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January 14, 2002

Tae, the paramedic from Hell
Posted by Teresa at 01:00 PM *

Tae Kim is a paramedic. In the mid-90s he posted accounts of his adventures to alt.tasteless. They’re gruesome, flippant, and make compelling reading. This is Tae at his mildest, describing the course of a typical cardiac arrest:

A late-fifties male gets up in the morning [wife’s still sleeping] to go to the bathroom. He’s overweight, smokes like a chimney, and is now grunting away - trying to push out the pound of steak he ate for dinner last night. While he’s doing that, the pressure he places on his bowels produces a sudden drop in his heart rate, with a corresponding drop in blood pressure. This is known as ‘vagal-ing out’ - as the vagus nerve responds to such stimulus by dropping the heart rate. The man gets dizzy, and falls off the can in mid-shit. This is what I call the classic ‘Elvis’ presentation: man on bathroom floor, boxer-shorts down to his ankles, flopping around and leaving skid marks on the floor so wide you’d have thought a 747 landed nearby.

Now his heart *could* at any moment increase its rate - but since his heart is soooo tired after all those years, it decides to pump at this rate for a while - ‘catch a breather’ so to speak. Ironically, since the heart isn’t pumping enough to circulate blood and oxygen efficiently, the heart itself does not receive enough blood and oxygen to continue beating - so it quits altogether.

Anywhere from several minutes to several hours later, this man’s wife wakes up - and follows the ‘I had steak for dinner last night’ smell to the bathroom, where she finds hubby. Naturally, you’d think her first reaction is to dial 911, to get some help for him. Noooo, wrongo. You may pick from the following options:

1) She yells “Ralph - wake up.”

2) She notices his boxers down to his ankles, and pulls them up.

3) She splashes cold water on his face.

4) She yells “Ralph - wake up” again, just in case he didn’t hear her the first time.

5) She genuflects, makes the sign of the cross, and throws in an ‘Our Father’ for good measure.

6) She calls the family doctor - to ask what to do.

7) She calls the family priest - to ask what to do.

8) She calls another family member - to ask what to do.

9) She does all of the above - then dials 911.

10) Any combination from above.

By the time an ambulance gets dispatched to a cardiac arrest, things look pretty dim.
This one’s less benign:
Speaking of dead people with stomas:

I remember when one of my first shifts on the ambulance. My unit received a call for a “woman not breathing.” Upon arrival, we found a fifty-ish woman on the front steps of her apartment, in cardiac arrest. The fire department had already arrived, and was trying to rescucitate her. There was one small problem: this woman had a permanent tracheostomy stoma or “hole” in her neck, so it confused the firefighters no end - everytime they tried to “bag” this woman, all the air would go out the stoma. Oh, did I mention that she also had lung cancer, and was ooozing some black liquid from her mouth and stoma - lots of it?

This is what the fire department decided to do: they got a length of oxygen tubing (about 1/4 in dia.) and SHOVED the entire length of tubing DOWN into the stoma and into her lungs. The other end they hooked up to an oxygen tank and they let fly. The result: one woman who had previously been described as “98 pounds soaking wet”, looking like Dolly Parton - as a chipmunk.

In comes unsuspecting medic - me - sees the tubing, pulls THREE FEET of plastic tubing out of this stoma, which was covered with some black tarry-looking substance. I finally get to the end of it, and as soon as I pull it out - a straight stream of BLACK GOOEY STUFF from a dead woman’s lungs comes straight at my face, splattering my entire body. Fire lieutenant:”What the hell happened.” my partner (the smarter medic):”Well Lieutenant, this woman died - personally I heard she was under a lot of pressure.” Three showers later - I still did not feel clean.

Lessons learned:

1) Always let someone else do the dangerous stuff - firefighter, police, your partner.

2) Never connect anyone to oxygen tubing and deliver 50 pounds per square inch into their lungs - makes for poor recovery.

3) When in doubt: put body in bushes and say you couldn’t find ‘em.

Oh yeah, she didn’t survive either.

There are various collections of Tae-posts on the web. These three pages [1] [2] [3] collect all but a handful of them, but their formatting is a little wonky. This site has better formatting, and duplicates everything in the three-page collection except for the first and last stories in [1]. There are additional uncollected stories available through Google, if you don’t mind sorting through Tae’s occasional non-storytelling messages: a shitty call :: useful tattoos :: my first hanging :: elephantiasis :: scented oxygen :: following too close :: dead people with stomas (quoted above) :: amputations and groceries :: not enough six-packs in the world :: bad scene on the Pike :: Thanksgiving chorea :: toilet-plunger cardiac treatment :: how to put in a Foley catheter. . And if you want to keep hunting, this message from another newsgroup member might lead you to more; I’m not sure.
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