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!

Captain Wines

  • Celayne

    Comments and reactions- wow. I did forget about the “Other” conditions you go in. Remember what I have done all these years. Assisted housing. I now do it mainly for seniors but I still have a family site and remember the days dealing with families with children. It will break your heart. Calling may actually get this woman and her grandson the help they need. A lot of grandparents are taking care of grandchildren these days that are really not physically or financially able to. You did the right thing. You wanted to help and thats not wrong. Its very hard not to become involved in situations like this. Lets hope the service providers do their job and help.

  • John Doe

    I’m sorry but their emergency and their living conditions are their problem. I struggle enough as it is to care for my family without any handouts or help. I’m here to answer the calls not to solve every problem in the city. Thats social services’ problem……not mine. I can assure you that I don’t loose sleep at night. All those people do is create job security for police, fire, ems, and social workers.

    • RFDSouthie

      And that right there my friend is that attitude that is killing this dept and the reputations that that our grandfathers and brothers before us as firemen made. I am a FIREMAN, and I am a human. Compassion is our job. It is extremely hard to find that thin line between caring too much and not caring at all. Its a hard job, and emotions way heavy on you…only a those in the business would understand…but as my Dad always told me, you are a man son, act like one. Be strong, be brave and control your emotions. What is a fire Dept w/o compassion? Just a bunch of adrenaline junkies ass holes…thats what. A+ Capt, its a pleasure to work with you. I hope this kind of compassion and care of the job we do spreads…

    • RFDSouthie

      And just FYI John Doe…I am married w/ a new baby at home, my wife stays at home. I struggle from paycheck to paycheck to pay the bills just the same as you w/ no govt assistance…does not mean I can stop caring about others…You comments are disturbing, perhaps you need a break.

  • guest

    While I have the up most respect for you and the type of job you do, because it is something I could never do, I think you need to step back and look at the situation. Just because it was a low income housing place and yes, the kid wasn’t taken care of like you would take care of your child that does not automatically warrant social services to respond immediately. Had there been no food in the household, the grandmother needed to be transported to the hospital and there was no one to care for the child, there were safety hazards etc., then yes social services could have responded. I’m sure they do appreciate your report and your help with the situation. I’m sure they also appreciate your hard work on making sure the child was safe and not in distress due to the situation. Unfortunately Roanoke has a large “low income” population and not all the kids can be helped.

    • “Unfortunately Roanoke has a large “low income” population and not all the kids can be helped.”
      Which ones should we let go???
      Captain Wines

      • guest

        If I had a say I wouldn’t let any of them go, however as you said you have been in worse conditions and those are the ones that need more help than the one you mentioned. Regardless of what anyone says the situation is sad…There will be kids that fall through the cracks, some you just can’t help, many that will touch your heart. Thank you for caring about the child and his well-being, and thank you for your service.

  • Attorney

    One Hundred Years from now
    It will not matter
    what kind of car I drove,
    What kind of house I lived in,
    how much money was in my bank account
    nor what my clothes looked like.
    But the world may be a better place because
    I was important in the life of a child.

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  • Cap,

    Heartfelt and true. Thank you for that. I find it very sad that this discussion can even happen, that the concept of compassionate care needs reviving. Some say, it’s easy to simply categorize the less fortunate as “animals” or “worthless”, to pawn off our emotions on some lesser caste of society. I, for one, don’t believe that solves anything. If the customers feel we don’t care about them, they don’t call until things are too far gone to change. The little boy knew you, as representatives of the Fire Department, were going to help him. And care about him as a person. And take the time to chat about the changes in Crayola’s current line, or whether Rose Art is better than Crayola when used on 20lb/96 brightness paper. Or anything he can think up to talk about, simply because you’re a caring human being other than Grandma, who’s not doing much for him at that moment.

    That little boy is going to remember. It may not change his life, or make him into a productive member of society. But it WILL impact his life positively, somewhere down the road. Now, had you gone into the scene without compassion, he’d remember that too. And he’d have no regard for you.

    Put it this way: When I go out to eat, I pay attention to the service. If I receive good service, I remember it and give that establishment my business again. However, poor service not only ensures I don’t go back; It ensures that I will tell anyone willing to listen not to go there. Place that analogy into taxpayers and budgets. If we fail to show compassion to our customers, they perceive lack of caring, lack of interest, unprofessionalism and incompetence. When a tax or budget item comes their way, are they going to be willing to fund those “Jerks” in the Fire Department? Hell no. They’re going to shoot us down, because for all the rational abilities of the human animal, we act with our emotions a vast majority of the time. Especially in the voting booth.

    Do we need to cultivate compassion? You’re absolutely right, we do. It makes the Fire Service different from the Police, Sanitation, Code Enforcement…. we get to see people at their worst, make it better if possible, and leave them feeling that someone cared enough to help them.

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