You never get used to it. Some act as if they are numb or oblivious to it but but I for one HATE it. For the 3rd day in a row, we get the call for a diabetic in a “low income” type housing. An adult female unconscious on the couch. No bulbs in the sockets so I know to carry my light. Her young grandson lives with her and has the knowledge to call 911 when he absolutely can’t rouse her. This time, her sugar was up. Higher than what we normally find it at in her condition yet, low enough to be potentially fatal. The thermostat is set at 95 degrees and the TV is wide open. The boy is in need of a bath and is still in his “bed cloths” .. it’s 7pm.
The boy is not worried that the fire department is there.. he called us. He is not upset or worried for his grandmother’s health because I don’t believe he understands what is happening or how dire her situation is. He’s more excited to have someone inside the apartment that will pay attention to and talk to him. He tells us about his new box of crayons and wants to draw a picture for us. I assign a man to him and get him off to the side. While coloring and talking, he mentions that he’s hungry and we soon learn that his last meal was breakfast this morning. A biscuit, banana and milk.
The firemen and Medics are in the process of waking grandma up (we have a protocol and procedures for diabetic emergencies). I take a look inside the fridge to see if she 1.) has insulin and 2.) has food for her and the boy. To my disbelief, there is food inside. I think her sugar gets low enough that maybe she just doesn’t feel like cooking. Who knows? I have been worried about this little fella for days now and today, something has to happen. I check out his bed room. I’ll spare ya the details but I don’t want him to have to stay another night in that bed.The apartment is barely furnished and in disarray but, I was again surprised to find a change of his little cloths that had at least been sink washed and hung on the shower curtain rod to dry. He will at least have semi-clean shirt, socks and undies to put on in the morning for school.
The EMS supervisor is called to respond and, after his arrival; we make the call to the necessary State / Local “Agency”. They take the information and tell us they’ll be out to assess the situation on Monday or Tuesday. MONDAY OR TUESDAY??!! WTF !! The medication does it’s job and Grandma is now awake and oriented enough to talk to me. A firefighter takes the child to another room to review his colorings (so he wont have to hear the talk his Grandma and I are about to have). I’m not sure she understood. I’m not sure they ever do (“they” as in every other person I’ve had to have this talk with. This is NOT the first time this same scenario has played out during my career).
She’s now oriented enough to not want to go to the hospital with us. She says she will get up and fix her and the boy something to eat. I’m not so sure. If she doesn’t, our medication will quickly wear off and she’ll be right back where she was or worse. That’s all we can do at this point. Our hands are tied. I can’t take him with us. I wanted to put him in the Engine, bring him back to the station, give him a warm bath and something to eat. I sit here now thinking of going back over there to assure grandma indeed got up and fixed something to eat. I’m not sure how Grandma would take that (already knowing I’ve called Social Services in). Maybe I’ll order a pizza and have it dropped off. Will she take it? Would he get any?
Again, this is not the first time I’ve seen this but, that doesn’t make it easier. Will going back tonight overstep my “boundaries”? She has already somewhat scolded him for calling 911 in the first place (I explained to her that had he not, she’d be dead). Will taking or sending food insult or make her feel “belittled”? Do I even care as long as the boy gets something to eat?
I know these little kids are tuff. They HAVE to be. If I don’t go back tonight (and I’m thinking hard like I will), I know I’ll find some way / excuse to do so Tuesday. What makes it even worse is that I know how the system works. It will take months for them to figure out / decide what (if anything) they can or should do. In the end, it will have taken too long and make little to no difference. That or Grandma will make minor, short term changes to keep em off her back a while and then, things will go right back to how they were. That’s been my experience anyway. I’m not being judgmental here … that’s just how it is. I’ve seen it too many times! For the little fella’s sake, I hope I’m wrong this time.
You know (and I know most of ya do), that’s the side / part of this job most folks don’t know about or have to see. As a whole, the public doesn’t know or understand that we run emergency medical calls…car wrecks, sick, hurt, shot, stabbed. They never have to see the people we’re faced with living in the conditions they do. My mother commented on last day’s post about how she hated to hear of the conditions we were in during a fire. In reality, tires and propane are nothing compared to some of the garbage and filth we sometimes have to crawl and work through on everyday EMS runs. It’s nothing compared to the pain and suffering we have to see on a daily basis. Nothing compared to seeing young innocent children trapped in substandard living conditions. Statter commented on a FireCritic post a while back saying basically that our (firemen) job is to do what we can and “help” those in need. I’d like to think we can do that but again, I’m not so sure. Did I “help” this kid tonight by calling Social Services? Maybe…. maybe not ( I may have made his situation worse). Is simply “helping” enough? I don’t know. Did I “save” him?? NO, he’s still there and I’m sitting here kicking myself in the ass!