Though I'm a big believer in 'signs' and 'fate' – I never really bought into the superstition of Friday the 13th.
And then: One early morning, a few years ago, Friday the 13th in the month of July, I'd just walked in the squad with a cup of coffee and my pink backpack when we got hit out for a 32 year old male in cardiac arrest.
When the ambulance pulls up, we are met in the street by hysterical family members. One female recognizes me – "I remember you!" she says. "You're the medic who took my grandfather to the hospital and he died!"
I remember her grandfather – how could I forget – 10 years in EMS and I was only ever threatened with one lawsuit and guess who it was – YEP- the very lady that was standing before me now.
Rewind, 9 months: Her grandfather was a 500+ pound man that was on the second floor (of course!) lying in bed, make chortling sounds when I walked in the room. We'd been hit out for "Difficulty breathing" – but this guy was 2 seconds away from NOT BREATHING.
I had 3 major obstacles: 1) It's hard to intubate obese patients. 2) Did I mention he was obese? AND on the SECOND FLOOR. 3) The family was FREAKING OUT and there were about 15 of them. With family members shouting "Have mercy Lord" "Praise you Jesus" and "Help Us Lord, Help Us!"I felt like I was in a Baptist Church.
But. Someone was looking out for me, because I got the tube on the first try, with the help of the Cheltenham Police we got his body out (with me repeating, "Don't lose the tube, don't lose the tube!) and we didn't lose the tube.
Of course, he went into cardiac arrest, but as far as cardiac arrests go, it ACTUALLY WENT PERFECTLY. I was high fiving everyone after that call. It ran smooth, never lost the tube, followed protocols w/o any glitches.
A few months later, I learn the family wants to sue us. They felt we "took too long" to get there. I couldn't believe it. I remembered everything about that call - mostly the fact that despite the hysterical family under my feet the whole time – we all kept our composure and it went fantastically!
They never did sue, but I never forgot them.
So- back to Friday the 13th.
I know that this is the same family that threatened to sue us, and, I make sure I follow protocols to the letter. But when I place the 16 gauge needle in the non-OSHA compliment container, my thumb slips off the lid as I close it, and it pierces my glove AND my thumb.
The 32 year old male ends up dying of a drug overdose. He has a criminal history of drugs and has a long scar on his chest, from a prior gunshot wound.
After the call, I report to Employee health, get a shot in the ass, they take my blood, and they give me PEP- meds to take in the event that the patient was HIV positive.
I return to the station, talk to my immediate supervisor (who is not an asshole), fill out my paperwork, and put a call into the VOLUNTEER Director (VD) of my squad – who has the ultimate responsibility to get the paperwork rolling.
Now. It's no secret I had no respect for the Volley Director (VD). I felt he was a nincompoop. He cared more about his throwing around his title "Director 358" than he did about making sure the squad had things like proper ventilation in the building; equipment that worked. Also, if you didn't kiss his ass, you were subject to suspensions for minor infractions.
Cheltenham was one of the best places I've ever worked when it came to co-workers. It was small, but it was like a family. And there were some really talented, smart, medics that worked there. Unfortunately, Cheltenham is one squad that has a high rate of turnovers – due to (VD) 358 and his gianormous ego!
Anyway, so, a few hours after my dirty needle stick, we get called out for a man having chest pains at the fire stations.
Turns out, the man (oh, about 450 pounds), was driving in his car when he got a call telling him his cousin had just died. He started having chest pains, pulled over at the firestation, and they called 911.
So. I'm asking questions about his cousin. And. Guess What? YEP, his cousin was the cardiac arrest that I got my dirty needle stick from.
Of course, I did NOT mention that I'd been the paramedic on the call.
The patient was fine – the chest pain was stress related – and he was actually a very nice guy – who kept flirting with me. By the time we got him to the hospital, he was in better spirits.
After my Friday the 13th shift, I was off for the next few days. The PEP though, was making me incredibly sick. It was like the worst hangover without the fun of drinking the night before. I ended up going to my personal doctor for nausea medication.
Then, on Wednesday, I get a phone call from Employee Health, seems VD 358 never sent in his part of the paperwork. And in the meantime, the patient's bloodwork was sent to a contracted facility in California. Because of the red tape involved since VD 358 screwed up, it took a MONTH for me to find out I was clean.
I can't begin to tell you what it's like to wonder if you have AIDS or Hepatitis, on top of taking medications that make you incredibly sick and can damage your liver, ON top of the fact that you know you work for an incompetent boss who does NOT have your safety on his mind, and who never even had the decency to apologize for screwing up.
Two words: I'm Sorry.
So, that was my Friday the 13th. It was most unusual, and some would say unlucky.
But, though I do miss the people I worked with, and the challenge of being a paramedic, I learned so much about what I can put up with in this world, and working for an asshole is not one of them. I know many people that can't stand him, yet they need a paycheck, so they bite their tongues and deal. I have to wonder, if people refused to work for assholes, how many assholes would realize they need to change. I'm not asking for perfection; I'm asking for respect, treating people with kindness, putting employees first, and treating people intelligently and fairly.
But it is what it is. And without that incident, I wouldn't be where I am now, which is in a very very good place.
I'm lucky my patient was clean, I'm glad I'm no longer working for a gianormous ass, my writing career is flourishing, for the most part, I'm my own boss, and life is good.
So, I guess, in the long run, Friday the 13th is a lucky day for me.