Thursday, September 17, 2009

This Crazy Town

Everything's connected.

Earlier this month, I spent a week in the back of ambulances learning about pre-hospital medical care. As part of that, I was on the scene at two rather large fires in the city of New Haven. The first was well-reported by the New Haven Independent. I helped take care of guys that had been battling the blaze for hours. We monitored heart rates and blood pressure, gave oxygen, and transported guys with vital signs out of range to local hospitals just to be checked out. The second fire I was present for occurred early one morning and happened to be across the street from a neighborhood where both one of my senior residents and one of my professors live. The former took this photograph of me looking happy about the smoking building in the background. Really, I was just happy to be outside of the back of the ambulance cab...

The very next call that day was for a person who was feeling like she might hurt herself. She had a history of feeling suicidal and had been hospitalized before, so we took her to Yale, where she would presumably be connected with a psychiatrist who could help her. Hopefully it would not be the self-proclaimed "Savior of Death," who was arrested a few days ago about 2 blocks from my home. Evidently, a well-respected psychiatry resident was involved in an altercation in a local bar and found to have an unlicensed firearm on his person. Any person who is charged in the care of others who makes threatening gestures suggesting danger to those individuals or others in the public may be arrested and be searched without a warrant. A subsequent search of this individual's home revealed a stockpile of firearms and ammunition. He lived about a block from me. The instigating incident goes to show that everyone can be affected by alcohol or mental illness - even physicians.

The arrest was made at the same time that the news conference announcing the discovery of Annie Le, the unfortunate victim who has put Yale on the front page of the nation's newspapers and other news sources. The continued media presence around the police headquarters in New Haven has provided additional unlikely casualties in this story. No fewer than two people from the television news industry have presented to the Yale-New Haven Hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. I treated a cameraman who was thinking slowly and just wanted to go to sleep. It's the time of year that we ER docs need to think more about that colorless, odorless gas that causes more people to wake up dead than any other poison. (Check your heaters for leaks and please don't burn kerosene or gasoline inside!) The cameraman (and his friend, a union representative) asked me what I knew about the occupational dangers of CO. I know that no significant studies have shown ambulance drivers (who often leave the rigs' engines running in closed spaces) to be at risk, but that smokers and firefighters tend to be chronically exposed and sometimes need to be monitored as such.

Which reminded me of the ambulance ride-alongs I did earlier this month.

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