This is Kelly Stottlemeyer, a Paramedic-firefighter with Salisbury MD, Fire Department. First Responding runs in the family!
This is Kelly Stottlemeyer, a Paramedic-firefighter with Salisbury MD, Fire Department. First Responding runs in the family!
This is the next in the series, “Firefighters: Who we are!” This is Steven Greene. Steven is a retired now, but he is still actively supporting the service with his podcast, “Five-Alarm Task Force!” Google it and check it out.
“Hondo, illegal burn. 99 Old Las Vegas Highway. Timeout, 1620.”
Typically, this is a call that gets maybe one or two firefighters and a brush truck rolling to the scene. Typically, we find a campfire, someone burning slash or our always favorite, a sweat lodge.
But yesterday was not typical. We responded with two brush trucks, an engine, a tender (a truck that carries water) and a med unit. All told, twelve firefighters showed up.
It was a good thing. We are in the middle of another historic drought, and yesterday the winds were thirty miles an hour, gusting to sixty.
It was a good thing we came with numbers.
(a comic relief digression: at the beginning of the rutted driveway there was a “No Trespassing” sign with a note: “Resident is Armed!” Another quarter of a mile up there was another sign: “You are now in range of my rifle.” I figured he wouldn’t shoot at us, the fire department coming to rescue his butt, but stranger things have happened.)
A careless dumping of hot ashes from the resident’s fireplace had caused a small brush fire, and the wind quickly spread the fire to the garage. When we arrived, flames were climbing the wall and had already breeched the roof.
We were, as I fervently believe, the luckiest fire department in the west. We got water on the garage fire and knocked it down and extinguished the fire burning in the grass and weeds.
Lucky. Another ten minutes and the garage would have been fully involved with fire, and the wind would have spread burning embers hundreds of yards upwind. We would’ve been faced with a monstrous wildland fire. Ten homes upwind and uphill in heavily forested piñón and juniper terrain would’ve probably been lost. A fire pushing uphill and up arroyos by sixty mile-an-hour winds is just something we can’t handle.
When we finished, fires out and we had packed up, there was a palpable sense of relief that this hadn’t turned into the “big one.” We had dodged the dragon-fire one more time.
But it’s only April, and the rains aren’t due until July.
So we’re on edge. This morning, for example, we had a car rollover in a little village in the mountains called Canadá De Los Alamos. There were no injuries. (actually, there was no patient, just a scattering of liquor bottles — the little ones— and a destroyed and cold car. Typical New Mexico)
But driving out of the quaint village I thought, what if there was a wildfire here? There is only one way in and one way out. A big fire would consume the entire village in a day, just like the Cerro Grande fire in Los Alamos in 2000. People might not get out.
Driving down, all I saw were homes in the dry and tinder-like forest. Hundreds of homes. And I thought about the innocent act of dumping hot ashes in the trash. That act — that fast — and the hundreds of homes could be destroyed, and lives put at risk.
I asked myself, how long will our luck hold?
So this is the time of year where we dream about fire. We watch the weather. We scan the horizon for smoke. We are a fire department on edge.
(Photo credit Steve at Gigapic)
Alexis is a Kickass Paramedic from Salisbury, MD. Watch her story!
I planned to write a simple article on the benefits and risks of Cannabidiol, or as it is more commonly known, CBD and using it with dogs. As anyone would do, I called a veterinarian friend of mine for advice. My contact was hesitant. Finally, under the promise of anonymity she told me that for veterinarians to talk about you-know-what in public or with patients was FORBIDDEN! VERBOTEN! PROHIBIDO!
Why? Because apparently according to our beloved federal and state bureaucracy even the discussion between vet and pet owner about the benefits and risks of CBD and dogs might lead to a dog version of Reefer Madness!
So don’t ask your vet for CBD.
But this, dear reader, did not stop your humble correspondent because I have Google!
I immediately (researching from my couch) discovered a few things. First, if you have an older dog with arthritis or an anxious dog you need to think about CBD. It is the hottest new product on the market to treat a variety of conditions that may ail your dog. Full disclosure: we use CBD with both of our big dogs for joint issues. (please don’t tell the feds)
So here is a quick summary. First, CBD is a derivative of the hemp plant or marijuana. Therein lies the problem. If CBD was derived from sunflowers, we’d have a ton of research, and we’d have answers! But because it is derived from marijuana and hemp we are in a bureaucratic mess of who’s on first and what is legal. (And what can even be researched) Cloud Cuckoo Land.
Next, CBD is not psycho-active. In other words, it will not get you or your dog “high.” The high of marijuana is a function of the other derivative, THC. Medical uses of THC and dogs is an altogether different topic.
I super-apologize for throwing a technical term at you — but next, it is important to understand that dogs have essentially the same endocannabinoid system as humans complete with cannabinoid receptors. That system regulates appetite, pain sensation and mood. Thus it makes some sense that CBD might have some of the same effects on dogs as it does on humans.
But who knows?
The fact is that there is little actual scientific research— double blind, placebo-controlled research — on the efficacy of CBD on dogs. That means, other than the great stories we hear; we don’t know if it works, what doses are effective, what is too much and what is too little.
What is driving the interest is the massive number of anecdotal stories (anecdotal stories are not research!) reporting positive results in a couple of areas. First CBD seems to help with pain control, especially with older dogs and arthritis. Second, it’s reported to help with anxious dogs and dogs with separation anxiety. Finally, there have been reports of CBD helping with cancers including pain relief and possibly the shrinking of tumors.
Given all this, if you are interested in using CBD with your dog (or cat), it is best to think about it as a medical-scientific experiment. Here are a few recommendations:
1. Know what you are treating.
2. Buy your CBD from a reputable and knowledgeable source. We buy ours from “Fruit of the Earth” in Santa Fe. The formulation should be from hemp and contain no more than .3% THC. (Their hemp is grown in Colorado).
3. Since there are no dosage recommendations, it’s important to start with a low dosage and slowly work up to an effective dose. An overdose is possible, although rare. An unusually sleepily dog might be a dog with too much CBD in his system.
4. Keep a daily behavior journal so that you can track changes. Sometimes the changes can be subtle, so it’s important to observe if you are getting the result you want.
5. Although veterinarians cannot prescribe CBD, be sure to keep your vet in the loop! Come up with a code word! (Like “ice cream!” The feds will never catch on . . .)
Seriously, no one knows your dog better than you. If a dog is in pain, or highly anxious, we have an obligation to find help even if it is outside of bureaucracy of standard medicine. Use common sense and do your research. CBD might be part of a healthy solution for you and your pets. But don’t quote me!
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy which is not in the normal place (the womb) . . . It occurs in about 11 in 1,000 pregnancies. . . A ruptured ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening, needing emergency surgery. (WebMED)
It was about 7:00 p.m., a spring evening. I drove up our driveway and got out of the car. I opened the front door, the dogs dashed out and there was my wife Laurie and then four-year-old daughter Brynne. Laurie was sitting on the floor, knees up, head resting on them, propped up against the wall. Brynne was playing with a doll next to her. As an EMT, I would have normally been instantly alert. As a weary dad I just asked, “What’s up?”
Laurie answered that her stomach really hurt, and she was so tired she couldn’t get up. Enormous flashing red signs: Woman. Abdominal pain. Too tired to move.
But I did not have my EMT brain in gear. I was mildly annoyed, thinking, “Hey, I had a hard day too . . .”
I asked, “Do you want me to call your doctor?”
Laurie comes from a long line of Scandinavian stoics. Like Monty Python’s Black Knight, she could lose a leg and her comment would be, “I don’t need your help, I can hop.”
So, she said, “No.”
But then she added, “Could you help me get into bed and then can you feed Brynne? Let me rest and I’ll be okay later.”
Neon signs painted on the walls: “This woman is seriously sick.”
I helped her slowly walk down the hallway and into bed. Then I scooped up our daughter, went back to the kitchen, made Mac and Cheese and turned on the TV. A few minutes passed. I heard Laurie weakly calling my name. I rolled my eyes at Brynne and went back to check. I said, “Look, either let me take you in now or I will call 911.”
It surprised me when she said, “Better go in.”
I paused. I thought.
Laurie said, “Hurry.”
That got my attention. I got on the phone and called Tahmina, our Medical Captain.
“Tahmina, I think Laurie needs to go in to the hospital. I don’t want to call 911, but could you come up in the Med Unit and we can take her in?”
Tahmina asked what was going on, and I minimized, “She’s too weak to get out of bed, her stomach hurts, she probably just has the flu. She’s okay when she’s lying down but standing up she gets pretty sick.”
There was urgency in Tahmina’s voice: “I’ll be right there.”
I was not connecting the dots. Our neighbor jogged over to watch Brynne. The Med Unit pulled into our driveway. Tahmina came in and we slowly walked Laurie, now dizzy and holding her stomach, out to the Med Unit.
“Tahmina, I’m so sorry we called you, we could have just driven.” Laurie said.
Tahmina replied, “Hush.”
We got her in the ambulance and Paul, our Assistant Chief, drove us away.
Laurie sat up on the gurney and tried her best to be a good sport, but she was pale and in pain.
Tahmina looked at Laurie, “I’ll get a set of vitals.”
As Tahmina wrapped the BP cuff around Laurie’s arm, she asked, “Have you been sick?”
Laurie just shook her head.
“Maybe food poisoning? When was your last meal?”
Laurie— also a Firefighter-EMT — looked at me. We both knew the algorithm that Tahmina was following. Laurie replied, “I had breakfast about 8:00. I worked until 2:00, and then I started getting sick. I came home. I couldn’t stand up.”
Tahmina looked at me. “Her pulse is 110. BP is 100 over 70. Is that normal for her?”
Laurie sighed. She was clearly tired. “No, I’m usually 120 over 80ish.”
“She’s pale, no fever. Pulse is high. BP low. Abdominal pain.”
“Laurie,” Tahmina asked, “Could you be pregnant?”
She shrugged. “Maybe.”
Tahmina looked at me and then turned to Paul, and said, “Let’s go lights and sirens.”
Paul hit the lights and accelerated.
My heart started pounding.
Laurie closed her eyes and nodded.
“Honey,” I said, “You gotta stay awake, Okay?”
I grabbed the IV kit from the shelf. I noticed my hands were shaking.
I put a tourniquet on her forearm and tied it. Tahmina handed me an alcohol swab. I cleaned Laurie’s wrist, searching for the telltale blue line of a good vein. I saw nothing, her veins had disappeared. I checked her other arm, nothing.
Then Paul yelled, “We’re here! Backing up.”
We got her out of the Med Unit and wheeled her into the Emergency Department on the gurney.Tahmina talked to the charge nurse. I was holding Laurie’s hand. The nurse took one look and was on the phone. Another RN took her blood pressure. It was now 90/60. Laurie’s OB-GYN just happened to be attending that night. He walked over, took one look at her, palpated her belly and said, “Prep her for surgery. Stat.”
He turned and walked to the surgical suites to scrub in.
The nurses hovered over Laurie like angels.They too had difficulty finding veins for an IV because Laurie’s blood pressure was crashing. But they finally got one and then wheeled her up to surgery. In the hallway the anesthesiologist gave her morphine through the IV line for pain.
Laurie perked up immediately and said, “Wow, now I know why people get addicted to this!”
Five minutes later, the surgical nurses came and rolled her into surgery. The doors swung shut behind them.
This was when the tables turned.
Now, I was the “husband,” powerless and just trying to keep it together. The nurses were being kind to me while I filled out forms; insurance, promising-not-to-sue-if-we-screw-up forms, and the big kicker: “Do you want a Priest, a Rabbi or a Minister if . . .”
Seeing the look on my face, the nurse just smiled that sad nurse smile.
Laurie was the center of my universe and there was nothing I could do to help her. I could feel my heart dropping out of my chest. I had no magic. It was in the hands of timing and a surgeon.
Sitting there, I thought of all the times as smalltown EMTs we sat with relatives of patients as they waited. During the waiting times, the pain and fear emanates in waves. There is little you can do except listen and get coffee. You can’t say it will all be fine, because in this particular room, sometimes you just don’t know.
Tahmina sat with me. My sister, also a firefighter-EMT, showed up and sat.
An hour later our OB-GYN came out and said Laurie was going to make it, but it had been a close thing.
“A close thing?” I thought, as the reality crashed down on me.
Reading my mind, the Doc clarified, “Another hour and she would have bled out. . .”
Had Laurie not said, “I need to go in,” had Tahmina not understood that it was an emergency, Laurie would’ve died.
When a loved one is wheeled off to emergency surgery, the illusion that we are somehow protected disappears like fog as the sun rises and we see reality.
The reality is that we are all vulnerable. But of course I knew that, years of being a firefighter had driven that lesson home.
But I didn’t believe that we were vulnerable.
I was pretty sure that we were protected. I believed that because we’d seen so much stuff, that stuff couldn’t happen to us. I thought, “I’m a firefighter, therefore my home will never burn down. I’m an EMT, therefore I’m too smart to be in crash with a drunk driver, and my wife will never have an ectopic pregnancy.”
But none of that is true. No one has special protection. Wealth, intelligence, your zip code — being a firefighter — doesn’t protect you.
Laurie spent the next few days in the hospital recovering from the surgery. When I finally brought her home, we were both quiet. She was tired, and I was guilty and furious with myself for missing the obvious signs of a burst ectopic pregnancy.
A few weeks went by and our lives, as lives do, returned to normal. We had a daughter, we had work and families. Life just flows forward, seemingly not impressed with the past.
The sharpness of that day faded but a thread had been pulled. It was one more testament to the fact that everything can turn on the proverbial dime. I became the husband/dad/brother who wanted to know where everyone was and that they were safe (Laurie called me neurotic). This lasted for a few years until it too faded. Then the fog settled in again: nothing can happen to us! We are protected!
Maybe we are after all, in the playwright Eugene O’Neill’s words, “fog people”. Reality is blinding, it will wear you down. The soft comfort of the fog calls us.
But we have to resist. Crisis and trauma, as terrifying and heart-wrenching as they can be, are also the shafts of light that cause us to see. They illuminate, they scour the fog from the shadows, and we are left with simple truths in plain sight: That our lives are fragile. That we are never promised tomorrow. That we must hold on to those we love.