By Margaret Castaneda
About a year ago, my EMT partner and I were sent to a unknown medical emergency at a library. As we walked in, the fire guys were standing by the men's bathroom door. The lieutenant walks up and said "Ok, here's the deal.” In my head, that meant we we're in for a doozie.
An elderly gentleman drank some chocolate milk before making the 1/2-mile walk to the library. Once he arrived, his stomach turned against him and he had a bout of diarrhea. Embarrassed, the man asked the librarian for help. He had walked from his home and he had left his wallet there. The librarian dialed 9-1-1 for assistance.
Dispatch sent a firetruck and us. The lieutenant explained that they had cleaned him up and placed his soiled clothes into a bio bag. The gentleman did not need medical assistance; he just needed to get home. I looked at this man standing in the bathroom with paper pants and a walker. The smell was intense, but I kept thinking, “This man needs a break.”
I assured this man and the fire guys. “It shouldn't be a problem. I'll clear it with dispatch.” That's where I was wrong.
I asked our dispatcher if we could be out of service to take the man home, just blocks from the library. She told me she would call me back. I received a call from my supervisor telling me, per our company’s owner, to hand the man a blanket and go back in service.
My supervisor was a straight up guy, I explained the situation and he said he understood, but that the owner said no dice. He argued, as I was in uniform, I represented the company, and we could not be giving rides to homeless guys because we were not a taxi service.
The man in the library could not get a cab. He had no money and no wallet. I asked if dispatch could call a taxi, and said I would pay for it. Again, I was reminded that I was in uniform... blah blah blah. My supervisor eventually gave me the phone number, and I called. He also allowed me to get "lost" for 20 minutes, so that we could wait with the man for his cab. My partner explained everything to fire and they left. We waited.
I jumped in the back of the ambulance to grab this man a blanket. I broke down and cried. I was so angry and disappointed. How could I work for a company that could be so callous towards a human? He was not homeless. He had no family or children and he was alone. That's why he first went to the library, he was lonely. I would never want any of my family members to be treated that way. And as far as my being in uniform, was this the way the owner wanted the company represented?
The cab finally showed up and we explained the situation to him. He helped the gentleman into the front of the cab. I gave him $10 and apologized for not being able to take him home. He said my partner and I had done more than enough.
For the rest of the shift, my partner and I talked about what happened. We were not EMTs because of the pay. It was because most of us want to help people. EMTs are there when people are at their worst. We do have gallows humor and probably have THE most inappropriate death, blood, guts and poop conversations over dinner, but we are human.
At the end of our shift, both the owner and the President of the company were in the ambulance bay. The president looked at me and said, "Well if it isn't our very own 501c3 girl. Help out any more homeless guys?"
I decided I no longer wanted to work there. I could take the poverty level pay, the consistently changing horrible hours, the good and the bad partners, but the lack of humanity was more than I could bear. I hope neither of those men ever grow old and shit in their pants...karma sucks.