Thanks to all that have helped!!!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Learning to Fail

As promised I'm back with lessons learned in my effort to adjust to life back in the ambulance. Last night I learned how much pressure I have placed on myself to succeed at this. I feel like I am setting an example for the EMS field in this area. I'm not claiming to be some great trailblazer by any means, but I feel like I'm being watched closely. That brings me to lasts night hard learned lesson, learning to fail.

Yesterday was a busy day, not one of those days where you can't catch your breath, but just steady enough to make the hours pass quickly. Most of our patients were actually very sick. I can't go into details about conditions, but it was a very ALS day none the less. My last patient for the night was critical, my first chance to really practice my skills on my own. It's fitting that the first day back in the ambulance on my own, I would be greeted by a patient that truly needed my help. As we loaded the patient onto the stretcher and made our way back to the ambulance everything was going fine. After loading the patient into the back I stepped up onto the back step, as I have learned to do, by locking out the prosthetic knee and stepping up with my sound side. This time as I went to step, I got ahead of myself and hadn't fully locked out the prosthetic. As the knee started to bend, I did the only thing I knew to do...I fell..Hard. Nothing was injured other than my pride, but it took quite a beating, seeing as I fell in front of my new partner, the patient, and a few of patients that were outside smoking as we loaded up our patient. I quickly hopped up, locked out the knee, and climbed in the back to resume patient care. It only lasted about 30 seconds total, but it was enough for me to be thrown off kilter. Once in the back I resumed treating the patient. Here I would love to tell you how the run went perfect and that was the only hiccup. Sadly, I can't report that. This was one of those runs where everything goes wrong. The patient received the best care I could provide, we arrived at the hospital with the patient doing a little better than when we picked him up, but a little better is never my goal. I prefer to work in drastically better, I pride myself on excellent patient care, but this was my test for the night. I cared for the patient. He made it safely to the ER where his condition was quickly treated, and hopefully after some time in the ICU he will be on the mend.

I realized after this run that I have placed a tremendous amount of undue stress on myself. I have placed so much emphasis on myself to succeed that failure of any amount, be it not getting an IV or as simple as not getting my paperwork completed as quickly as I would like, is not acceptable. I have a great support system, I have all the proper pillars in place to succeed, but when it comes down to it, I have built myself to accept nothing less than perfection. Last night, I realized that this is a recipe for self-destruction. I have to realize that medicine is called a practice for a reason. It's not a science, it's never exact, it's messy, it's dirty, and sometimes all things will come together and it's beautiful. That is rarely the case, I think it's more like learning to walk again; medicine, just like walking, is learning to fall gracefully. I realized last night that I'm not going to be perfect, and that is just fine. I just have to do what I have been doing, keep getting up. Learn from my mistakes, implement changes as necessary, and continue to better myself. I have to learn how to win from a failure. I have to learn to fall gracefully again.

I'm back on the ambulance Friday, time to implement the changes that I need to and make sure to lock out the knee. If I fall or fail so what, as long as I keep getting back up. The patients get the best care I can provide for them at the time, then I have succeeded. I'm trying to prove that even though I'm "disabled" I am not handicapped, I just have to adapt my methods. I'll end this with a quote I saw on the Amputee Coalition of America's FaceBook Page. "I'm not disabled, I'm just playing life on Legendary Mode"

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Playing for Keeps

Tomorrow we start playing for keeps. I will be working my first 24 on my new schedule and be on my own. Well, my partner and I on our own. I'm still learning to adapt to ambulance life with the prosthetic, but it's simply a learning process that I have to adapt to. It feels great to get back into the saddle, I'm a little nervous about the thousands of "what ifs" that I may possibly encounter along the way. I didn't get this far by letting them stop me, so I guess I'll just strap on my leg and move on. Hoping to pick up my thicker liner for my prosthetic tomorrow or Monday so that losing suction inside the socket, which is what I think made my leg fall off, won't happen. I'm blessed to be working for a company now that is willing to take and chance on me, and not only take a chance, but support me in whatever way I may need.

That's all for tonight. I'll be back Monday night with an update on how the shift went and any new lessons learned. Until then...

Prosthetic Medic

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Precept is Over...On My Own Starting Sunday

Well. I have made it to the end of my time as a 3rd person rider. So far, so good...well if you don't count that whole leg falling off thing. Aside from that one major hiccup, everything else seems to be coming back to me. I had the opportunity to visit University Hospital last night, a place that I frequented quite often while working prior to my fall. I was greeted with a very warm reception, and it felt like old times.

That being said, I am very impressed with my new employer. A member of the command staff found me yesterday just to ask how I was coping with the adjustment back into the EMS world. I had spoken with him briefly about the remote possibility of needing to stay on as a 3rd person until I had worked out an answer with my prosthetic office to remedy my untimely dismemberment while in the ambulance. Once I assured him that I will be able to start my shift this Sunday on my own he shocked me...He made it clear that the moment I need help, be it returning to 3rd person for awhile or whatever it may be, they will work with me. That is a refreshing attitude, especially coming from my corner of the EMS world. A command staff that seems to care about their employees and seem legitimately interested in retaining them.

The dust is slowly coming out from between my ears, I've had a few runs where I was able to think through some critical decision making and still have the skills to act on them. I can honestly say, for the first time in 18 months, I feel normal when I'm in the back. I have already learned to use my "disability" as a means to disarm patients and gain trust. I was very worried about not being able to gain the trust of my patients due to being different. I have learned quite the opposite, they seem to be comforted by the fact that I am there, that I have been through the healthcare system that many of them are stuck trying to navigate. One patient I was transporting informed me that he had an artificial knee, I told him "so do I" and pulled up my pant leg, he quickly started laughing and almost seemed disarmed. I think I have not lost an edge by being an "able bodied person" but gained an advantage by being different.

Prosthetic Medic

Thursday, November 8, 2012

New Video from Otto Bock

New Video from Otto Bock about your very own Prosthetic Medic...I may be doing another video in the near future with them. I'll let you know more as soon as I do...Until then. Enjoy

Lights, Sirens, and a Dislodged Prosthetic

Yesterday I worked my first 24 hour shift as a paramedic. I've never done 24s before, I have to say I rather enjoyed myself. It was definitely a learning opportunity, adapting to a new service and how to function with the prosthetic.

That brings me to the big lesson of the night. Allow me to paint the scene...We were called for a patient with an active arterial bleed. Most times when you get these calls the first reaction is to doubt it's authenticity. Most facilities will call any type of bleeding arterial...but when they follow up with they are using sandbags to hold pressure and the patient is very hypotensive, then this starts to feel real. This information, along with the fact that this is a facility not known for calling for an ambulance for every sniffle and bump, made me get a little nervous. This is my first real run since I've been back on a truck. I've done the ALS transfers, the fall down go boom, the "stats of 66%" only to find an o2 saturation of 96% on room air. This was different. This was a legitimate chance to make  a difference, this is why I'm a time to see if I can still do this.

We arrive on scene to find the patient being circled by the staff. She is bleeding and doing a good job of it. She's pale, diaphoretic, and generally looking like death warmed up. Pressure is tanked, so we apply pressure to the site, control the bleeding, and get moving. I'm able to get a 16 gauge IV placed in her EJ (external jugular for the non-medical's in you neck), at this point we are arriving at one of our many local hospitals. Here's where things are markedly different for me since returning. My leg fell off...yes you read that prosthetic came off of my leg and is lifelessly hanging there inside my pant leg. This means I can no longer walk, there's no fixing this at this moment, and then the panic sets in. My preceptor for the service agrees to take the patient inside with our EMT partner and leaves me to my own shattered thoughts inside the truck.

I panic, this is my biggest fear coming true...a legitimate reason why I can't perform my job task (at least in my mind at the time it is). For the first time in a long time, well, in 8 months, I feel disabled. I can honestly say I haven't felt this way since I took my first steps on my new leg. I felt destroyed, I had done the medicine part to the best of my rusty ability, I felt good about that. Then with that leg sliding off, I truly had to face the fact that I am different, I can try to be like all those able bodied people but I'm not. I did what I always do, I made fun of the situation. I rolled my pant leg up, left my prosthetic sitting proudly in the center of the back of the truck, and hopped around cleaning up the back from the mess I made. I joked with my crew mates and moved on. Hopped into the station, put my leg back on, and moved on.

My preceptor said, that is what makes me different than most people, I laughed and moved on. That has been the status quo, bad things happen so laugh and move on. I'm going to the prosthetic office tomorrow to find out what we can do. As unacceptable as this situation is, It had to happen. Just happy that it happened now instead of later. With wearing the leg over 24 hours straight, the size of my stump is going to change. It gets smaller and so the prosthetic doesn't fit as well, we will find a way to fix the issue and I will move on.

That's our first major hurdle in the return to EMS. I really can't imagine one much worse than losing the ability to walk while treating a critical patient. Stay tuned for further educational lessons from your friendly neighborhood Prosthetic Medic...

Sunday, November 4, 2012

First Day...Prosthetic Medic is BACK

Well...I did it. Yesterday I worked my first 14 hours on an ambulance since I went for that life changing hike at Tioga Falls. I was able to do function. No problems lifting or moving. I haven't had to tackle stairs yet, but for the first day back I am very hopefully optimistic. I am with a much more laid back service (in terms of run volume), and they have all been so supportive of what I am trying to accomplish. It's hard to believe that just 7 months ago I was being fitted for my new leg, starting over essentially. I was blessed to have an amazing preceptor yesterday who was very encouraging and never once questioned my ability to return to do the job.

During one of many conversations yesterday, I told her I was contemplating writing a book about my experience, she thinks I need to adapt a screen play and call it "11 Stories" in reference to my fall and could easily be tied into the fact that many of us have many "stories" that we live through. An unlimited number of hardships that we either choose to overcome or let take us down. I can think of at least 11 stories in my life. I'm very happy to say that I feel like I have started down a very successful path finally. After months of spinning wheels and worrying about how to get back to a service that didn't want me to return, it feels great to go to work and not only be welcomed by the street crews, but welcomed by the command staff who is planning for my successful future at their company.

Janelle and Glen, you two made my first day back in 18 months amazing. It felt like I had never left the back of an ambulance, you guys made that possible.

Kate, you know you're my rock. You know that you're my best friend, and you know that without you this entire journey wouldn't have been possible. You have helped me literally learn to walk again, and I swear I will walk to the ends of the earth to repay the love and compassion (and occasional kick in the butt) that you have shown me.

To my family, be it by blood, marriage, EMS, or my readers, thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I started this blog just to document my own personal experience dealing with the emotional and physical demands of losing a leg and battling to get back to doing what I love, it was cathartic. I watched it transform as I did, I found that it started to inspire others to attempt to get back on their feet as well. I am amazed that I have been blessed enough to be a catalyst and get to hear these stories personally. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I love each and every one of you.

Now that this is out of the way...stay tuned for further adventures of your favorite Unipedal Paramedic. Learning to adapt and overcome the challenges of functioning as a paramedic with a prosthetic, trying to give the best patient care without becoming a patient myself. Until next time, look for another update after my next shift.

Prosthetic Medic