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Learning to expect the unexpected in EMS

A man came running up to the emergency department’s reception area just as I sat there finishing paperwork from a simple chest pain call

By Aryeh Myers

The thing I love most about my job is the “expect the unexpected” element.

No two days are ever the same, no two calls are identical. No two patients have the same needs. The fact we have treatment protocols that are very black-and-white ignores the fact that most of our patients are, in fact, grey.

I have, in my time, done regular office work. A 9-to-5 job — that was in reality more like 7-to-7, but that’s another story — that involved traveling daily through rush hour traffic, sitting at a desk, dealing with the same things day-in and day-out. But then I changed careers, and now the thought of a regular job with regular hours fills me with dread.

And so I stick to shift work.

‘The baby is coming’

He came running up to the emergency department’s reception area just as I sat there finishing the paperwork from a simple chest-pain call. He looked pale and flustered, sweat beads covering his forehead. Almost as if he was going to be my next patient. Instead, it turns out my next patient would be his wife.

“My wife’s in labor! You need to help me!”

One of the receptionists, barely looking up, promptly redirected him to the delivery suite, a couple of buildings away.

“I don’t think you understand. She’s having the baby NOW. Here. Outside. In. My. Car!”

I ran — something I don’t do very often. Something about him, his anguish and the terror in his eyes, told me that this was the real deal and not just a panicked husband. His car, haphazardly abandoned in the middle of the ambulance parking area, still had the engine running. A woman in the front passenger seat was screaming as a crowd gathered around and several pairs of eyes ogled the unusual scene. From a safe distance, of course.

I yelled for my partner to bring the delivery kit, and arrived at the car, managing to don two pairs of gloves along the way. There was clearly no time to get any more help from inside the hospital, even though it had been called for. As is normal, the delivery and child specialists arrived just in time to be, well, a few seconds too late.

Two contractions after I arrived at the car, I was holding a baby boy.

I placed him on his mother — umbilical cord still attached — drying him off for the first few seconds. Relief was felt, uttered, murmured and sighed as soon as he took his first breath. And that breath was big enough to scream his tiny lungs out, letting the world know that he’d arrived. As he did so, an army arrived from within the hospital, with doctors, nurses, equipment and a bed.

The baby was disconnected from his mother and duly handed over to the experts — pediatricians who’d come running out from the children’s emergency department. Admittedly more used to slightly larger and older children, they were more than happy to take charge of this new, vibrant life.

The plan was now to move the new mother on to the bed and get her inside for an assessment and then transfer across the compound to the maternity unit. Just as we lifted her out of the car, the husband suddenly panicked and screamed at us all:

“But wait! There’s another one still to come!”

Well, that was unexpected ...

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