22 October 2007


Not long ago I was working out at the local gym. Nothing too intense -- half an hour on the elliptical trainer and some weight-lifting. I sat down at the chest press machine and settled in, when a friend of mine, Ron, who happens to be an critical care doctor walked past and sat down next to me at the military press machine. We each took the iPod earbuds out of our ears and chatted a bit, since it had been a few weeks since we had seen each other. After exhausting all the casual avenues of conversation, we donned our iPods once more and went to work.

The two of us spent a while there, doing several sets each. The weight equipment was located in the center of the room, facing the entryway, with the aerobic equipment -- treadmills, cycles, etc -- behind us. I tend to get a bit of tunnel vision when I am working out pretty hard, and it was only in my peripheral vision that I noticed a couple of familiar-looking guys hurry past me. In my semi-hypoxic state I wondered how I knew them.

Oh, that's Bill, from Medic 16, I suddenly recalled. Satisfied at having figured out that mystery, I went back to work. I didn't know he was a member here. But there was still something that didn't quite fit. Why was he wearing his work clothes?

And, I suddenly realized, the other guy I had noticed was his partner. And he had been carrying a tackle box. What the hell are they doing here?

I put down the weights and turned around. Behind us, at the foot of a treadmill, there was an old man on the floor and the paramedics appeared to be intubating him, as best I could see through the small knot of people clustered around them. I tugged at the sleeve of the ICU doc who was still doing his set, "Hey Ron, check this out..."

The two of us stood there with the rest of the slack-jawed gawkers and watched the medics finish their resuscitation and load the fellow on the gurney. They were quick and efficient and were out of there in less than five minutes. We pulled the iPods out of our ears once more.

"We probably should have helped out," he offered sheepishly.
"I never heard anything. Did you?"
"Not a thing."
"Well, we couldn't have done too much anyways, right? No airway equipment, no defibrillator..."
"At least our CPR is better than average."
"Don't give me that. I've seen you do CPR."
"Okay, okay."

We went back to our workouts and finished in silence.


  1. We medics are taught to assume every doctor cum pedestrian on scene is a proctologist until proven otherwise. Although I think in this case they would've made an exception.

    Funny story.


  2. I'm with Rory. When I worked on an ambulance we had, what the chief called, "Dr. F#@$ off" cards that talked about how the doc assumed all responsibility for the outcome and agreed to transport, etc, etc. Plus protocol issues for our scope of practice.

    My chief told us to assume their were podiatrists, at least a proctologist has a real MD :P (No offense to podiatrists, I love me my orthotics)

  3. I must have been unclear. We didn't think we should have helped the paramedics -- they don't need our help.

    It's that this dude apparently collapsed RIGHT BEHIND US and must have been down five minutes before EMS arrived, and there was a fully trained ER doc and an ICU doc sitting right there with our iPods plugged in, completely oblivious to what was going on. So we were thinking that we should have helped out before EMS got there...

  4. In the not-too-distant past my ambulance was the first EMS vehicle to a pretty nasty ped struck MVA -- initial GCS of 3, etc.

    A man onscene said he was a doctor. Barely looking at him, I said, "What kind of doctor?"

    He replied, "I'm an anesthesiologist and critical care physician at [level 1 trauma center]."

    I paused, looked up at him.

    "You, stay."


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.