Health

EMTs Reveal Their Most Memorable Work Stories, Making Yours Sound Really Boring

Published On 12/06/2016 Published On 12/06/2016
emts work stories
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

When an emergency happens, it's usually scary, chaotic, and dangerous. Luckily, we have a network of EMTs, paramedics, and other EMS workers who together are the first to respond when shit hits the fan.

Given that these literal heroes see humanity when it's at its most vulnerable and precarious, they have no shortage of crazy, ridiculous stories. Luckily, a few first responders revealed some of the most outrageous scenarios they found themselves in on the job. Think you've had a hard day at work? Imagine yourself in their shoes.

Did Fido find them? 

"We got called to a guy who was working in his woodshop and accidentally took a chainsaw to his right hand. He ended up taking off his pinky, ring, and middle fingers. Since it was a fresh wound, we decided to look around for the missing appendages so we could take them to the hospital to be reattached. Among the bloody scene, we look for the fingers and we can't find them anywhere.

"But we did see his dog upstairs, gnawing on something. Although none of us were able to confirm, we were pretty sure the dog got ahold of the detached fingers and enjoyed them as a new chew toy. Luckily, the guy was a good sport about the whole thing. We asked if he was left-handed -- maybe it would make the injuries a little more bearable -- and he just replied, 'Well, I'm left-handed now!'" -- Matt W, paramedic

Accidents are no excuse for being tardy

"When I was going to paramedic school and attending university, I was also working for the fire department. One day, I was going to class and I noticed a traffic jam with all the fire trucks ahead of me from the squadron I was on. So I park the car, get out, go to the ambulance, and I asked if they needed anything. They said, 'Yes, get in.'

"It turns out, a garbage man was working the back of the garbage truck, and a driver came over a hill behind the truck, got blinded by the sun, and rear-ended the truck. The man's leg ended up getting smashed in between the car and the truck, and the leg was like complete hamburger. It was a minced meat of a leg. So we put a tourniquet on it, and got the helicopter down.

"For whatever reason, when the helicopter lands, one of the firefighters couldn't fly (he was too sick or too big, I couldn't remember), so the chief sent me up in the helicopter. I ended up flying to the hospital to drop him off, and flying me back to the landing zone in town. I get in my car and go to class, and I got an unexcused tardy for being late." -- Matt W, paramedic

Out at sea is the worst place for an emergency

"A few years ago, I was working on a cruise ship... It was a small passenger cruise ship, there were only about 200 people. I forget where we were exactly, but we were definitely 20 minutes from the closest port, and a guy goes into congestive heart failure. What’s tough with that is the more you move, the more you get your heart rate up, the more you're essentially killing yourself. Being on a ship, it makes it very difficult to evacuate and get to the launch boat (the boat that will take the sick passenger to shore and to the closest hospital).

"On top of that, I only had the captain's kit (a ship's version of a first aid kit), which is very minimal compared to what we have on an ambulance. So there were very few drugs, very little equipment. And getting that guy to shore to meet an ambulance was definitely a task of trying to make him not move, and then coordinating where we were going to go to shore to meet the ambulance.

"He ended up needing two of us to fireman-carry him down the hall and down the stairs to get him to the boat. And for whatever reason, the Coast Guard wasn't able to make an assist. But the guy ended up being OK. He joined the cruise for the second-to-last day -- he just took it easy the rest of the trip." -- Matt W, paramedic

In prison, things get... stuck

"Whenever we would get called to go to the local prison, it was for either one of two reasons: someone got stabbed, or someone got something stuck somewhere. So it could get pretty gross. One time, a man had gotten a 1-liter shampoo bottle stuck up so high -- how he got it in there, I have no idea -- but it caused a suction, and there was no way for us to get it out. There's no real treatment for that, so we took him into the ER. I'm not exactly sure what happened, but I'm sure he had to get surgery.” -- Matt W, paramedic

When the job is big, get backup from a pickup

"One of my first calls was for a well-being check, which is when family members and neighbors who haven't seen or heard from someone in a while calls us to check in on them and make sure everything is OK. So we get there, and the guy has been dead for quite a while. He's a pretty large dude to begin with, and when we get there, he was pronounced dead immediately.

"The medical examiner came, and when someone dies, the body swells up and you have to get rid of some of the fluids. So the medical examiner decides, OK we're going to 'pop' him essentially (I'm not sure what the correct term for that is), right in the roomAnd still, after that, he would not fit in the hearse. So we had to wait for a state pickup truck to come, and we ended up driving down the road in a pickup truck holding the body in the truck to bring down to the morgue." -- Matt W, paramedic

A sense of humor can prove vital

"The amount of people who get shot is astonishing. The unit I was assigned to for a decade in Providence, Rhode Island responds to shootings just about every day. Most never make the news. One day, just after lunch, we were dispatched to one of the roughest neighborhoods anywhere for a possible shooting. It didn't take long to find the victim.

"As my partner worked to establish an IV, and the police fanned out looking for the gunman, I searched his body for more bullet holes, the ground was littered with 9mm casings.

"'Buddy, how many times were you shot?' I asked him. He raised an eyebrow, considered this question, and furrowed his brow as he thought. Then he looked me in the eye, grinned, and said, 'This is my first time.'" -- Michael Morse, former medic and first responder, EMS1.com contributor

The leg is the least of your worries

"We responded to a 20-year-old male who was complaining of leg pain. Our patient, a nice enough guy, was in a rear bedroom when we arrived on the scene. The force of the kicks must have sent his pants below his hips, he gave sagging a whole new level of exposure. When I approached him, I asked him what was wrong. 'My leg hurts,' he answered. 'I took some vitamins, and then my leg started kicking, and it kept hitting the wall and it wouldn't stop.'

"I asked him why he didn't just move away from the wall. 'I couldn't,' he responded. 'I was kicking so hard I pissed myself.' I knew the vitamins really had nothing to do with his condition." -- Michael Morse, former medic and first responder, EMS1.com contributor

Mouse attack!

"We got a 911 call in the middle of the night (it's always in the middle of the night) for a mouse attack. This woman was a 'frequent flyer,' as repeat 911 callers are affectionately known to the EMS and police crews who respond to their calls, and this lady called with every intention of being seen at the emergency room. We arrived at her apartment at a little past 3am, and she was complaining that a mouse had bit her on the foot.

"'Did you see the mouse?' I asked.

"'No, but I know it was a mouse,'" she replied. 

"Me: 'How do you know?'

"The woman: 'Because my cat chased him into the box.'

"Me: 'Why did you put your foot into the box if you knew there was a mouse in there?'

"Woman: 'I didn’t think mice bit.'

"Me: 'Maybe it was a rat.'

"Woman: 'No, it was a mouse.'

"Me: 'Are you sure?'

"Woman: 'Positive.'

"It went on like this for a bit. The wound was minuscule, barely bleeding, but in her mind it was a full-blown emergency, and she thought she was going to get rabies or worse. I just rolled my eyes and told her to get into the ambulance." -- Michael Morse, former medic and first responder, EMS1.com contributor

Sometimes first responders fight the bad guys

"We responded to one middle-aged female who called 911 for an unknown problem. We knocked on her door, to only see her open it a crack, peer out, and ask in a suspicious tone, 'Are you the good guys, or are you with those bad guys in those trees?' Since we were the only two people there, we were pretty confident in our good-guy status and were granted entry.

"She was hallucinating terribly… she literally thought there were a bunch of bad guys out to get her in her front yard, and she refused to leave her house. She would not get in our ambulance. She kept peering out the window and telling us about the guys with guns. 

"At the end of the day, our job is to get her the help she needed at the hospital, and she refused to listen to our pleas that there were no bad guys outside. So I role-played -- I told her she would be safe with us, because we were tactically trained in urban assault EMS techniques. Oddly enough, that calmed her down.

"My partner ran out on the porch, looked left, looked right, and ran as fast as he could to open the back of the ambulance door. I stayed with the patient and told her we would protect her at all costs. My partner yelled from the back of the ambulance, 'Sector 5 is clear! Move, move, move!' I told my patient it was now or never: 'Let's roll! Go, go, go!' We both did a duck-and-cover as we took a flying leap into the back of the ambulance. I barked orders to my partner, 'Get up front, let's roll! Make sure we're not followed!' He promptly complied and took the 'safe route' to the emergency room. I kept looking out the back windows and reassured my patient that we were not being followed. Our role-play seems silly, but guess what? My patient felt 100% safe in the back of the ambulance with me, she trusted me, and we got her the help she needed at the hospital." -- Trent S, paramedic, EMS1.com contributor

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Christina Stiehl is a Health and fitness staff writer for Thrillist. She has almost called 911 after seeing a mouse in her apartment. Follow her on Twitter @ChristinaStiehl.

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