Home » A Wasted Life » Becoming The A Team

Becoming The A Team

I continued to work and on my weekends off, I would go to A******** and work on the house.  We hired somebody to put on a new roof and I chose red tin.  It looked great.  It was a craftsman-style house…..the kind of house that everybody loves now but would have been embarrassed about in high school.
I never lived in it but I have memories of my mama and daddy being there.  My daddy tried hard to “modernize” it but fell short because he didn’t really have the money.  He was enterprising though and did the best he could with such limited resources.
I started taking down the eighties paneling to expose the original plaster walls.  I put the original light fixtures back up and re-hung the french doors, with the help of J***.
My sister told me that mama constantly complained about how I was destroying everything my “little daddy” had done.  P**** said that she told mama that what my daddy did was what was falling apart.  It didn’t matter.  My mama had made up her mind that I was ruining the house and she moved into the apartment building uptown.
My original work partner had moved on to another job at the plasma center.  A young girl, B******, fresh out of paramedic school, came to work for us and became my new partner.  We got along like we were sisters although I was old enough to be her mother.  Neither one of us were ever late, missed a day of work or took any vacation days.  We were dubbed “the A team.”
That saved us once.  We were always supposed to have “backers.”  It’s difficult to back up an ambulance with the restricted windows in the back and none on the sides.  One day, we actually thought we had enough time to pull into Panera Bread and have lunch.  Since I was such a good driver, I decided to just back into the parking space.  I backed it in perfectly.  We looked up and all of a sudden, we saw J** in his car and he had pulled right in front of us sideways.  We knew he had been watching us.
I looked at B****** and said “quick, duck down!” What I was thinking, I don’t know.   We were both small and we crawled into the floorboard.  After a few seconds, I peeped over the steering wheel and J** was motioning for me to come there.  I got out and walked over to his car and he said “if it was anybody else, I would have written them up and suspended them.  Don’t let me catch you doing that again.”  Then he drove off.  That was a huge “whew” moment.
It wasn’t over.  A few days later, the big boss was walking toward us and I thought, “oh, she found out what I did and knows J** didn’t write me up and now we’re all going to get fired.”
She came up and said to me “are you half of the A team?”  I looked at B****** and said “what do you think….are we?”  Our boss started laughing so hard I thought she was going to bust a gut.  She had heard about the backing incident, but she also knew what good workers we were.  She was just going to tell me that she wished every crew she had was as good as we were.
It was my year anniversary and I was given a raise.  I told J** that I appreciated it.  I was just a housewife, with no education and not much experience but I had gotten a raise.  Not everybody did.
Then, the day came when J** called me over the Nextel and told me to come back to base.  I didn’t know what, if anything, was wrong.  B****** and I went back and J** called me into his office.  He told me to come in, shut the door and sit down.  I admit at that point, I was a little worried.  I thought I had done something really wrong.
He held up the newspaper and pointed.  Then he said “is this your husband?”
I told him yes and then asked him if he wanted me to finish my shift or pack up my stuff and leave right then.  He said “no darlin’.  You’re the best worker I’ve ever had but I had better not see any of your calls in the paper.”  I asked him to keep it private about J*** being my husband and he promised he would.
I loved going to work every shift.  B****** and I got along so well and sometimes our sides would be aching from laughter.
There were also horrific calls that resulted in death.  There were patients who hit us and spit at us.  I had a long ponytail almost to my waist and sometimes they would grab my hair and it would take several nurses and interns to get me free.  There were family members who would grab our equipment and yell “shock ’em.”  They had seen too many television shows and thought the defibrillator was a miraculous life-giver.   Never once did any of the patients or family members thank us.
The only time we were ever thanked was by some random man who was walking by and stopped us and said he wanted us to know that he appreciated what we did.
I will never forget one of my “frequent flyers” who was a Vietnam veteran dying from agent orange.  He died in my ambulance with my hand on his carotid artery the last time his heart beat.  He had a DNR so I could only sit there and watch him die.
We had another patient who, as a result of a botched surgery had been rendered a quadriplegic.  He was difficult and had been transported by every crew except us.  He would always call and complain and tell J** not to ever send that crew again.  He needed to go to the hospital again so J** sent his “A team.”
B****** and I got there and he was laying in this huge king size bed.  We had to slide him onto the stretcher so I looked at him and said “I’m going to have to get in the bed with you.”  I started crawling across the bed and he was just looking at me.  I don’t think he knew what to say so I said “hey.  It doesn’t mean we’re engaged.”  He called J** and told him how pleased he was and said nobody was ever allowed to transport him but us.
The bad calls were eased somewhat by the fact that B****** and I were sometimes dumber than a bag of hammers.  We’d get lost more often than not.  We’d forget what day it was and would have to correct all of the dates on our paperwork before we turned it in.  Every now and then we would even take the paperwork home with us, which was a real no-no.  Maybe we were subconsciously looking for a release.  We’d start giggling and it overshadowed the helplessness for a while.   We couldn’t cry or fall apart so we laughed at any and everything we could.
There’s a saying in EMS.  “Paramedics save lives and EMTS’ save paramedics.  B****** couldn’t “get a line” to save her life.  I could do it and even though I wasn’t supposed to, I would.  She couldn’t run the release on the stretchers so I always had to do that.  She couldn’t drive and run the lights and sirens at the same time, so I always did the emergent driving.
Once we were sitting at a railroad crossing, far enough away to be safe and all of a sudden, she put the ambulance in reverse and backed right into a car.  I’m not talking about a love tap.  It tore the front bumper off of the car and really messed up the bumper on the ambulance.  I asked her what she was thinking and she said “I don’t know.  I think I was asleep.”  She told me to call base and I told her to wait and see what the damage was.  The guy in the car didn’t care and seemed to be in a hurry to leave.
I told her I was driving now.  We went to one of the hospitals and I borrowed a crow bar and fixed the bumper as good as I could.  I told her I wouldn’t say anything but if J** noticed, I wouldn’t lie.  If he ever noticed, he never said anything.
I didn’t share much with J*** when I got home.  He would ask me about calls now and then but never asked for any great detail.  He had never been a “blood and guts” person.  I wanted to tell him about my calls.  I wanted to tell him how hard I had tried to keep somebody alive.  I wanted to tell him that I had broken every rib in somebodys’ chest, trying to get their heart to keep pumping blood.  I wanted to tell him how three paramedics had failed to intubate a woman and I tubed her the first time I tried.
I wanted him to be proud of me.  I wanted him to think what I was doing was valuable.

2 thoughts on “Becoming The A Team

  1. It was so nice to read about some happy moments in your life, and that you got nice bosses who appreciated you and a very fun working partner to spend good (and bad) times with :).


  2. It’s clear that the processes of studying for and succeeding at EMT school are forming the basis for becoming more confident and powerful. Her self-esteem was so depleted and her self-image so damaged, yet she still had the strength to get through all this, and to contribute something important to the world. Little by little, hopefully, it won’t matter what J*** thinks or says, or doesn’t say….


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