…But let’s not make comparisons.
So I have been having SO MUCH FUN on the ambulance it isn’t even funny. I’m even thinking of staying longer so I can see more cases (kidding parents and Sam). I’ll give you a quick summary of my days so far:
1st Tuesday: went to the control center. Freaking state of the art, very streamlined, very efficient. I was duly impressed.
Wednesday:first day on the ambulance! It was a little awkward (with all the crews I’ve been with) when I explained that I was looking into adherence to protocol, but once I made them comfortable that I was on their side, they relaxed. I immediately noticed on the ambulance that they had maybe a third of the resources that ambulances in the US do. I also noticed on my calls that there was also an extreme lack of shocks on the vehicles themselves. Had a bunch of calls and transports
Thursday: started with an MVA to which we were cancelled, then to a difficulty breathing, where the patient was DOA (dead on arrival), did some more sick and ill patients, one guy who the police had us take who was very obviously high, and then one of the medics I was with flipped on a woman for not getting TB treatment for her father and exposing her, the community and her children to the disease. Get it.
Friday: Had a meeting with my advisor, who’s a professor of emergency nursing at UKZN. Super helpful. Also found out that there’s someone doing PHD research on the topic I’m doing. Lolz. At least it’s getting studied though.
Weekend: pretty chill, went to some clubs, hung out, etc.
Monday: hung out with the youngest medic there (23. This is not a young persons profession). Picked up another woman who was pregnant and coughing and vomiting blood. Awesome. Grabbed a white guy who only spoke to me (awkward again) who had severe pain from hemorrhoid removal surgery. Even more awesome. Then I did another transport, where at the receiving hospital they played the “we-don’t-know-where-this-patient-came-from” game, and FINALLY we got him a bed.
Tuesday: Started my day with an MVA (doo daaa doo daaa), actually got to board and collar a patient. Transported to a private hospital. Have I mentioned how much nicer the private hospitals are than the public? So much nicer. Next we went to a collapse, which I deemed heat exhaustion because it was umpteen degrees outside. The thing was though, it was in a shanty town, so we had to have the patient walk up this hillside to the ambulance (also, pretty sure an umlungu (white person) had never been in this place before, as instead of getting cat called, I just got stared at point blank). When we finally got her up to the ambulance, we discovered that the radiator pipe had cracked, and all the water had leaked out, so it wasn’t driveable. So we waited about 40 minutes in the sweltering heat for another ambulance to show up. I went with them, because otherwise I would have been sitting by the side of the road in jeans waiting 3+ hours for the tow truck to show up. Not awesome. Then we picked up a sprained ankle to transport to another private hospital that was once again GORGEOUS. Then I had the most heart wrenching case I’ve had yet. They told me they’d drive me home, but then I found out it was an infant transport, so I was like HELL NAH THAT’S ME. We went to the dispatching hospital’s NICU to pick up the baby. He was 7 weeks old and was obviously born premature. He was tiny. He was born with an obstructed airway, and was going to the nice public hospital to have surgery that night. He was trying to breath on his own though, and was fighting the tube. He was trying to cry as well, and I was fighting not to cry. I kept rubbing his leg and his forehead, just to make sure he knew there was someone there. After we transported him to the hospital, I watched from the doorway as they moved him from the mobile incubator to the hospital one, and in my mind the words “go, live and become” popped up. I sent all the vestiges of my energy to that little guy (I’d been up since 6, working since 7:30, and it was now almost 8 PM), willing him to live. I know it doesn’t count for that much, but I just wanted so much for him.
Wednesday: pretty slow day. we were dispatched to a post MVA, which turned out to be this old white guy who got hit by a bike, and was living in a one room apartment in a hooker hotel. Good morning Abby. We were then called and recalled several times, finally going to a collapse that was deemed to be post-ictal (after a seizure). The guy was smelly, homeless, wet (someone dumped water on him when they saw he was seizing. Awesome job, security guard), and pretty unresponsive. Next was another post-ictal in another shanty town. This guy at least had family with him. Then we were called to a post CVA (stroke) but it turned out the guy was just majorly drunk. And smelly.
Thursday: I finally remembered my stethoscope, so I wore it all day today, at the insistence of my crew, because they wanted to see how many people thought I was a doctor. Total was 4. 1st call was in a squatter camp in an abandoned-ish building. Total shit-hole, pardon the language. This woman was lying in a room that was walled in with fiberboard, no ceilings, and the permeating smell of urine and stale cigarettes. All of her neighbors came to help us, so there was at least a sense of community. The 2nd patient was in yet another squatter camp, although this was the first one with Indians and a white guy who looked like he got transported out of a bad redneck movie, down to the missing teeth and huge, shirtless, flabby, white belly. This woman was having a miscarriage I suspect, but I couldn’t say that obviously. The next patient of the day was a woman who had had a mamogram the day before, and now she had a huge cut under her breast, and was leaking fluid. Her grandson called me Miss America. The last patient was having chest pain, and we picked her up from a clinic and brought her to the hospital.
Woof, so that’s been my life. I have tomorrow day, Saturday night (!!!), and then monday-thursday next week, because friday I leave for CAPE TOWWWWWNNNNN. I booked my tickets for Robben Island today (For those playing along at home, this is the huge political prison that, under apartheid, held Nelson Mandela. Think Alcatraz, but with worse reasoning. All the tour guides there are ex-political prisoners as well, so we should be able to hear some great stories. Then we’ll bum around the water front for a bit, grab some dinner, and have a reasonably early bed, because Saturday we’re gonna climb Table Mountain (the one overlooking Cape town) then we’ll go to Boulder Beach to see some penguins (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! In case you didn’t know, I have a mild obsession with penguins. Ask Sam or Liqa), and then to a big outdoor market. Then it’s bar/club hopping Saturday night (Thanks for all the suggestions/help Alex and Kev!), Sunday will be spent relaxing and exploring, and it’s back for more lights and sirens Monday.
Wanna know something weird? I leave for home in 3 weeks. I’m fairly undecided how I feel about this.