp jerk on the wheel, or a quick slam on the brakes can cause the rig to lose its already-weak-center of gravity.  Not to mention, all the people who don’t seem to notice your behind them until your right on their ass. 
  • Getting Hit By A Passing Car.  We are always on roads for car accidents.  Just because fire/police try to monitor traffic, things still happen.  Standing there, trying to extricate a patient, and BAM!  
  • Occupational Heath Hazards and Exposures.  
Which brings me to the purpose of this entry.  Sunday night my crew and myself responded to a call with notes describing an “unconscious male, breathing”.  Upon arrival and an assessment, the most logical conclusion we were able to come up with based on past medical history, current symptoms, and details from the family was a stroke.  After a strenuous attempt at moving him to the MICU (300Lbs, 2 flights of stairs, a stair chair, the cot, and a 600 foot distance from his bed to the MICU) {thank Batman for the neighbor on scene helping, a former crew member of mine, with A LOT of strength!}, my medic and the student continued treatment in the back, while I jumped behind the wheel and hauled ass to the nearest hospital.  I’ve run countless stroke calls, all different.  This one didn’t seem anything like any of the stroke calls I had been on in the past.  *Shrugs Shoulders*  I’m not the medic on scene, I don’t make the calls. 
My former crew member calls the station later that night to thank us for our help, and asks to talk to me.  He asked for my email to be able to give myself and the rest of the crew updates.  Monday I get the first email:
“Hey I just got an update on my neighbor. He was moved to S******  in M******** for possible stroke. The doctors up there say his symptoms aren’t those of a stroke and are running a spinal tap for possible spinal meningitis. I’ll let you know more as I find more out.”
My first wave of uneasiness sets in.   I forward the email to my crew and notify the Assistant Chief (who was also on scene).  She thanks me and asks me to keep her updated with the emails.  Tuesday evening rolls around, and I get the next email, confirming my fear:
“Hey just got another update on my neighbor. He has bacterial meningitis. They are running the strain overnight to find out and will let us know tomorrow if we need to go on antibacterial meds.”
The Asst. Chief freaks out.  We notify our licensing hospital just in case the hospital he had been transferred to failed to do so.  It’s now Wednesday, and sure as shit I get a call from the hospital informing me that myself and the crew all have to be put on heavy doses of preventative antibiotics.  Lovely, lovely.  

I’ve had my scares with Meningitis in the past, that turned out to be nothing.  This time it’s different.  This time, I know I’ve been exposed.  I’ve already read up on the drugs I have to take, and they are pretty wicked.  Rifampin seems to be the one that works best for the type of Meningitis I’ve been exposed too, and anyone interested in the side effects, just click the link!  

This time around, I’m not scared… for me.  I’m worried about the fact that I’ve exposed my family.  I know I’ve come in contact with H1N1, MRSA, Hepatitis A, B, and C, as well as HIV/AIDS.  Most of which I’ve been vaccinated for, and wasn’t worried about passing it to my family.  However, I know that the Meningitis vaccine is one I haven’t received.  I’ve mentioned before how I live with my Grandpa and his is in end-stage COPD.  He also suffers from CHF and has four stents in his heart from previous heart-attacks.  He is on all types of medications, and highly susceptible to anything and everything.  

I feel horrible.  I know that I risk getting myself sick, and my family.  But until this first REAL scare, I haven’t really thought about it.  This time, it happened.  Its real.  I may have put my family at risk to a serious virus, one member of which, if contracted, will not recover fully.  If I give him something that ends up being the cause of his death, I’ll never forgive myself.  

Like I said, the hospital called today, and tomorrow I should have my doses of medications.  I already warned my family and they got in touch with his doctors who are going to give him medications as well.  But still, all that trouble… because of me and my VOLUNTEER job.  This experience gives me one more good reason to find a job.  I can’t put my sick grandfather at risk the way I have for the last almost three years.  Not to mention, I can’t see my niece till I get cleared, which means my Aunt and Cousin can’t come by until then.  Which sucks.  I LOVE MY NIECE!  

Well, here’s to this whole mess and to the hopes that the preventative drugs they give me, nothing with come of this situation…
*Fingers crossed* 

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