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Jan. 8, 2013, Waubaushene, Ont. – I was sitting at my desk, chatting with a co-worker when the pager went off for a medical call just down the road from the office. I jumped up, grabbed my pager and headed for the door. Then I remembered how cold it was outside and went back to my desk to grab my coat, and out the door I went.

January 8, 2013
By Jennifer Grigg

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Jan. 8, 2013, Waubaushene, Ont. – I was sitting at my desk, chatting with a co-worker when the pager went off for a medical call just down the road from the office. I jumped up, grabbed my pager and headed for the door. Then I remembered how cold it was outside and went back to my desk to grab my coat, and out the door I went.

Monday was my first day back to work following the Christmas holidays and I had only been there for an hour when the pager went off. (My contract at work ended Dec. 21 in the job I’d been doing in the planning and building departments, but I was offered a contract extension late last week. I happily agreed to put my couch-potato plans on hold in favour of returning to work.)

As I ran across the icy parking lot (very gingerly, because I was wearing heels), I looked up to see a fellow co-worker and firefighter snickering at my little-baby-steps attempt at running. A cartoon image flashed across my mind of me doing my high speed-tip-toeing across the parking lot in a somewhat-maybe-not-so-much dainty fashion, trying to get to the hall and into my gear as fast as I could.

Needless to say, I was the second one at the hall behind the FPO (who works in the fire hall), followed by one other firefighter (a captain). I ran to the back of the hall, took off my heels and my coat, and jumped into my bunker gear.

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“Man, it’s been so long since I’ve been on a medical call . . . I hope I remember how to work the blood-pressure cuff and the oxygen,” I thought to myself. I’ve been on a couple of medical calls in the year or so since my return to the department, however, we’re lucky enough to have three paramedics on our department so patient care often falls into their hands. Those are the guys (two guys and a girl, actually) who you’re always happy to see show up, especially if it’s a messy or complicated call. Not that we aren’t all trained to do first aid and CPR, but if you have the option to “leave it to the professionals”, I find most firefighters are all for that!

I had jumped in the front seat (I hadn’t seen the captain arrive or I would have let him have the front seat, out of respect . . . you know) and radioed to our dispatch that we were responding. Again, my mind drifted to the typical things that are done on a medical call . . . oxygen at 5-15 L/m depending on the patient, vitals-pulse, blood pressure, defib . . . ugh! Defib! I really hope that piece of equipment is NOT needed! Then I reminded myself that the call is for a patient short of breath and that the ambulance is likely not far behind us anyway.

We arrived on scene, I updated dispatch, and the captain was out of the back of the truck with the medical bag in hand and heading up the front steps before I had even got myself untangled from the seatbelt and out of the truck. I followed him into the house and down the hall to the patient. He was already down on one knee digging through the medical bag and talking to the patient. (It’s funny how I seemed to be moving in slow motion, and he seemed to be several steps ahead of me, in my mind anyway. I think we’ve already established that my mind works a little differently than most though, hence the existence of this blog . . . ha ha.)

The captain handed me the mask and told me to hook it up and put it on the patient while he got the rest of it ready. Despite the “uh . . .” thought in my head, I was relieved that I still remembered what to do with it. And yes, just in case any of you are wondering, I put it on the patient and not on myself.

Next he handed me the blood-pressure cuff and told me to put it on the patient and get vitals. Just between us, I’ll admit that I nonchalantly checked the diagram on the cuff as I was putting it on her to make sure I was putting it on correctly, but everything went fine beyond that. The last time I had the blood pressure cuff out in the fire hall during truck checks, another firefighter and I decided to check my blood pressure . . . and I had put the cuff on myself upside down.

It’s a good thing that I had done that on myself rather than on a patient, but it served as a good reminder how important it is that you take the time to go over equipment that you don’t use often, or haven’t used recently.

I was lucky to have that captain there to take the lead, but I might not be that lucky next time.

And there will always be a next time.

Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario. She began her fire career with the Township of Georgian Bay in 1997 and became the department's fire prevention officer in 2000 and a captain in 2003. She was a fire inspector with the City of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services before taking time off to focus on family, and is excited to be back at it. E-mail her at jhook0312@yahoo.ca and follow her on Twitter at @jenmabee.


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