Thursday, November 29, 2007


Crash last night in town.
Driver was passing in a no passing zone and found themselves in a losing game of chicken with a tractor trailer.
Tractor trailer vs. car with a short front end = nearly six feet of intrusion into the passenger compartment. After the truck was pulled off it took a very long time to remove a very broken (and decidedly deceased) person from the vehicle.
We sat around back at the station speculating about what could have been so pressing that a person was passing multiple cars on a stretch of double yellow. Bad phone call? Fight with a significant other? Just late/tired/preoccupied? We'll never know.
I went home last night thinking about the consequences of our actions. It doesn't get much more lasting than 'permanent'. It doesn't get much more real than 'dead'. For some reason a line from one of those old 12 Step 'handouts' popped into my head:

Just for today I will save myself from two pests: Hurry and indecision.

Turns out, hurry and indecision are real bastards.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Random Thoughts of Hunting Season

He makes my feet like the feet of a deer;
he enables me to stand on the heights.
Psalm 18:33

(Random deer-related Scripture passage for your reflection.)

Its hunting season in the Northern Tier.
This means that school is closed, and we have a number of out of town 'guests' hoping to bag a deer and take it on back to the Main Line or wherever.
They come with their rifles and half the Cabela's catalog, but around here, sometimes you just need to be at the right place at the right time.
The owners of the company where I work are here to hunt on their property behind the building with their kids. Which basically means I run for my car at lunchtime like I'm trying to make the last chopper out of Saigon. A far cry from my previous workplace, where the one (1) guy who hunted would be away for a couple of days and then come back with photos of his prize buck, only to have the girls in the 'pit' look on disapprovingly and say "Oh, its so saaaad....why did you have to shoot it?" He'd then roll his eyes and spot me some venison jerky, which is delicious enough to convert the most hardcore vegetarian. Hope you had a good season, Mark.
They say the herds are healthy but there are less of them this year. I don't know what counts as a herd but I've only seen 4 or 5 at a time this week. Only once did I ever see a true deer herd.
I was in Bradford County, travelling up to see Bryan when we were just engaged. I drove in the cold, clear night down a twisting country road that opened out on a small valley just below Route 220 and there in the field was a herd of deer. I stopped. They were far below me and unconcerned with traffic on the road. I couldn't begin to count them. A few larger ones on the periphery were not grazing, just standing there as if they were keeping watch over the rest, the bright moon shining silver on their backs. All at once a few in the back reared up and stamped the ground and the whole group took off running in the same direction. I could hear their hooves pounding the ground as they ran, and in moments they were a memory of wind and silence.

Good luck and safe hunting, everybody.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Downstate News

Well, we may have DUIs round these parts, but down in my old neck o' the woods they do it a little differently.

My burning question is, was he wearing shoes? Jeez, I hope so.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Coo Coo Cachoo

I would check to see if this is really available from PennDOT, but I know someone cool already has it. Oh well. She can't live forever.

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Last night, we took a patient from our cozy wee country hospital to one with multiple floors, armed guards, incomprehensible vending machines, and signs in at least two languages. She needed something done that needs doin' in a place like that.

Since our prime directive once the patient was delivered was Getting The Hell Out of Dodge, we decided to wait until further on down the road to stop for a beverage and a snack.

Somewhere in the vast cow (in the daytime) and deer (in the nighttime) dotted-waste that is Central New York State, a beacon shined forth in the blackness. A tacky, multicolored, too bright Temple of Randomness.

The TA.

Now, I have fought the desire to refer to these places as 'The T AND A" for my whole life, despite never seeing many respectable examples of either one on the premises. But you hear stories.

Nothing creates confusion like being on the road for too many hours, driving out of a blackness punctuated only by the lines on the road, and driving into a phalanx of hyper-illuminated signs. Our first choice was "Trucks" or "Cars and RVs". Since we were rolling up in one of these:

it was tough to determine what side of the line they'd want us on. Given the number of vehicles on both sides I concluded that they couldn't give a crap. Since the car/RV lot was closer, we pulled in. The lot was surrounded on all sides by bushes already festooned with Christmas lights.

Have you ever been in a proper truckstop? Its an assault on the senses, a retail representation of ADD. Whatever you could possibly find yourself needing while rolling down 390 South, up to and including an electric guitar or an electric guitar done in fine austrian crystal, was available. You could have a coffee mug with the retention capacity of your skull and that coffee could come in no less than 56 flavors. I am convinced that you could not only repair, but actually build a tractor trailer out of the items in the repair aisle. And take a shower afterwards. Frankly, I didn't want to think too hard about the showers, since the bathroom smelled as though every hourly-initialled attempt at cleaning was no match for the old pee smell that clung to every surface like a titanium veneer. Tired as I was, I sat on the seat without covering it and could almost feel my grandmother flinch from 350 miles away.

The loneliness was palpable. As I listened to the girl behind the counter with a bolt in her face extol the virtues of a new kind of cigarettes I wondered what it was like to drive for days, passing through one dubious oasis after another, hundreds of miles from home. I was just overwhelmed with the desire to crawl into my own bed and pull the blankets over my head. Instead I paid for my bucket of coffee and shuffled off to take a nap on a bench under a wool blanket in the ambulance, which was actually a lot more comfortable than it sounds. Our driver kept to the rumble strips every 15 seconds or so to make sure I had a nice regular sound to fall asleep to. If he had more than one good eye I'd swear he did it on purpose.


The hospital we normally transport patients to is a great little hospital. Clean, pleasant, smaller than the high school I went to, it only took a few months to acquaint myself with many people who work there, not only because many people I know do work there, but darn, the place is small. You see the same faces over and over. It doesn’t take long to learn where everything is. A nice place to become accustomed to this EMT stuff.

The downside of that is that we don’t have a lot of specialties covered. Orthopedic surgery, neurology, cath labs, all that sort of thing usually buys you one of two things; a ride on a helicopter if the weather is good and your condition is poor, or a transfer.

Transfers are not everyone’s favorite thing. The facilities we travel to most often are between 65-85 miles away. An hour or two in the back of an ambulance is not for the potentially carsick. Spending those 1-2 hours with a patient who might be 1) also potentially carsick, 2) combative or deep in the throes of a really interesting neurological deficit, or 3) radiating funk for one reason or another is the gamble you take when you agree to go. You have one of those moments where you kneel down beside your inner child, take them by the shoulder, and remind them that 1) this is what you signed on for, 2) that person probably doesn’t want to be transferred either, 3) make sure you go potty before you leave, and 4) stop your whining.

Last night the call came from the transfer coordinator and I was asked a question. "Hey, do you want to go to (insert town within spitting distance of Canada)?" I did a rough calculation, decided I could probably function on the number of hours of sleep I’d get once we returned, and agreed.
We arrived at the hospital and gathered up the paperwork that included medical records, our ‘permission slip’ to blow town with the patient, and the usual name/address/SSN stuff. I glance at the form and see the words RECTAL BLEEDING as reason for admission. Uh oh.

Fortunately this is a ‘was happening’ thing and not an ‘is happening as we speak’ thing. The patient is ambulatory and we get him all snugged up on the stretcher. He tells me matter of factly that his colon is ‘about to blow up’ so they are just going to go ahead and ‘take it out’. Suddenly, lost sleep and a couple of bone-jarring hours on the bus don’t seem to be much of an inconvenience.

The trip was uneventful, we even managed to make the patient laugh a few times on the way. (I would venture to say that the soon-to-be-colonless is a tough crowd. So we did okay.) He told us he should be home by Thanksgiving. I hope he is right.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Rowing Away

How shall I feel at the judgement, if multitudes of missed opportunities pass before me in full review, and all my excuses prove to be disguises of my cowardice and pride?
W E Sangster, pastor of the Wesleyan Church, UK

I went to a workshop last Sunday night. I was a bit of an 'infidel' there, being a Catholic in a Baptist church, but to my mind the subject crossed lines of denomination and home church.

The presenter began with a photo of a very recognizable ship. Even if you didn't watch Leonardo DiCaprio slip into the water and mist up (at least until the song was so ubiquitous you were making up rude alternate lyrics) at the plaintive strains of that Celine Dion song, you'd know the ship.

According to survivors, when the Titanic sank, two things happened.
Lifeboats were lowered into the water with empty seats. In fact, historians have noted that the average number of empty seats per boat was 35.
As others less fortunate slipped into the icy dark water, their cries could be heard echoing across the silence. The boats, fearing being swamped by desperate passengers, rowed away from the sound of people begging for their lives. One by one those voices fell silent. Can you imagine it? What would you do?

A few thoughts.
1. We were created by God. By God, and for God. (Colossians 1:16)
2. We are meant to have a relationship with Him, because He loves us. He created all that we see. It exists for Him.
3. We don't have this relationship because of sin. God is perfect and we aren't. Simple as that. We chose darkness instead of light.
4. Its a relationship we CAN have. There is a way. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me". (John 14:9)
5. We have to choose this free gift. We don't get it by osmosis. We don't 'catch' salvation from our parents or spouses. The onus is on us to repent and accept Jesus as Lord, as our way across the divide we have created.

Are you like me? Were you lucky enough to hear all this when you were ten? Was it on a poster in your Sunday school class? Do you have it on a card in the front pocket of your bible? Is it on a couple of tracts stuck in your sun visor?

Is it a daily reality that drives you to love and serve Christ and others, to "Hold back those staggering toward slaughter"? (Prov. 24:11)

If not, why not? Do we believe that God is real? Do we put Him to the test when we assume there will always be time to say what needs to be said?

And its not only that time may be short. It is that we are withholding the love that bears all things, endures all things, and hopes all things from people that we purport to love.

This was a week where I spent a lot of time thinking about how very fragile we are. I'm sorry to be so sober. Holding the hands of strangers on the edge of life and death will do that to you and there is nothing I can do about it except to say....

....don't wait.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Things Your Cat Will Never Do to You

I was browsing MSNBC (er, work research) and found this story.
How much bad karma does one accumulate to get shot by their DOG? At least when its Dick Cheney you can blame someone you didn't really like anyway. Dogs save people from fires, sniff drugs, assist the disabled....I have a hard time believing he didn't know exactly what he was doing when he popped a cap in daddy. I'd keep an eye on that one.