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Top Ten Patient Translations News

December 2, 2009

The Ambulance Driver's Perspective
by Kelly Grayson

Top Ten Patient Translations

By Kelly Grayson

My partner, a rookie EMT, is convinced he experienced an alien abduction the other day.

I'm talking about the kind where aliens beam up your patient and replace him with an exact duplicate with an entirely different chief complaint and medical history — the kind of abduction that usually occurs right after you have called to report to the hospital.

He was understandably flummoxed when the patient gave the triage nurse radically different answers than she had given my partner not five minutes before. I've told him to beware of these alien abductions. If you're not careful enough to ask history questions multiple times, they can make you look rather silly.

But I had listened to the patient while he interviewed her, and I knew that what my partner experienced wasn't so much an alien abduction as it was a misinterpretation of what the patient said. My partner, an EMT for only six months, doesn't realize that people rarely say what they actually mean. He's never been married, either, and thus hasn't learned that when your wife hisses, "I'm fine," things are most definitely not okay.

So, for my rookie partner and any other EMT who hasn't yet developed a patient translator as finely nuanced as mine, I give you the Top Ten Patient Translations:

"Medical problems? Nah, I'm generally healthy."

Except for my hypertension, coronary artery disease, asthma, hypothyroidism, diabetes, demonic possession, bipolar disorder, and cooties. But I have medicine for all that stuff.

"I take my medicine just as the doctor prescribed it!"

I take my potassium supplements daily, but I only take my Lasix when my feet start to resemble sausages. And I still don't know why I'm having all this muscle weakness!

Between nodding off and snoring peacefully: "I'm in so much pain that I don't think I can make it to the stretcher by myself."

I've taken a month's supply of Soma, Lortab and Xanax in the last week, and I want to go to the ER to get my prescriptions refilled.

"I've already called my doctor. He's going to meet us at the ER."

I am a hypochondriac and my doctor, to his everlasting regret, doesn't have caller ID.

"I feel silly for calling y'all."

I'm 85 years old and I took a tumble while checking the mail, and my family browbeat me into calling 911. I mean, it's like they've never seen a bone poking through the skin before!

"This stretcher is uncomfortable! Why do you keep it so cold in the ambulance? Ow! Is this your first time to start an IV?! Does your partner normally drive so rough? I'm going to complain to your supervisor!"

There is absolutely nothing wrong with me that a good swift kick in the rear won't fix.

"He must have just coded!"

The ventilation system is really good here at Decubitus Manor. The smell of decay never even reaches the nurse's station!

"You're so much nicer than the crew that picked me up last week! What are your names again?"

I have early onset Alzheimer's, and I’m probably going to mix up the names so that you're the one I complain about, and the crew from hell will get all my praise.

"I'm a hard stick and my veins roll."

A phlebotomist gave me a bruise 15 years ago, and I'm going to say nasty things about you to your supervisor if you stick me more than once.

"So there I was, sitting there on the stoop, reading the Bible and drinking a wholesome glass of milk, when all of a sudden and for no reason, Sumdood just jumped me!"

I was dealing crack on Sumdood's corner, while wearing enemy gang colors, groping his girlfriend's boobs, and whizzing all over his brand new spinner rims. And the last thing I said before my epic butt-kicking was, "Yo, you got a problem wid dat, homey?"

Got any patient translations of your own? Chime in with your comments!

About the author

Kelly Grayson, NREMT-P, CCEMT-P, is a critical care paramedic in Louisiana. He has spent the past 18 years as a field paramedic, critical care transport paramedic, field supervisor and educator. He is a former president of the Louisiana EMS Instructor Society and board member of the LA Association of Nationally Registered EMTs.

He is a frequent EMS conference speaker and contributor to various EMS training texts, and is the author of the popular blog A Day In the Life of an Ambulance Driver. The paperback version of Kelly's book is available at booksellers nationwide. You can follow him on Twitter (@AmboDriver) or Facebook (, or email him at

The comments below are member-generated and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of or its staff. If you cannot see comments, try disabling privacy and ad blocking plugins in your browser. All comments must comply with our Member Commenting Policy.
Melissa Morse-Rodriguez Melissa Morse-Rodriguez Thursday, October 31, 2013 12:19:54 PM lol!
Deana Cairo Deana Cairo Wednesday, April 16, 2014 1:58:30 PM B.S. on #2. I say that all the time because it is true and I let people stick me at least three times (and yes, they can do hands, but no feet) before I ask them to "go get the ace." Never complained to supervisors, ever.
Anthony Womack Anthony Womack Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:04:39 PM LMFAO I love the #1, and I guarantee that same guy said F*** the police within a hour before calling them for help
Robert Mabrey Robert Mabrey Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:07:29 PM Veins don't roll, people just don't know what traction is.
Ed Hillenbrand Ed Hillenbrand Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:10:29 PM #6! Every bloody time! Goota love the Old Timers, but dude! A bone poking through 17 layers of coats earns you a trip to the orthopod!
Andrew Grimes Andrew Grimes Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:18:28 PM "No, I don't have any chest pain" ...but I am feeling this "crushing pressure" under my sternum and it's radiating into my jaw and left arm. "I used to do your job" ...I was on the volunteer fire department 15 years ago. "The patient is just a bit hard of hearing...but she's GCS 15. Here's all of her medical history...just hypertension. No meds." ...the patient can't hear, can't read, can't talk, has a GCS of 13 and isn't very pleasant. I want you to get them out of here so I don't have to deal with them anymore.
Rick Wyatt Rick Wyatt Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:26:02 PM "I'm allergic to SOMEDRUG" ..."I didn't follow the directions and took it on an empty stomach and got nauseous" Caveat #1: "I'm allergic to all NSAIDS and got to have dilaudid..." ...."Even though I take Hydrocodone/APAP, I still am a drug seeking idiot...."
Courtney Elizabeth Courtney Elizabeth Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:27:19 PM #2 is crap. As someone that knows how to start an IV... my veins are pretty shitty. I do let the RN or tech know that beforehand though not to doubt their abilities but rather to forewarn them just for in case they do have a hard time.
Laura Klatt Laura Klatt Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:28:36 PM She done fell out because she didn't take her peanutbutterballs
Laura Klatt Laura Klatt Wednesday, April 16, 2014 2:29:43 PM They sent me a girl!?!? You can't pick me up. Why are you grunting? (As you are picking up someone who weighs 300 plus pounds)
Sly Emt Sly Emt Wednesday, April 16, 2014 3:08:09 PM I love how older people are such troopers but the young bucks will call for a splinter lol
Dawn Teflon Burrows Dawn Teflon Burrows Wednesday, April 16, 2014 3:13:38 PM The point here is that Pretty much everyone says the exact same thing. We've heard it so many times that it doesn't mean anything.
John Filangeri John Filangeri Wednesday, April 16, 2014 3:19:01 PM I think you have number 9 backwards. And, you forgot to add "I'm allergic to Narcan." - Self explanatory.
John Swingle John Swingle Wednesday, April 16, 2014 3:29:00 PM "I only had two beers...." Out of the third twelve pack!
Katie Moon Katie Moon Wednesday, April 16, 2014 3:47:51 PM Three sticks is my limit. I have decent veins and if you screw up that much, get someone who is having a better day.
Chase Doerscher Chase Doerscher Wednesday, April 16, 2014 4:00:24 PM actually that's not it...old people don't want to go the hospital because what do people go there to do? in their die,
Austin D. Pace Austin D. Pace Wednesday, April 16, 2014 4:55:31 PM 27 min into a 30 min transport "oh I'm diabetic" really? You didn't think to tell me that the 3 other times I asked you about your history? But sure didn't have a problem telling me about your C-Dif.
Lj GoingDeep Sousa Lj GoingDeep Sousa Wednesday, April 16, 2014 5:54:21 PM "He done fell out!" A victim of gravity most likely from ETOH abuse
Lori LorinoTavis Lori LorinoTavis Wednesday, April 16, 2014 6:59:07 PM Veins do not roll! Your phlebotomist missed plain and simple!
Hal Bohnert Hal Bohnert Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:20:31 PM Love #5
Elizabeth McGuire Buchanan Elizabeth McGuire Buchanan Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:37:36 PM NOOO I don't have high blood pressure. (Not since my doctor has me on 3 different blood pressure medications, it's not high anymore!)
Tahni Mitchell Tahni Mitchell Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:49:24 PM I don't mainline heroin, I'm just really tired. (After the narcan has raised your resp rate from 2 a min to 12 a minute). Or denies neck pain until you arrive at the ED only to state firmly to the triage nurse that you do in fact have neck pain and they glare at you because the patient lacks blocks and collar
Kat Davis Kat Davis Wednesday, April 16, 2014 8:50:43 PM "Oh yeah I've got 10/10 pain, man! Worst pain I've ever felt" (as they sit there with a smoke and chatting on the phone) ... It's probably more like a 2/10 and I'm a hyperchondriac
Johnathan Wain McKiney Johnathan Wain McKiney Wednesday, April 16, 2014 10:32:41 PM Oh my God, I'm dying.
Chris Madden Chris Madden Wednesday, April 16, 2014 11:13:18 PM Veins do roll, I have one in my hand I can actively roll. Great for parties and creeping out my wife and co-workers.
Neal Keyes Neal Keyes Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:25:39 AM Veins absolutely do roll and conveniently collapse as soon as you get ready to draw
Becky Cutts Becky Cutts Thursday, April 17, 2014 1:01:24 AM Me too Chris. It is a brilliant party trick for entertaining and grossing out my cousins
William Ostroff William Ostroff Thursday, April 17, 2014 1:02:33 AM Only 2(40's)
William Ostroff William Ostroff Thursday, April 17, 2014 1:04:33 AM Because she done got "the smile o mighty Jesus"
Craig France Craig France Thursday, April 17, 2014 3:07:53 AM True Story,,, I cant have Nitro, I'm allergic, it gives me a head ache,, I need Morphine, it's the only thing that works.. Me Yeah Right,,,,
Donna Tuf Donna Tuf Thursday, April 17, 2014 3:27:46 AM I sure hope I don't see this guy staring down at me if I ever need an ambulance! What an attitude...
Shannon Crawford Tuten Shannon Crawford Tuten Thursday, April 17, 2014 7:51:39 AM Dawn Teflon Burrows it doesn't mean anything,., that means you are a moron, listen to your patient. ASK them where they usually get labs, they will tell you, last tech, medic etc that didn't listen to me didn't stick me either, that is a good way to get someone to complain to a supervisor.(and yes I am a 20+ year critical care medic/resp therapist)
Dawn Teflon Burrows Dawn Teflon Burrows Thursday, April 17, 2014 8:00:15 AM How sweet of you to miss my point and call me a moron. Think it through a bit sweetheart, I didn't say don't assess your patient. I said everyone says it and because of that it doesn't mean anything any more. In other words, tell me what you will, and then allow me to assess for my self. I didn't know I would have to fully explain that to such a grizzled veteran. P.S. Your resume doesn't impress me, I don't care how long or what as long as you can treat your patient appropriately.
Doug Hesson Doug Hesson Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:31:47 AM "The dog might bite" The kind of dog the patient is talking about isn't what you'd worry about if you saw it in the back yard feeding and drinking from 5 gallon buckets as it pulls on the logging truck chain holding it to the shade tree. You only worry if you check the backyard in order to clear the way for the patient who cannot fit through the front hallway of their house and see the overturned buckets still draining onto the ground and the chain has been snapped due to metal fatigue from "Sparky" pulling so hard on it and you do NOT see the dog.
Jeff Morris Jeff Morris Thursday, April 17, 2014 12:56:10 PM I can't breath and I have to poop = I'm going to die in less than 2 minutes!
Kelly Grayson Kelly Grayson Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:44:44 PM Donna Tuf, to paraphrase Foghorn Leghorn, "I say, I say, it's a JOKE, son. A JOKE!" Life is much more fun if you lighten up.
Matthew Hoover Matthew Hoover Thursday, April 17, 2014 6:12:08 PM Holstein just became a medical term? or " he's havin' scissors (seizures)!!"
Adriyn Grey Adriyn Grey Thursday, April 17, 2014 6:41:21 PM Kelly Grayson maybe "tuf-en" up
Janice Humes Janice Humes Friday, April 18, 2014 8:19:02 AM what does GCS mean ?
Janice Humes Janice Humes Friday, April 18, 2014 8:34:25 AM what does ETOH mean..?
Andrew Grimes Andrew Grimes Friday, April 18, 2014 11:10:47 AM Janice Humes , Glasgow Coma Scale. A more detailed LOC assessment than "A&Ox?".
Dieter Schuffenhauer Dieter Schuffenhauer Friday, April 18, 2014 7:10:05 PM "Yes, I take my meds everyday, just like the doctor told me to" Thats also why half the chronic meds next to my bed expired 2 years ago!

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