28 October 2009

Tuna confusion

I was in the Firehouse kitchen making something to eat when Rick walked in.

"Whatcha making?" he asks.

"A tuna sandwich.  You want one?"  I ask.

" I need to shower first," he says.  (He just got back from a call).  "I'll make one when I am done."

He goes to the showers and I finish making my sandwich.  Luca, my cat, smells the tuna and is meowing.  I look at the clock and it is one hour before his scheduled feeding time.  I tell him he has to wait but I give him a chunk of my sandwich anyway.

About 20 minutes later a call comes in and I have to leave the Station.  When I return, I go to the kitchen to feed Luca.  It is an hour past his feeding time and he is not happy at all.  I can't find his food.  It was a small container of Meow Mix I had left on the counter.  I look everywhere and can't find it.   I open another container of tuna and feed him that and he is happy and purring.  Still, I am wondering what happened to his food.  I KNOW I left it on the counter.

Rick is in the living room and I ask if he ate yet.  He said yes but he didn't really like the tuna sandwich he made.

"I don't like the albacore tuna you got.  I prefer the chunk light tuna," he says.

"I didn't buy albacore," I said.

"Well, whatever you got, I didn't really like it much," he says.

I go back to the kitchen and see Luca's Meow Mix container in the recycle bin.

I went back to the living room and ask Rick, "Are you wearing your contacts?"

He says no.  Geeeez.  He really should be!  And NO WONDER he didn't like the tuna sandwich he made.  He just ate Luca's food! 

I set the two containers together and realized the mistake he could have made.  But who am I to tell him???? 

19 October 2009

Higher Education

When most of us were kids at school, our English teachers used to have us pick out a new word from the dictionary and write it's definition and then use it in 10 sentences. Here in the Firehouse we kind of do something similar with words that have to deal with infections or diseases. Our words don't come from the dictionary though. Two or three times a month the doctors in the ER suggest a word for us. We then spend time learning all we can about this infection or disease. It is always interesting to learn things that we normally wouldn't ever know about.

We had just dropped our patient off in the ER at San Francisco General. The doctors and nurses were extremely busy that day and we were trying to get out of there as soon as possible. Just as we were ready to leave, Sheena decides she wants a "new word" even though there was a lot of commotion going on. So instead of asking a few doctors for this "word" and getting in the way or taking up too much of their time, she stands there and does a "mass announcement" to the ER.

"Does anyone have an infection or disease they can share with me?"

Before I knew it, Captain Harold is smacking his forehead in disbelief and the entire ER went dead silent. Like a slow motion movie, I look around the ER as Sheena stands there waiting for an answer and everyone seems too stunned to answer. Except one old man on a gurney.

"I got an infection I can share with you."

How she gets her foot in her mouth without even knowing it, I will never understand. But she DOES have a great knack for it.

17 October 2009

Half way there

Ouch! Ok, that hurt. Its hot here. I think I am on the ground; I'm not sure since my legs are in a strange position indicating that I am draped over something. I believe I was immobile for some time since my PASS alarm is shrilling in my ears and giving me a headache. I hate loud noises. Ok, I will admit that the whoop whoop of our Engine or Squad give me goosebumps even after all these years but that is different.

I can't move. Something heavy is on my legs. I try to kick and fight off the intruder giving me such discomfort but I can't move my legs. I'm irritated I am in this situation. Since I can't move, I will just have to wait for someone to get me out of here. And that alarm will scream until someone does. I swear, when they do, I will hammer it to pieces. Not being able to move has made me realize something. I HATE wrestling with the guys in the Station. One of our new "Physical activities" that we have recently taken an interest in (ok, the guys more than me since I'm not as strong as them!) .... and we have even hired an instructor.... is Wrestling. If I was better at wrestling, I am sure I could get myself out of this predicament. But I can't. Not yet at least.

My radio is blaring... I hear the Battalion Chief and my Captain talking to me, pleading for me to answer. I can't reach my radio. It must have fallen off my coat. I look around. I am (God knows WHERE!) but I suppose I am in the basement of the house we were fighting the fire in. My only thought is that I must have fallen through the floor. I am trying to think. Where was I before this place I am currently a prisoner in? I remember Nick. He was standing next to me. He was breaking the wall away. Rick was there with the hose. I remember yelling at one point telling them to get out of the house. I had a bad premonition. I felt Nick grab my coat. He was running with me in his grasp. Then I remember nothing until now. I don't know if Rick and Nick are ok and this concerns me more than my own plight.

I hear the commotion over the radio. They know where I am. What I don't like is the urgency in their commands and voices. I look around. I know it is hot. I am surrounded by a fire that is set on destroying everything in its path and it doesn't care about me. Why should it? I am only in the way of it's destructive path. To this fire I am just one more thing to gobble up. No big deal, right?

I hear the activity above me. They are making the hole in the floor that I fell through even wider. They must be careful otherwise they will join me down here and then I'll have all the unwanted company I can imagine. I see Nick through the smoke. I am relieved for that. But where is Rick?

It's getting hotter here. A look around again tells me I am 7 feet from a fire all around me. That isn't to mention any beams from overhead falling on me.

They say your life flashes before you when you think you are going to die. Mine doesn't. What happens is all the things that "caught my fancy" in my life throughout the years has found me laughing uncontrollably. Ok, anyone who knew I was crazy before can now say they were correct. Anyone who thought I was crazy has just had their suspicions confirmed.

I am thinking of the time my Father came home from work where he was a cake decorator and he was telling my Mom and I about the cats that waited by the back door to the Bakery every night when he arrived. He said they were feral cats and there were about 6 of them. He told us that they just loved the donuts he fed them. This had been going on for about three months. The following week I went with him to help him out at the Bakery. When we arrived, there were no cats to be found. He said my presence had probably scared them but they would come around. Half hour later, he looks out the door and tells me the cats are there and he is going to feed them. He takes out a large box of day-old donuts and proceeds to feed them. I go to watch him and am horrified. I am reminding him of how many times my Mother told him he needed glasses and that moment was one MAJOR reason why he needed them. "Dad? Those aren't feral cats........ they are feral SKUNKS! Can you PLEASE make an appointment with the eye doctor???"

My mind continues to wander......

I am remembering the time in High School when I had a VW Bug. I promised to take some friends to school one morning and I had "overbooked" my promises. Well, the VW only holds 5 but that day, there were 7 in my car. (I didn't have the heart to exclude anyone). It was raining that morning. We were packed in my VW, driving on the freeway. It was bad enough I had to use the stick shift between the legs of one of my male classmates but when my driver's side windshield wiper flew right off the car, I got to laughing so hard which made it hard trying to listen to the driving directions of the front seat passenger. I can't believe we made it to school without an accident!

My mind comes back to the present. Another alarm has sounded. Actually I heard the alarm before but ignored it. Couldn't do anything about it then and can't do anything about it now. The oxygen in my tank is almost depleted. I look up and can barely see the commotion going on through all the smoke. I still don't know where Rick is or if he is even ok. What I wouldn't do to be accidentally shot or stabbed by him just one more time in this life! What I wouldn't go to play one more joke, one more prank........... I don't want to die. I just want more chances to do all kinds of things in my life.

I can't breathe well now and I am tired..........

I get the feeling that my time is up because I can feel big hands lifting me up to Heaven. Didn't think I would go in that direction but I'm thankful all the same. I hear Rick's voice and figure something happened to him and he got to Heaven before me. Next thing I know I am being shouted at to breathe deeply and an oxygen mask is put over my face. I am thinking maybe I have to be resuscitated before going through Heaven's gates. Gotta walk through those gates on my own, right?

I slowly open my eyes and it hits me all at once. They have rescued me and I have oxygen again. I see Rick and in my heart I am glad he didn't get to Heaven before me. I'm also upset because now there is a 50% chance I won't get there at all. Darn. I was half way there!

23 May 2009

Sometimes you get burned out

After years on the job, it isn't unusual for one of us to feel burned out. Things can tend to feel the same day in and day out. Often we just get tired of all the pain and suffering we see people go through. Sometimes we just need to take a look at the overall picture of life. It is only then that we realize what we have been missing or not "seeing" all that time. To all of us who have ever felt burned out or might one day feel burned out... let this song touch your heart and remind you why we came to this calling in our lives in the first place.

God Bless all the Firefighters and EMS workers throughout the World!

19 May 2009

Duck all demands

Our Firehouse is one of the older Firehouses in San Francisco. Sure, we'll admit, sometimes we'd like to have a new and more modern and updated Fire Station. But we are quite fond of our Fire Station. We have so many great memories of this place. I'm not sure we are ready for any change.... although that could change at any moment.

My office is just down the hall from the kitchen...... about 500 feet. I am sentimental about this since the back of our Engine says "Keep Back 500 Feet."

Our Firehouse is adequately heated in the winter and somewhat cooled in the summer months. One good thing about the heating vents is that you can hear people talking in the kitchen through the vent in the floor from my office. Over the years, I have learned one thing: If you SMELL coffee in the Firehouse... you have to have some. We have great Italian coffee brewers here. THE BEST!

One day, I was feeling lazy. I smelled the coffee brewing one morning and I could hear some of the guys talking from the kitchen (through the heater vent). So I got on the floor and said to the heater vent: "Rick do you think you can bring me a cup of that great smelling coffee? Please???" Five minutes later he brought me a cup.

This scenario played several times over the next couple weeks with Seguace (our Firehouse duck mascot) watching and listening to each move and word I said.

One day, Seguace went to the heater vent and quacked for 2 minutes. He did this for several days with persistence. Then, the next thing I knew, Rick brought in a cup of coffee for him.

It dawned on me that Suguace had just ordered (and received!) coffee from the kitchen. To this day I still can't believe how smart that duck is. I have to be more careful in the future. I have to admit... I am so very happy I don't have to share MY cofffee with Seguace, since he leaves duck slobber in my cup every time he sneaks a sip when I'm not looking.

Still, the thought of Seguace copying my actions floors me. Who would think of a duck as a caffeine addict? :-)))

'Ya just gotta love this alternative "San Francisco Zoo" !!!!

03 May 2009

I'm losing my touch

"Engine 7, Rescue 2, an EMS response on the freeway. 32 year old male injured by an apparent pipe bomb, conscious and alert, bleeding from the arm." (We are given directions to the scene at this point).

"County Fire, Engine 7, Rescue 2 responding."

We arrive on the scene. A Chevy Malibu has impacted the center divide. Reports tell us that a bomb had been thrown into the Malibu from a passing car. It hit our patient in the arm. Our patient is lying on the ground near to his car. Passerbyers who had witnessed what had happened had pulled over to assist the man. His shirt is blackened and his arm is bleeding, obviously burned.

As we attend to the patient, we are told by the police that a suspect has been arrested and is in police custody. We were told it was a molotov cocktail that had been thrown into our patient's car. Our patient is prepped for the ride to the emergency room. He is in stable condition. During the ride, I realized how tired I was. The humming of the squad's engine just about put me to sleep.

Upon arriving at the ER, the attending physician asks for details and updates on the patient.

So I give the pertinent information to the doctor. "32 year old male, hit in arm with a masultov cocktail, BP 130/70, Pulse 85, Respiration 32..."

"Mazultov?" the doctor asks.

"Yes, but he is stable. There was more damage to the car than to the patient," I answer without thinking.

It just took three seconds to hear the giggling of the nurses before I caught on to my verbal mistake. I'm losing my touch. Usually it only takes ONE second!

22 April 2009


We use a lot of acronyms in the Firehouse. It's normal. We don't have time to talk... especially at certain times when we are in the middle of a fire or emergency or just plain lazy. Some of us here know AMS (American Sign Language) since Sheena learned it many years ago to "talk" with the deaf and we picked up on it. We know we aren't supposed to enter a scene without being equipped with a SCBA (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus). And Heaven forbid should we forget our PASS (Personal Alert Safety System). For sure CHAOS (Chief Has Arrived On Scene) would have our hides. ("Chaos" is Sheena's nickname here).

Today we learned a new acronym.... it didn't have much to do with Firefighters (or did it?)

We have a BSNM room in our Firehouse. Let me explain a thing or two. A Firehouse of all men can endure anything. We are all the same. But when a woman is involved in the Firehouse, everything changes. This is not necessarily a BAD thing..... it just means we need to change everything about us me. And we did. Actually, we didn't have a choice.

When Sheena first came to the Firehouse, she was the only woman. We have gone through periods of other female Firefighters and Paramedics with our department but those were short lived days. Various reasons kept them from remaining with us... mostly it was for our "personal safety" as Sheena would say. Women have a nice way of wording things!!!

Seriously. Sheena has been pretty much correct in her intuitions in the past but as men we wish she could just be wrong ONCE! (Ok, maybe a few times just to be on par with us!)

Back to the acronyms. We have this room in our Firehouse called the BSNM room.

This is a room where you go to sit down immediately. You MUST take a seat! If you do this, you don't have to worry about any other thing. There is no TV in this room but you can read the paper or a magazine should you desire. No one will come scold you and you won't have to fix the room up when you are done. No one will have to invest in cleaning costs and none of your workmates will have to do "caper duty." Mind you, it is SITTING ROOM only! This room will make anyone happy... except the male that is forced to sit down but he will eventually get used to it. Hopefully.

BSNM stands for Be Seated No Mess. This is the acronym she gave our common bathroom.

Wonder what's next?

Recovery Time

It has been a long 5 months since Captain Harold had his heart attack. We wanted to thank everyone who have been sending their wishes for Harold and keeping him in their thoughts and prayers. Also, thank you to all of you who have sent cards, flowers and letters to him. It has kept him in good spirits all this time.

The best news is that Harold has passed his physical with his doctor and he has been given permission to come back to the Firehouse with the previous restrictions removed. We can now breathe a sigh of relief. There have been many changes in the Firehouse. Although we all ate healthy to begin with, we are still changing our diets with Harold in mind.

It's good to be back! Once again, thank you ALL OF YOU for your support these past five months.


15 November 2008

Life is precious

"You have to get to SF General and immediately," is what I heard on the phone. "One of the guys had a heart attack."

My heart stopped and so did time.

"I'll tell you about Steve when you get here," Rick said.

I am not sure what I was thinking other than being scared. When you know something has happened to one of your Firefighters and you don't know all the details, time stops and everything after that seems to run in slow motion. I know it took me about 45 minutes to reach the hospital but it seemed like days. My head was whirling and I was fearful that I might have to pull my car over just to throw up. That didn't seem so lady-like so I fought the nausea.

I parked quickly in the lot, and ran to the Emergency room. I didn't even know where I was supposed to go. I was trembling so bad that I couldn't even stop to call Rick and ask where they were. I was directed to the Cardiac Care Unit upstairs. I never realized how long elevators could take! How many other people have taken these same elevators rushing to their family members only to feel like they are in a time warp?

I jumped out of the elevator and ran down the hall. I saw Rick standing there. I was running so fast that I misjudged how much time I needed to come to a complete stop and ended up smacking into the Crash Cart in the hall... probably the same Crash Cart they used for Steve. The fact it was in the hall brought a double emotion from my heart: either Steve had been successfully resuscitated or he died. Rick picked me up off the floor.... ok, I can't throw up on the freeway because it wouldn't be lady-like but I have the knack to fall flat on my face many times in my life.... this being one of them.... and it isn't lady-like either but seems to be WHO I am... a total klutz. I looked at everyone who was standing around. One of them was Steve. I was confused. I never knew anyone could have a heart attack and mend so quickly.

I looked at Rick. I always trusted him. He had always told me the truth even when I didn't want to hear it.

"What is going on?" I asked.

"Sheena... I couldn't tell you on the phone. You would have freaked and I was afraid you'd get into an accident."

Ok, now I was totally confused and a bit irritated because I now knew less than an hour ago.

"WHO???" I yelled.

"Captain Harold," was all Rick said before I rushed into the CCU room, fighting off Rick and two others who tried to prevent me from going into the room.

"You can't be in here," the nurse said.

"Like heck!" I screamed and ran to Harold's bedside.

The attending Physician motioned to the nurse and she let me be.

Harold was pale... actually a strange shade of gray. He seemed to be sleeping. My heart ached. Actually it hurt like hell.

The past flashed in front of my eyes. I have had the priveledge to work with Harold for over 25 years. He was like my Father. He was always there for me. He was my Mentor. He was there when I lost friends and family members. He and his wife pulled me into their lives and comforted me when I needed it the most. They never had children. I suppose I was considered their child. I was there when he lost his wife some years ago. He never remarried. While others felt enough years had passed and he should "get out and meet a woman," I knew Harold's heart and what he really felt. He was still in love with his wife of 30+ years. He would never remarry. I respected him for his feelings. I admired him.

And now there he was... in critical condition. 65 years old. He couldn't die on me. I wouldn't allow it. My anger towards Rick for deceiving me and allowing me to believe it was Steve who had the heart attack dissolved. I realized Rick never mentioned in so many words that Harold was the one who had the heart attack... he just said we would TALK about Steve. I needed to know what he meant by that.

I went out to the hall where Rick, Steve and others were. I stared at them all trying to figure out what they were all thinking or feeling. I couldn't. I was too confused with my own feelings.

"Tell me," I said to Rick. And he did.

My partner knows me well. Yes, I would have freaked out if I had known it was Harold who had a heart attack. True, I was devastated that I thought it was Steve. He is one of my men in the Firehouse and I consider him and everyone of them equally important and special to me. But Steve is young and strong and I could have convinced myself that he would pull through a heart attack. Harold is more seasoned and would have to struggle a lot more to get through one. I care deeply about everyone I work with or "KNOW" and I have a difficult time dealing with something bad happening to any of them.

Suddenly I was thankful I didn't know the truth during that phone call. I gave Rick and the other guys a hug and went back into Cap's room. I remained there the entire weekend.... talking to him, crying, scolding, apologizing. He finally woke up and said, "Can you just be quiet for a minute???" I was ecstatic! He NOTICED I was annoying! This was GREAT news!

Captain Harold eventually had an angioplasty. His heart attack was due to a blockage in one of his arteries. Thank God he had the attack in the Firehouse.... and thank God Steve was there to perform CPR. Had Harold been at home (he lives alone)... he would have most likely died.

I am grateful beyond belief for Steve's fast thinking and expertise in CPR. Have I mentioned I have the greatest guys a Firehouse could ever have??? Well, I DO! I am proud of them all more than words could ever describe.


PS. Harold is getting stronger and stronger each and every day and we are just so happy and thankful about this. Thank you to everyone who has sent their love and wishes to Harold. God Bless you all!

12 October 2008

Getting even... eventually.....

After 6 days of suffering with a sore throat, our fellow Firefighter, Steve, finally went to the doctor to have it checked out. The usual vital signs were taken and the doctor came in a few minutes later. After asking questions regarding his health and how long he had the sore throat for, Steve was given a gown and asked to strip down to his underwear.

He called me on the cell phone at this point.

"What do I do? I'm wearing the briefs I got for my birthday!" (Yes, there are still some people in this world... even grown men.... who get underwear for their birthday!)

"I don't know, " I told him. "There's nothing you can do. Just take it like a man. No one told you to wear those briefs!"

We hung up.

Steve undressed as directed and waited for the worst. The doctor walked in, looked at Steve's underwear and said, "Real cute. From a woman?"

"Yeah. A birthday gift," Steve says.

The doctor was right. Steve's glands were swollen. All the way down to his groin. He was put on antibiotics and sent home to rest for a few days. Instead, he made a detour to the Firehouse.

Steve storms into the Firehouse. "Where IS she???" he asks.

I am sitting in the living room and I can see Sheena's shadow on the wall make a U-turn. After all, she is the only "SHE" here.

Everyone asks him what happened and he tells them. They all begin to laugh and hoot and holler. I swear some of them were rolling around on the ground.

"It's NOT funny!" Steve defends himself.

"Yes it is!"

"This is the best ever!"

"I can't believe this story is about you and not HER!"

"This IS about her. SHE gave them to me!" Steve says.

"She didn't tell you to actually WEAR them," someone says.

"I didn't have any clean ones," he says.

"So let me get this right," Captain Harold says as he comes into the room. "You didn't have clean underwear except the ones Sheena gave you for your birthday." (Harold didn't know the whole story about the briefs Sheena gave Steve). "And now you are upset at her because you had to strip down to your skivvies at the doctor's. I don't understand why you would blame HER for that!"

"You don't understand, Cap," Steve says. "It wasn't the briefs or the fact they were given as a gift. It's what she DID to them! And I owe her one!"

Harold looked confused. He had no clue what Steve was talking about. All of a sudden, Steve lowers his sweat pants to show Harold what he is talking about. By now all the guys are in great fits of laughter. It's the kind of laughter where a guy dances around and jumps up and down and looks totally out of control. (We men know how to have a good time!)

Harold tries to not laugh. And it was very difficult for him. Then he lost it. After he regained control, all he could say was, "I think she is hiding somewhere in here. Go for it!"

Steve took off looking for Sheena. Captain Harold looked at all of us and shook his head. "Where DOES she come up with these things???" He was referring to the personalized screen print on the briefs:


Steve never did find Sheena that day. He wasn't angry at her. He just wanted to tell her to beware because he was going to get her back. He DID get her back about a month later. And it was a great joke. But that will be another story later.

06 October 2008

Our Firehouse Mascots: Signore Seguace and Luca

Lately we have been getting many requests for photos of our Firehouse Mascots....... Seguace and Luca. After 60+ requests, we decided to post their photos. Neither one of them holds still long enough to take a picture so this was the best we could do.

From all of us at the Firehouse

04 October 2008

9-11... Can't forget... Won't forget.

I was in Italy at the time of the attack on the World Trade Center. My Captain called me within an hour and asked me to come back to the US immediately. He was gathering together a Search and Rescue team and I was to lead the team. It took me 20 hours from that phone call to the time I landed in San Francisco. I was met at the airport by my partner, Rick and my Captain. On the way to the Firehouse, I was briefed on what was going on.

My Mother had called me as soon as I landed in San Francisco, sounding frantic and she was crying. "Tell me you aren't in New York!" she pleaded.

"No Mamma, I'm not and wasn't." (She was afraid for me because I had been meeting our publisher every couple months for this book our Firehouse is writing).

I didn't want to alarm her but needed to be truthful with her.

"Mamma? Some of us in the Firehouse are going there in the next day or two. We are going to be part of the Search and Rescue. Everything will be ok. Alright?"

She cried more and told me to be careful. I remember as a little girl when Kennedy got shot and how she ran through the house in an epileptic panic and cried and tried to hug me but I couldn't return her hugs effectively because I didn't know what was happening. I was scared too but all I could do was say, "Don't cry, Mamma. Everything will be okay." And here I was saying the same words to her again. And once again she was trying to believe the words of her "little girl."

Five of us on the Search and Rescue team gathered our equipment and headed for New York with our Rescue dogs. I can still feel the horrible ache that was in my heart when I saw what was left of the Twin Towers from our plane. There wasn't a dry eye on the plane and it was only going to get worse. I could feel it.

Arriving at Ground Zero... the smell of metal, burning wires and death made me choke. I tried so hard to fathom what kind of evil people could have done this. It was incomprehensible. This was OUR country but had this happened anywhere else in the world, my heart would have broke all the same. Evil is evil no matter where in the world it shows its face.

One thing I always disliked was when people would say, "God Bless America." I often wondered why people didn't think God would bless the WORLD!

We gathered our rescue dogs and eqipment and we were directed where to start our searches. We were one of the few groups to have our dogs fitted with booties so they wouldn't hurt their feet walking over sharp and dangerous things. I later found out someone had donated booties to all the dogs who were part of the search and rescue efforts.

As we sifted through the rubble, we found people still alive and each time we were overcome with such emotion. Each rescue was a victory. Along with finding survivors, we also found those who didn't survive. There were lots of body parts that we gathered along the way praying and hoping that those people would be identified one day to give their families closure.

One evening, during a search, my dog started whining. He laid down on the ground with his head and eyes down. I knew he had found something. I wasn't prepared for what I was about to see. I hadn't gotten used to the body parts we were finding but I was sure I had seen most everything at that point.

I called for Rick to come to us.

"He found something," I told Rick.

"What is it?" Rick asked.

I told him I wasn't sure yet because I hadn't looked and quite frankly I had a bad feeling about what it was. I motioned the dog away, praising him for finding something. And there is was. It took everything in me not to throw up or faint.

"Jesus Christ!" Rick moaned.

I could feel the tears roll down my face. My hands were shaking. I am a very strong person but at that moment I was proven wrong. I took off the scarf I had around my neck that I was using to keep from inhaling too much dust and smoke from the debris. I gently scooped up what we found and wrapped it in my scarf. I held it close to my chest as if to keep it warm knowing it was much too late.

"You okay?" Rick asked.

I was shivering so bad. I looked at him and his eyes were filled with tears.

"No, I'm not," was all I could say, my teeth chattering.

I knew that there were body bags and buckets where we were putting the body parts we were finding. I couldn't imagine leaving this in a bag or bucket. I didn't want to put it anywhere. I wanted to find the rest of it; where it came from.

I remember seeing the area where they were gathering all the bits and pieces from victims. I don't know what happened to me. I stopped and dropped to the ground on my knees and just wept. I don't remember Rick trying to comfort me. I only know that I could not be comforted. To think that terrorists could do all this without a bit of guilt. It hurt me to the core.

Exhausted, Rick guided me towards the make-shift outdoor morgue.

"Whatcha got?" the Coroner asked.

I couldn't say anything and he asked again.

"This has to go in a special place. Please?" I said, beginning to cry again.

He walked over to me and pulled back the scarf to uncover what I was holding.

"Please?" I said again. "A special place. Not with all the rest of the parts."

"Holy Mother of God!" the Coroner screamed. His face turned pale.

I know Coroners see the worst possible things in life (and death) but looking around Ground Zero, knowing what happened there and thinking to moments that led up to my "find," it was almost impossible to fathom.

"I'll make sure it has a special place," he said calmly. "I promise."

And he took the 5 month fetus from my arms, still wrapped in my scarf. It was a boy. My heart ached for the Mother of this baby. She was still out there perhaps and she had to be reunited with her baby one way or another. A few weeks later, I found out that through DNA, Mother and baby were reunited and buried together.

We spent many more days at Ground Zero. First it was Search and Rescue and then it turned to Recovery efforts. For months after that, my men and I went for counseling to try and understand our emotions. We went through periods of being very sad and depressed to being terribly angry.

People around us always seemed to keep reminding us of Ground Zero. They would give us books or articles about 9-11. We would thank them graciously for the gift. I know they meant well but we could never open any of those books. We still have three of those books sitting in my Firehouse. They have never been opened let alone read. It is not that I want to forget that horrific disaster. I just don't want to remember those days or what all the Rescue workers went through. I don't want my heart to keep breaking forever. And I don't want the image of that unborn baby to haunt me forever.

12 September 2008


We are not a normal Firehouse. I have humbled myself by saying this many times before in the past. We don't have a dog, let alone a Dalmation at best... like several other Stations do. Rather, we have a duck. Yes, a duck. It wasn't by choice. He "followed" us back to the Station one day and we tried many times to persuade him the other way but he didn't listen. He flew onto our rig after a call and several times we removed him trying to get him to "go home." He kept flying back on until we got back to the Firehouse. He waddled into our Station that day like he owned the place and has called it "home" ever since. Hence, he was named Signore Seguace (meaning Mr. Follower in Italian).

Seguace doesn't like "intruders" who come to our Firehouse. He is keen on the color red and yellow. Perhaps this is one of the reasons he followed our rig all the way to the Station. He doesn't do well with things painted black and white or just white. This would include the San Francisco Police Department. The minute one of the Officers arrives at our Firehouse (official business, just to visit, etc) Seguace races out to the outer gate surrounding our Firehouse and quacks wildly and puts on a display of aggression. Mind you, it is the ONLY time he is aggressive and this is a duck whose best friend is a cat. They chase each other around the Station and paw (or peck) each other playfully. You couldn't separate the two if you wanted to!

The minute the Officer enters the gate, they are at the mercy of "the duck." Seguace attacks their boots first..... pecking and drooling all over the shoelaces until he unties them. When he finishes that, he starts pecking at their pant leg and eventually their legs. This gets the Officer jumping up and down trying to avoid the pecking and looking for protective cover. Then the race is on to see who gets into the Firehouse first and it is usually Seguace.

My men are in the upstairs windows laughing their heads off singing, "WHO LET THE DUCK OUT???" in tune to "Who let the dogs out???" and dancing around like fools.

Words cannot describe this scenario well enough. You'd just have to imagine a duck attacking a Police Officer in the City of San Francisco. But then again, this is San Francisco and anything can happen here. Life is great, no?

30 August 2008


Now that Sheena has had her back surgery and everything is fine again, I thought it only appropriate to recount the ordeal. Ok, ok.... and to get her back for all the times she made me make a fool of myself (although she will say I should give myself credit for doing that all on my own).

The first step for "preparing" her for the surgery was to have steroids injected into her spine to reduce the swelling before they did the surgery. It sounded like a simple procedure...... I mean, she has had injections into her shoulder a couple times before and they were done in the office but this time, perhaps it was because it dealt with her spine, they had to do it in a surgical environment.

They doped her up real good and she didn't want this. In fact, even as they were announcing they would "give her something to relax" she was trying to tell them she didn't need anything... which brings me to this moment. This is WHY I am writing this blog. It is too funny NOT to write about!

Sheena, like the rest of us hate those Hummers that are out on the road. First of all, they are too big, they are gas guzzlers, and seem to be totally unnecessary in this world unless they are involved in Military affairs.

Sheena had just come out of the operating room with steroids in her spine and Looney drugs in her veins. She was as happy as can be. Standard time in the recovery room is 45 minutes. They haul her out after 20. She has lived up to her reputation by being a terrible patient. (I heard she woke up and asked if she could go home. They told her she had to go to recovery first and she told them she was going to call the cops). After recovery, she was put in a wheelchair to be transported to her "car in waiting".

That would be me.

The male nurse rolled her down the hallway and into the parking garage.

"RICK! LOOK! It's a HUMMER!" she yelled. "It's a darn HUMMER!" I look out into the garage and she sees I am looking in the wrong place and corrects me.

"NO, you fool! I'm IN the stupid HUMMER!" Sure enough she was in a black wheelchair.... wide enough and square enough to be considered a HUMMER.

We hate Hummers.

She was humiliated.

"Get me out of this thing!" she yelled. The nurse brought her to the passenger side of my car and off he ran as fast as lightening. No need to stay around, I suppose.

A week later, she gets a brainstorm. This doesn't happen often so we surely take it seriously. She has decided to have the surgery to remove the tumor and have it done immediately. No explanation. We are not surprised. She rarely has an explanation for anything anyway. And when she DOES, it really doesn't pertain to anything.

Surgery is scheduled three weeks later. We have time to plan and prepare. At least you would THINK!!! Nothing goes as planned and we should have known this from the beginning. The Doctor calls and asks her to come in earlier than her 1.30 appointment. He has had a cancellation. She arrives at the hospital at 12.30 and is taken in immediately. Problem is.. the people that have come with her have irritated her to the point of making her blood pressure rise and the surgery is on the brink of being postponed. There is no way in hell she is going to have the surgery postponed. (Mind you, she was instructed not to eat or drink anything from midnight on and here is was..... 3pm and she was not a Happy Camper!) It was bad enough she wouldn't take off her earrings and they had to cover them with electrical tape so she wouldn't "catch fire" if they had to cauterize anything.

A nurse walks into the pre-op room. "Your name?" she asks.

"Isn't it on the chart?" Sheena asks.

"Yes, but I am just making sure I have the right person," the nurse explains.


"OH! I HEARD about you! Everyone has heard about you!" she says.

"I didn't do it," Sheena says.

The nurse excuses herself and next thing you know, there are three other nurses in the room. One is taking vital signs, one is setting up an IV, the other is writing in the chart.

"So what is it you heard about me?" Sheena asks.

They all laugh. "Dr. Welsh has it written on your chart that you need to be watched. Says you would go AMA even during the surgery."

"And we aren't allowed to put you in a Hummer when you leave the hospital," another nurse says. "Heard you freaked out last time you were in one."

Since her blood pressure wasn't going down, most likely due to the friends in the room and the fact she was in an awful lot of pain, they send the friends away and give her a shot of Morphine. Half hour later they give her a second one.

Bad mistake. She is beyond looney now and gets the giggles. A bird outside the window pooped on the landing and she just couldn't stop laughing.

"I could NEVER do that in public!" she says.

Off to the OR.....

Dr. Welsh comes to talk to her before the surgery. "I heard you didn't take your blood pressure medication this morning," he says.

"The instructions said no food or drink after midnight. So I didn't," she answers.

"I thought my nurse told you the medication was okay to take with a sip of water," he explains.

"Maybe but that is not what the instructions said."

"I heard you had two peices of Jolt gum this morning," he says. (Jolt gum is caffienated gum... two peices has the equivalent amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee).

"Yep," she says. "But I didn't eat or drink them. I just chewed them." (This coming from a girl who "follows the rules"!)

Surgery took about an hour. She didn't go AMA in the middle of it. She didn't catch fire. In fact, everything went well.

I was sitting with her when she woke up. "Good evening, Sleeping Beauty," the nurse says.

"Can I go home now?" Sheena asks. (She never gives up).

"Maybe after recovery time. And you have to walk and pee for us first," the nurse answers.

Sheena looks at her wrists quickly and gives a sigh of relief. They once had to restrain her in the hospital because she tried twice to leave a few hours after major surgery. Even with the restraints she got out of them Houdini style. No one ever knew how she did it.

Captain Harold and three others from the Firehouse came to see her.

"Oh, you are still here!" Harold says. "Wasn't sure if you would be or not but we took a chance."

The nurses started to flock into the room. And I noticed they started taking their time doing what they had to do in the room. Looked to me like they didn't want to leave. Well, heck! Firefighters in uniform! What more could they want? Other nurses walked past the room and came back again standing outside the door watching, waiting to start a conversation with the guys. This went on for about a half hour and then Sheena realized what was happening.

"Can I go home now?" she asked.

"After some time," the nurse said while talking with the guys at the same time. Sheena looks at me and then looks at the nurse and the guys and back to me. "I'm never gonna get out of here" she mouths to me. I was getting that feeling too.

"Can you get me a private room?" Sheena asks.

"Why?" the nurse asks.

"So I can get out of here faster?" The nurse knew what she was insinuating and turned red in the face. She left the room.

The next nurse to come into the room was checking the IV fluids. Sheena tried her luck with this nurse.

"I have to go for a walk and pee," she says. (Sounded like what someone's dog would say!)

Unaware, the nurse pulls the IV pole around the side of the bed, helps Sheena out, and deposits her in the bathroom.

"No listening!" she yells from inside the bathroom.

She comes out and is ready for a walk. The nurse is holding on to her elbow to steady her but Sheena takes off at a fast pace and the nurse is basically running after her saying, "Slow down! I can't push the pole that fast and you're pulling on the tubing!"

Back in the room she is bothering to go home again. Funny how the nurses found things to do before letting her go home. Finally, after another 45 minutes of Sheena using the call button for everything from ice and water to blankets and pillows, they decided they'd had enough of her and let her go. She was unhooked from the IV and went to get dressed. The guys went back to the Station and I went down to the garage to bring the car around to the front entrance of the hospital. A nurse would be bringing her in a wheelchair to the car. Even before I saw it, I KNEW the nurses had gotten their revenge.

"Oh my god, Rick!!!! They put me in another HUMMER! Get me OUT of this thing!!!"


24 August 2008

No frills here..... just lace

Poor Rookies. I was once one.... glad I'm not anymore. When I was a Rookie, we didn't have the steadfast people in our Firehouse that we have today. They played jokes and pranks, yes.... but not as voraciously. Now we always strive to outdo ourselves.

One joke we played on a new Rookie was one of the best we ever did. We still laugh about it today and most new Rookies get initiated this way. We had a very innocent and very naiive Rookie named Ron. We played jokes on him constantly. One of the best jokes was adding extra garments to his bunker pants just before retiring for the evening.

We always lay out our bunker gear and boots beforehand for the next call we go on. The bunker pants are around our boots and the suspenders are attached to the bunker pants. When we get a call, all we have to do it "jump" into our gear and we are ready to go. It saves time for us. We grab the rest of our gear off hooks just before jumping onto the rig.

Problem is, when you are bolted awake in the wee hours of the morning, you aren't thinking too clearly the first few minutes. You go through the routine of "getting dressed" and gathering your gear as if it were second nature. But you wake up while on route to whatever call it is you are going on. Often it is nothing serious.

We were on the rig flying to the scene of a small fire and trying to fully wake up. As a new Rookie, this guy had a harder time coming to grips with waking up. The fire was a garbage container fire. This Rookie was instructed to help put the fire out. Water is doused on the fire and the Rookie is stirring the contents to make sure it is fully out. The neighbors have gathered around to watch as things unfold. One of our senior Firefighters is videotaping.

"Whatcha wearing, Ron?" one of the Firefighters asks. "You get your clothes inside out?"

Ron has no idea what he is talking about and continues to stir the debris.

"Didn't know you were into that, Ron," someone else says.

Half awake, Ron says, "Uh huh."

By now the crowd is talking, laughing and pointing at the Firefighters. With the fire in the garbage container out, Ron returns his equipment to the truck.

"Nice panties," one of the boys in the crowd yells. Of course, waking up and curiosity make Ron look around to see what "panties" the boy is talking about. He looks and looks and comes to the realization that the crowd is staring at HIM. Someone points. He looks down. Wrapped around his calf is a pair of red lace panties.

His face turns red and all he can manage to say is, "I'm NEW around here."

It's hard to get a pair of panties off your leg when you have a size 12 boot on.


16 August 2008

Standard Issued Uniform Shirts

Our last shift had been a busy one compared to most other nights. In the past 12 hours we had been called out on 8 calls. Our total amount of time in the Firehouse has been about 3 hours. Just before the last call, we had been called out to a structural fire that had made its way to a 3 alarm fire. Upon returning to the Station, most of us had taken showers. Sheena had procrasintated saying she just knew that if she got in the shower, the alarms would sound again. It had been quiet while all the others took showers so why should she think it would happen when SHE was in the shower? Captain Harold tells her to go shower and off to the showers she goes and DANG! if those alarms didn't sound again!

"Rick! I forgot my shirt in my locker! Throw me one!" I heard her yelling. I ran to her locker, grabbed the navy blue t-shirt and threw it over the stall to her.

Although she was the last on the rig, she still made it in time, all decked out in her bunkers. All she had to do was get her helmet and gloves on, which she did as we rolled out of the bay.
We were on our way to an accident. Car vs. motorcycle. It was a warm evening. Sheena and I are attending to the rider of the motorcycle. His leg is obviously broke and we begin to stabilize and splint it. Sheena removes her bunker coat and to my horror, she isn't wearing the standard issued uniform T-shirt we all wear.
Since this was an accident, San Francisco PD is on scene to take reports and investigate. I can hear some snickering amongst themselves.
We get our patient loaded up on a gurney to be transported to the hospital and one of the Officers says, "Hey Chief! Since when did your department get new uniforms?"

Everything seemed to be a blur of sentences after that.....

"Whatcha talking about, Miller?"
"New uniforms. Your department have a budget cut?"
"ALL departments have had budget cuts!"
"Your's must have had BIG cut-backs."
"Who cares about uniforms right now at a time like this?"
"SHEEEEEEEEEEENA!!!!" (This would be Captain Harold and he is smacking his own forehead)
"Hey, nice uniform!" (Yelled by several other police officers)
"What IS it with you people talking about uniforms???"
"Look, mommy! Winnie the Pooh!"

That's when it registers. She looks down at her shirt.

"Oh my god, Rick! What did you do???"

I'm sure I'll get paid back for this one day. Actually, I'm positive.

19 July 2008

Cell Phones and Italian Food

There was a time when I couldn't wait to get a cell phone. And once I did, it was the most wonderful thing in my life. I could connect with anyone I needed to without having to run back home or go to a public phone to make a phone call. I was in Heaven. But then the phone rang and rang and rang. And I soon learned I hated the sound of the ring. Then I discovered you could change the ring to announce the person who was calling me. How cool was this??? So now I had many ring tones but couldn't remember which one was associated with which friend. So honestly, I started to IGNORE the calls and only listened to the voice mails.

Many of the guys in the Firehouse had phones that had what you called VIBRATION on their cell phones. The phone didn't ring...... it just vibrated. I spent weeks trying to find out how to make MINE do that. My phone was old and didn't have that option. I was disappointed. Everyone told me to get a new phone. I liked my phone (it was Fire Engine RED!) Then I found out I could UPGRADE my phone (with a 2 year contract). Oh well, what the heck? I had no other plans, I wasn't going anywhere in the next 2 years. So I upgraded. And now my new phone had the ability to "vibrate" rather than ring. This was so cool!

When I went to the Firehouse the next day for work, I was so excited and happy to show off my new phone. For once I would be "up-to-date" as far as technology was concerned and with everyone else! I arrived at my Station for my shift . Everyone was at the dinner table eating. I walked in and announced, "Hey everyone! I FINALLY got a VIBRATOR!"

Someone shouted, "You GO, girl!!!"

Others gave unmentionable comments.

I guess a vibrating phone (which is what I meant!) can be perceived as a personal vibrator with a minimal amount of incorrect English at the most incorrect time.

Another case in point:

We had decided to have lunch at an Italian restaurant. Our day was slow and we were sure we'd have enough time before being called out on an emergency. At least our fingers are crossed since we don't go out to eat often and this place had been highly recommended.

We were seated and were in the process of ordering. At the time this happened, I was just learning Italian. I ordered a particular dish and asked the waiter (who had a very strong Italian accent), "Does this dish have any preservatives in it?" (I get migraines from MSG and needed to know!). His name was Giuseppe and he asked me, "Do you WANT preservatives???" I told him NO. He was quiet for some moments and then said, "We can prepare your dish without preservatives but just to let you know we don't normally add them." I was happy for this but concerned about his giggles and laughter and Italian bantering with the others in the kitchen....... who also laughed like they heard the funniest thing they ever heard before.

I found out later that "preservatives" in Italian meant CONDOMS. My goodness. I can't just learn "Italian"... I have to learn what ISN'T Italian!

It is not so bad to make a fool of yourself in public (you can laugh at yourself and make someone's day). Somewhere down the road, everything will be forgotten and forgiven. But to do it while in uniform is another thing....

17 June 2008

I tried....

I found you unconscious... not breathing........... with no pulse. I began CPR immediately, determined to bring you back into this world..... to live a long life..... to be with people who loved you and needed you. But you had other plans. You didn't want to be in this world anymore. And I could no longer promise the people who stood around, "waiting for a miracle to happen" that there would be one today. I had to tell the truth. YOU were stronger than me this time. YOU were in control. YOU knew what you wanted and demanded it. And so it was. You won in the end. You had your way. You are gone. And I could not comfort anyone here who loved you. They blamed me. I blamed me. I SHOULD have been stronger. I should have been more in control. But life (and death) is not always about strength or control... it is about WILL and what the heart feels and has had to endure. My heart is heavy tonight.... 45 minutes of constant CPR and you left me anyway. I feel like I have failed. I feel like I have let you and others down. Perhaps I have realized that once again, I am not God.

(This is in memory of a friend who committed suicide)


Step one you say we need to talk
He walks you say sit down it's just a talk
He smiles politely back at you
You stare politely right on through
Some sort of window to your right
As he goes left and you stay right
Between the lines of fear and blame
You begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Let him know that you know best
Cause after all you do know best
Try to slip past his defense
Without granting innocence
Lay down a list of what is wrong
The things you've told him all along
And pray to God he hears you
And pray to God he hears you

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

As he begins to raise his voice
You lower yours and grant him one last choice
Drive until you lose the road
Or break with the ones you've followed
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he's just not the same
And you'll begin to wonder why you came

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life

Where did I go wrong, I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life
How to save a life

15 June 2008

Every Station has one

Every Station has one. Every Rookie, Firefighter, Paramedic, Fire Chief, Fire Captain, Battalion Chief (and anyone else in-between) has been one. No one is spared. A Firehouse is not a Firehouse unless you can joke and tease and pull pranks. It is what we do to relieve the stress of the more serious, the more heartbreaking, the more "personal" parts of our jobs. Every Fire Station has a "Cinnamon Dragon." And if they are lucky, they can have several at a time who are not suspecting it. On the outside, most of us "look" professional. We portray that in the public eye (or we TRY to!). But when we are alone, in the comfort of our Station... we are ..... well, just like everyone else who wants to have fun once in awhile. For now, this video tells it all. To BE or NOT TO BE a Cinnamon Dragon is not within a person's control. They unsuspectingly fall into the trap. And what ensues is laughter that you can hear all through the night when everyone is trying to sleep but some remain awake thinking of...... the Cinnamon Dragon.

04 June 2008


I was in the Dispatch room of our Firehouse one evening and a call came in:

"Attention all Stations. Be on the lookout for a suspicious vehicle in your area. Vehicle is described as a red sleigh driven by reindeer. Suspect is described as a while male, heavy build with a white beard and moustache, wearing a red suit and hat. The suspect has been seen landing on rooftops dropping presents down the chimneys of the houses. Please approach suspect with holiday cheer and.... MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!"

Yes, this was an actual call on Christmas eve.

24 May 2008

Rambling thoughts of Firefighters/Paramedics

Many people have made comments over the years about how they could never do the jobs we do at the Fire Station. We've even been told we are a "crazy breed" of people. I suppose this is true. You HAVE to be nuts sometimes to run into a burning building that is filled with such thick black smoke that you can't see but you have to check for possible victims, and all the while you must keep your wits about you so you'll remember how to get back out safely. Many times it is like looking for a needle in a haystack but in this case you have fire nipping at your butt while you're trying to do so. Yep. I can honestly say we probably ARE that "crazy breed" of people. Still, there isn't a single one of us who would ever trade our jobs for anything else. This is our life. And these are reflections from the past years. These aren't just MY thoughts but rather thoughts and emotions from all of us.

I fight fires, I climb ladders, I have rappelled down the side of a building, I have fallen through the roof of a building. I have ignored direct orders to attack a fire in a certain part of a house when my intuitions got the best of me and I have pulled my men out just before the roof collapsed.

I have been stuck with needles and been made to wait anxiously for the HIV test to come back. I have thanked God the tests all came back negative.

I have been bitten by a dog trying to protect his owner when we were treating a patient diagnosed with a heart attack.

I have spent Christmas and most every major holiday at the Firehouse. I have gone without meals many times because we were called out of the Station. There are just as many times I never got to finish a meal for the same reasons.

I have played jokes on my fellow Firefighters and Paramedics and have been the victim of their pranks. We are still trying to outdo each other even after all these years.

I have held a small child, a burn victim, in my arms and had her skin stick to my shirt when I went to lay her down to treat her burns. I have seen a child burned twice within 3 years and watched the Father be arrested for attempted murder (he got away with it the first time for unknown reasons).

I have pretty much driven on the sidewalks in San Francisco when cars refused to pull over for us even with lights and sirens on. The men in the Firehouse swear they will sue me for hip dysplasia one day since they always think I am going to hit a car or pedestrian so they lean to the side with their right leg crossed over the other one "just in case" I do.

I have had women honk their horns at us trying to show off. They would speed up and drive along side of us only to see a female Firefighter behind the wheel. Then they would act all upset. One day I will make a sign to hold up that reads, "Disappointed?"

I have performed CPR, I have intubated people, I have stabilized compound fractures. I have delivered babies of women who did not want to go to the hospital because they couldn't afford the costs. I have seen the tragic outcomes of women who had no prenatal care for the same reasons of no money.

I have had a fellow Firefighter crack under pressure after a few years and when he was admitted for psychiatric evaluation, he was found dead. He had hung himself.

I have listened to the cries and screams of young children as they watch their parents being loaded into ambulances. I have held their hands, tried to comfort them.

I have treated the homeless and poor in San Francisco. I know many of them by name. I know which streets they tend to hang around on. We often do "checks" on them when we haven't seen them for awhile.

I have found myself in a fit of giggles (for many VALID reasons, at least in my own opinion) while trying to treat a patient who was a known hypochondriac and I couldn't believe the new "problem" she had this time. As much as I tried, I could not control myself. It has something to do with peeing in her bed and being naked and saying she couldn't complete her tax returns. Possibly if she got DRESSED and didn't pee in bed she could????

We have been caught in the cross-fire while treating a gang member for a stabbing and the rival gang decided they didn't want the boy live, let alone be treated for his wounds.

I have climbed up an aerial ladder and half way up lost my footing, only to fall to the ground after taking
down the two others who were on the ladder just below me. I have cursed as to why I ended up at the bottom of the pile with the other two on top of me when I was at the TOP to begin with.

I have had to lift a 450 pound man into an ambulance. I have been punched and/or kicked by patients who were whacked out on Crystal Meth. I have done CPR and had patients vomit while breathing into their mouths. Thank god for one-way valve resuscitation masks!

I put out house fires, car fires, trash fires. I rescue people from burning houses and buildings. I rescue people in the ocean, in swimming pools and over the embankments of freeways.

I risk my life for the drunk drivers who drive over the cliff on a dark road. I have seen what damage they have done to property and human life in their inebriated state. I have wrestled with the emotions of why they should be treated for their injuries when the victims of their drinking and driving are dead on the side of the road.

I have saved patients and lost patients. I have been chewed out by doctors in the ER who thought I took too long to get a critically injured patient to the hospital. They had no idea the patient had to be extricated from underneath a tanker truck and the patient was confined to the space of a sardine can!

I care about my patients. I listen to them. I talk to them. I do all I can for them. When I have terminally ill patients who have their DNR (Do Not Resuscitate) orders in place and they tell me they want to die, I have to grant their wishes despite the fact I want to help them stay alive. I can only calm them and hold their hand. I cannot do anything else.

I take blood pressures, I read EKG's, I stop profuse bleeding, I administer life-saving drugs. I splint and patch and bandage what I need to to get our patients to the hospital.

I laugh with the men in the Station over funny things that have happened on one of our calls out. I cry when the emotions of losing a patient become too much. I pray a lot. My heart skips a beat when I call the ER to see if the critically injured patient we brought in earlier is still alive.

We wear 60+ pounds of bunker gear and equipment when we go to a fire. We work in the intense heat. We also work in the cold. We get calls in the middle of the night. We don't have the option to push the snooze button when the alarm goes off in the Firehouse. We have to be ready at all times.

I teach Paramedic and Firefighting classes. I train constantly. I am required to take classes to keep myself up-to-date in the Medical and Fire industries. I strive to do my best at all times.

I panic when I can't get through an intersection because cars either can't hear or see the sirens and lights or because they just don't know what to do. I know I have to get somewhere and somewhere fast. I sometimes get angry at these people. When I finally blow the horn to get their attention to move out of the way, they usually move. And I am
constantly amazed at the ones who have the nerve to flip us off for disturbing them!

Often at the end of a difficult shift, when I finally get to go home, all I want is a hug from family or friends. I don't want to recount my shift to them. I just want a comforting hug. And when I am home, I feel guilty for not being at the Firehouse.... to watch over the other Firefighters and Paramedics when they are working. All I can do is say a prayer to keep them safe.

Like I have said before, we wouldn't give up our jobs for anything in the world. It's in our blood. It runs through our heart and soul. It truly IS the toughest job we could ever love.

18 May 2008

OOOPS, my bad!

For some reason I had a difficult time in Paramedic school. One would think the Fire Academy was hard but it was the opposite for me. I had trouble at first in Paramedic classes.

First of all, I was shy and self-conscious. And the classrooms were so very quiet during lectures. This was not good when my stomach had the habit to make god-awful noises at the most inappropriate times. And it happened a lot. I remember from grammar school to high school, I would get into so much trouble because I would get the giggles over any noise in those quiet classrooms. Mostly is was ME but Heaven forbid when it was someone else!!!

I thought I outgrew bursting into fits of laughter.... and over "nothing" really. But I didn't. Somehow I managed to get through it all. But not without the consequences.

On this particular day, we were training in CPR and ALS (Advanced Life Support). We were learning to use the defibrillator. This machine has always intrigued me. Our patient was a manikin. He/she was "dead" already. At least I could do no harm if I messed up. Right?

Our Instructor was going over the last details before letting us practice on the manikin. I watched as each the students before me used the defibrillator on their "patient." I cringed each time I heard the zap of the machine. Then it was my turn. I positioned the paddles with precise accuracy over my patient's chest.

"Clear!" I yelled. I guess I got a bit carried away in my nervousness and didn't see the Instructor's hand on the chest of my patient. He was jolted with a defibrillation energy level of 200 J. (Thank god it only got him in one finger!)

"Oooops, my bad!" I said as he flung his hand back out of the way with a look on his face that told me he had no idea where the heck he was at the moment. Uh oh. The whole class was stunned at first and no one dared to laugh. At least not at that moment. Our Instructor was still alive. See??? That machine DID work! (I tried desperately to convince myself of this!)

Out of the classroom, I got such a ribbing from all my classmates. I was never able to live down that incident. My birthday cake later that month was in the shape of defibrillator paddles.

I suppose I passed that class just so the Instructor wouldn't have me there as his student again.


He is still alive today.

Thanks to ME??? One will never know.....

10 May 2008

What did you say?

I am Sheena's partner in the Firehouse. We have worked together for quite a few years now. When you work so closely with someone, you get to know them quite well. For as long as I have known her, whenever she doesn't understand what someone is saying or isn't quite sure she heard them correctly, she will turn her head to the side and just stare at them. When she does this with Captain Harold, he will scowl at her. It drives him NUTS when she turns her head sideways like that.

One of the guys here in the Station came across a photo and added names to it. He then made an enlargement of it and hung it in the Firehouse.

Amazingly enough.... the expressions on the faces in the photo look EXACTLY like Sheena and Captain Harold during one of those "moments."

03 May 2008


Ok, I will admit I find farting really funny at times.... especially when those times are "unpredictable" or in public, and especially when they shock the very person who MAKES the fart!

One case in mind that makes me laugh every time is the woman on the Canadian Idol show. She was tooooooo funny and really comical about the whole thing.

You can watch her here:

I showed this video to the guys at the Firehouse. All day long some of the men walked past my office, stopped and said, "I totally just farted!" Some of them even brought "sound effects" with them.

After an entire day of this..... I decided to get my revenge. I planned my strategy all afternoon and knew it HAD to have something to do with SMELL.

That evening I finished dinner first. I cleared my plates and loaded them in the dishwasher and went to brush my teeth. I had taken a syringe out of my medical bag earlier and drew up some juice from a bottle of Schilling's garlic juice. Now I don't know if anyone out there has ever used this stuff but it is potent beyond belief! A little drop goes a long way in recipes. And now, also in toothpaste! :-)

I injected some of the tubes of toothpaste with this garlic juice. I only tampered with the toothpaste tubes owned by the ones who came past my office and truly made the sound effects. I then disposed of all evidence and went to the living room to watch TV. They were still eating and having coffee at this time.

The worst part about playing a joke on someone is the "waiting." Time seems to go by so slow. Sometimes it is almost unbearable.

It was about an hour later when a few of them went to brush their teeth. I could hear someone blame one of the other guys for the joke. And that guy blamed another and another and another. Gosh, I did better than I thought! No one was blaming ME! This was my good fortune! I must have timed it all correctly!

So I thought.

A call came in. Hit and run. I hate those calls. How could anyone drive away from the scene?

We arrive. It was a young woman who had been riding her bike. We assessed her condition and while the guys and I were leaning over her taking care of her injuries, that strong SMELL of garlic burned my nose. The woman kept looking at me. She actually asked everyone to "back up because she couldn't breathe". I darn near laughed my head off but had to control myself. She was released from the scene and seemed all too happy just to get some fresh air.

On the ride back to the Station, they guys kept accusing each other of the prank. That smell lasted for another 12 hours. They threw away the toothpaste, brushed with new toothpaste, used mouthwash, took antacids, drank milk, but nothing worked. Those who got off work before those 12 hours didn't dare go near their wives or girlfriends.

Ahhh.... the power of revenge!

30 April 2008

Don't cramp my style

 A "Delta" call came in one afternoon. There are four levels of calls we get. Alpha, Bravo, Charlie and Delta. Alpha being a non-emergency (smoke alarms going off, illegal BBQ's, etc.) and Delta (heart attacks, respiratory distress, etc.) being an all-out emergency that requires lights and sirens to get to the scene as fast as possible.

Our Delta was for a man who had been injured...... "Unknown Injury" dispatch tells us. We have no idea what we are dealing with. As we race through the streets of San Francisco, we keep in contact with dispatch for updates. There are none. We arrive at the scene and the PD isn't there yet. The police usually arrive first to secure a scene but not this time.

We see the injured man. He is sitting against a wall, bleeding from his leg. Right off the bat we can tell its a stab wound. I am wondering where the heck the SFPD is. They should have been here. Someone stabbed this man and we don't know where the assailant is. I am feeling a bit uneasy but forget this since the man needs medical attention and quickly.

My partner, Rick, asks the man, "What happened here?" to which he answers, "I think I got stabbed."


The man is bleeding profusely. Rick starts to cut the man's pant leg open so we can treat the wound. All of a sudden, the man has a seizure. I am thinking there is a chance the man overdosed on something. I am worried about needles as I hold the man down to keep him from injuring himself further as I try to put pressure on the wound.

My Captain and two other Firefighters arrive, along with the PD... finally! The EMT's have arrived also. They prepare the gurney for our patient.

"Check his pockets," I tell Rick. One pocket contained a couple bags of white powder. The other pocket was full of more stuff. Rick pulls out more bags and money and suddenly there is a loud pop. I look at Rick knowing something has hit me like a brick wall in the stomach. The look on Rick's face is total horror.

"He had a gun in his pocket. It went off, " Rick says in a panic. He had no idea at first that I was the one to block that bullet.

"I know. And you are really cramping my style!" I tell Rick as I fall to the ground.

I don't feel pain but I do feel warm blood soak my shirt and pants and there is a hot feeling in my abdomen. My Captain calls for another ambulance. His voice in panicked. People are asking me questions. I cannot answer. I am trying to keep from fainting. I look around and I see my men gathered around. AMR has taken the man with the stab wound to the hospital. I find out later he died from an overdose.

I remember being angry that my shirt had been cut away to expose the gunshot wound. Half naked in public is not how I wanted to be seen! There is a commotion around me and a sense of urgency. Captain Harold is barking out orders. Rick and Darryl are trying to stop the bleeding from my abdomen. Despite my desperate attempt to avoid fainting, I slowly saw the world become dark.

Several hours later, after 4 hours of surgery, I wake up. Ok, now I feel pain and lots of it. My Captain is sitting in a chair with his eyes closed. I watch him for awhile and try to tell him something but can't. There is a tube down my throat. All I can do is grunt. Harold opens his eyes and leans towards me. I am pointing at the tube.

"It has to remain for awhile more, " he says. I try to shake my head no.

He calls the nurse. "I have a feeling that if you don't remove the tube, she will do it herself," he tells her. "Can you find out if it can be removed?" She leaves the room to get an order for its removal. Heck, I can do it myself! All I can do is stare at my Captain. He is telling me about the gunshot (like I had forgotten???). He also tells me about the surgery and what was involved. I come to know that half of my stomach was removed due to the extensive injury. The bullet missed all the other major organs. He tells me there is mesh wiring all throughout my abdomen to hold it all together. As he is telling me this, for some reason I am thinking to "chicken coops" and I don't know why.

The tube is removed but I still can't talk. My throat is sore. The nurse puts pain medicine in my IV and I fall asleep again.

I don't know for how long I was asleep but Harold is still there although he isn't in uniform now. I suppose he went home to shower and change. His face is worn. For a man of nearly 55, he is still a handsome man. His wife died a few years ago. Harold never dated after her death. I doubt he ever will although there are a lot of women who are attracted to him. We always tell him to "go out into the world" and live it up. He's been alone too long. But he is content with his life.

He smiles and asks how I am doing. I hate hospitals. I am a bad patient. "Can I go home now?" I ask him.

"What? You just had major surgery!" he says.

"So? Can I go home now?"

He shakes his head. "You'll be here for a week at least."

Ok, now I am upset.

"Rick wants to see you," Harold says. "He isn't taking this whole thing very well. You want to see him?"

Why wouldn't I? He is my partner. I tell Harold to let Rick in. Since I am in the Intensive Care Unit, they allow only one visitor at a time. Harold leaves and Rick walks in. He looks at me, then around the room seeing all the machines and tubes and drips. He has this look on his face that makes me so sad. He is truly upset. He tries to tell me something but chokes on his words. I am feeling really sorry for him.

"Its ok," I tell him. "It was an accident." (I was later told that the gun was loaded and cocked in that man's pocket. When Rick pulled out the bags of heroin, one of the bags pulled on the trigger and discharged the gun).

Rick pulls up the chair next to the bed and scoots in close. He puts his head down on the side of the bed and holds my hand. He breaks down in tears and sobs. His anguish tears my heart apart. He keeps repeating how sorry he is. I told him it wasn't his fault. He continues to sob until he is too tired to cry anymore. We talk for awhile. He asks what he can do for me.

"Get me out of here," I tell him.

He thinks I am kidding but I am serious. He has no plans to help me escape.

I spent two weeks in the hospital recovering. I thought Harold said it would only be a week? Rick went into counseling to "get over" his feelings of guilt. I never blamed him for what happened. It was truly just an unfortunate accident. I returned to work after I got my strength back.

Several months later, Rick and I were at the scene of a motorcycle accident. Our patient was a 37 year old biker who hit the center divide on the freeway. He had a compound fracture in his leg where the bone was protruding through the skin. The man was wearing leather pants and Rick was cutting away the man's pant leg to expose the fracture.

I'm not quite sure what happened but the next thing I know.... Rick's knife slipped and cut my neck. He missed my jugular vein by a fraction.

I'm having a bit of deja vu at this time.

Bleeding is controlled, I get to ride in the ambulance once again (as a patient) and a few stitches later, I am fine again.

I'm beginning to think Rick is either out to get me or I am very accident prone.


26 April 2008

Cold versus Hot

Firefighters wear about 60 pounds of bunker gear and equipment when they go to a fire. With the intense heat of the fire and the "workout" we get while running up and down stairs or manning a high pressure hose, our body temperatures tend to go up a bit. We sweat a lot in those bunker clothes. They were not designed to "breathe" but rather to protect us from fire, heat and other elements.

I am so used to feeling "overheated" that when I am not wearing those clothes and equipment, I often feel cold.

I had the day off from work and decided to go to one of my favorite Asian markets in my home town. As I walked into the store I was met a blast of cold air. I wish I had brought my sweater. My goodness, that store was freezing!

I met Chung. He is the manager of the meat department. I've known him for about 15 years. I was shivering.

""Why am I always so cold?" I asked him, trying to make excuses for my chattering teeth as he stood there in a short sleeved shirt.

"You no at work," he explains. "There you in heat all the time."

I have to admit, I have never thought of myself "in heat" ... especially at work.