Teachable Moment

At 0615 this morning I responded to a 33 year old female at a gas station, complaining of shortness of breath.

Upon arrival the patient was sitting down inside the business being assessed by FD. She was having a panic attack. Apparently she has had a long night of smoking crack, and drinking. She also had track marks up and down her arms. She stated that she ended up at the gas station after hitching a ride from a truck driver. She took something from the truck driver that was suppose to keep her awake.

I placed the patient in the back of the ambulance after a quick once over. After I made the judgement that she was not in any acute distress, I began my speech.
You have got to get your life together. A normal 33 year old woman does not get herself in these kinds of situations. This is the time, right now, that you need to get help. You are smoking crack, shooting up, hitching rides from truck drivers and taking random pills that they give you. You are dying. Your time is running out. I know you have probably heard this a million times, and it might not mean anything right now. I know this, but I am going to tell you anyways, because I do care, and I am sure someone out there cares too. You are only 33 years old, and you can live a whole different life, but only you can change that. Don't sit around waiting to be saved. Save yourself.

The truth is that this will probably not make any difference. After we offloaded the patient my partner asked me why I bothered wasting my time. I told her that you never know. The patient may be scared from the "medical emergency" and it may hit home. Everyone else that may have talked to her might have been a cop or someone else of authority. Sometimes it takes a medical professional. I know guys that have given up cheeseburgers because of something a doctor said. And cheeseburgers are good, really good. They might not be crack, but close to it.
If I get through to one addict in my career, I consider that a win. Give it a shot on your next call like this. Try to connect with the patient, and relate to their situation. You never know, you may save a life you never know you saved.


maxwelton's braes are bonny said...

A good ten years ago or so, a paramedic in Houston, Texas gave my aunt the same speech. She is alive today because of it and now helps get other prescription junkies off drugs. Keep preaching, a life saved is a life saved. They may even go on to help others. Thanks for your kind words and caring attributes.

Shaggy said...

I have given the same speech to the drug addicts I have taken. Many told me to mind my own business, but most expressed appreciation for my concern. I told one guy he was close to death as he had stopped breathing and had it not been for his girfriend calling EMS and our interventions, he would have died. He was very apologetic and thankful and swore he would have to seek rehab. I doubt if it made much of a difference, but we never got a call again to his place.
So, good for you. I am glad you have not become apathetic yet toward your patients, and hope you never do.

Adam Thompson, EMT-P said...

I think it is an easier route to judge these patients and just mind your own business. While easier, I don't think that does anything to improve overall patient outcome. It is our job to do what we can to improve outcome.

Thanks for the comments.

Anonymous said...

Part of the job is education on people's health, be it from controlling their diabetes to giving up the junk. It's another way that we can make a difference to the health of the public, improve patient outcome, and hopefully prevent a repeat customer.

Though nothing short of an MI will make me give up burgers.