Wednesday, March 26, 2008


today i spent four hours in a cadaver lab for ems professionals.

tonight i'm drunk.

these things are not unrelated.

i was pretty composed throughout the event. in a room full of ems veterans and emergency physicians and shock-trauma paramedics, there wasn't much choice. i watched and participated and acted like it was just another day at the office.

there were seven dead people in the room. they were all elderly, and had donated their bodies to medical research. today, that meant educating first-responders on emergency airway control. getting an endotracheal tube through the vocal chords and into the airway.

there are a lot of ways to achieve this end. my company makes one such way, and it's a pretty elegant solution to a difficult problem. other methods are less elegant, and more traumatic for the patient.

but most patients, given a choice, would say, "get that tube in there, and we'll discuss the details at a more opportune time. thanks."

today's patients, needless to say, were past such consideration. their vital signs were as stable as they'll ever be.

at the end of the day we cleaned off our equipment with some serious disinfectant, packed everything into heavy plastic bags, and walked out into a beautiful day in downtown baltimore.

we walked back to a hotel near a convention center where our company, among many others, is exhibiting the latest life-saving devices and products.

the people who do this kind of thing for a living are energized and enthusiastic to be here, learning new things that will help them help us, when we need them most. they wear patches and insignia that say "broward county ems" and "new orleans critical care rescue team" and "fdny."

i stare as they go by, utterly failing to grasp how they do what they do--amazing things under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. these people should be showered with money and eternal gratitude.

instead, most of the time, they toil in obscurity, at barely sustainable wages.

i was happy as hell today to contribute, insignificantly, to their efforts.

and tonight i quietly tried to wash the taste of death out of my mouth.

i can't say that it worked out very well.

No comments: