by John Brooks
During a lull in my main career of video game developer, I had challenged myself to overcome my squeamishness and fear of further education by enrolling, attending, and successfully graduating the EMS academy and attaining state certification as a potential heroic lifesaver. Following graduation I took a job with a large private ambulance company with stars in my eyes and dreams of being a hero.
Contrary to what you might imagine, being an EMT is very seldom 911 calls attending to disaster scenes, snatching people from the jaws of death, and then later playing volleyball with the person and their family as they give a cookout in your honor. More often it is a series of blindingly boring hospital discharges, dialysis runs and inter-facility transfers. To make matters worse, EMT’s are regarded as little more than cab drivers by nurses, LPN’s and CNA’s at nursing homes. Underneath all of that, however, there is always that slender possibility that you might be called upon to use those skills that you spent all of those classroom hours learning and actually save a life.
My assignment from hell occurred during a very routine shift. My partner and I had been dispatched to perform an inter-facility transfer from a nursing home to a rehab hospital. The patient was a male in his eighties who was recovering from a stroke. The gentleman concerned had very limited mobility and hadn’t really said much since the event, and hadn’t responded to my pre-transport chat very well. Putting myself in his position, I doubt I would have felt much like chatting either.
One of the things an EMT is trained to do is to transfer a supine patient from a bed to a stretcher using a technique called a sheet drag. The sheet drag technique requires freeing off all sides of the sheet and then maneuvering the patient around until the patient is correctly aligned to be lifted and pulled across onto the stretcher. Done correctly, this method is by far the most comfortable way to get onto the stretcher for both the EMT’s and the patient. On this occasion I suppose we got something wrong.
As we began to move the patient, he let out a guttural groan. My partner and I both froze, then tried to ascertain what had prompted such a reaction from our patient. Finding nothing untoward, we started to move the patient again. Another groan. This time I thought I made out some words in it, so I put my ear close to his mouth and asked, “What’s wrong sir?”
His response was just two words: “My testicles.”
I looked at my partner quizzically. He looked back at me and he lifted the sheet s covering the patient. He then gestured to me to come and look. I peered under the sheet. Sure enough, there was the frank… but no beans. During our movement the patient had somehow slid onto his scrotum and was now lying on top of it. This presented us with a problem.
There was no easy way to remedy this situation. There was a silent negotiation going on between my partner and I about which one of us was going to have to fix this. I’m sure the patient didn’t relish the thought of having his genitals handled by me or my partner, but there was no alternative. Eventually it was decided that I would have to do it, and I looked around for any tool or appliance that would enable me to not handle what I already knew I was going to have to handle. Finally, I just bit the bullet. I slid a double-gloved hand between the sheet and the offending objects, effectively freeing them.
After that the transport was totally unremarkable. I spent the remaining time with the patient discussing hockey and boxing.