Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wanderlust......... If that's even a word?

pssst, by the way, my girlfriend hates the hat I'm wearing in this pic! I love it, its one of my favorite hats.

As the snow falls up here in the great white north, there is no doubt that it will be a white Christmas this year. I wish I was some place that I could hang Christmas lights on a palm tree. I have often considered myself an Islander without an island. I guess if I really wanted to I could pack up and head south for the Caribbean. The biggest problem with this plan is my friends and family are all up here and the idea of starting somewhere new without my support team, job, and a home just scares the shit out of me!

I could see myself as a charter boat captain in the islands or a SCUBA diving guide on the many reefs of the Caribbean. Either job would be ok with me. I think after a while I would start to miss the excitement of saving lives or fire fighting. Still, I find myself day dreaming, wonder what it would be like to see the reflecting sun off the sea and sandy beaches instead of snow and ice.

I seem to be more depressed today than normally in the winter. Its a combination of knowing that an old friend died this morning (it was his time), or maybe its that the holidays seem to hold nothing special for me anymore, or maybe its because I know its going to be six months before I enjoy the warm sun on my skin, behind the helm of the boat. At any rate I think I need an adventure. The loud Jimmy Buffet music and rum just isn't doing it for me anymore. I need to quench my wanderlust!

Don't get me wrong, I've had some great adventures, but the older I get the fewer they become. I'm going to spend a week in the Caribbean in about a month and a half, and that promises to be a great trip filled with my family and my closest friends. What can I do to quench this thirst on a public servants salary until then? I'm open to ideas (or donations) from you, my friends.....

I guess this post said a whole lot of nothing and really had no meaning, but this what you get when I sit down at the computer without a direction to write in. So, Happy holidays my friends. I pray the next year is better than the last! Fins up! JS

Monday, December 21, 2009

Unresponsive? (Pick of the shift)

We had a busy morning today, this is the most interesting call. We get the call as an unresponsive female at BLANK address. We arrive to find a 38 year old female laying on the dinning room floor. She is purple and turning ash in color. She looked dead. But she was barely breathing at about 4 times a minute. My partner and I start working her asap. We talk to another women on scene to find out that our patient has a history of drug abuse.

The first thing we start doing is bagging the patient with a BVM at 15 lpm of O2. Her pulse ox was 20% when we started. We tried to intubate but she bit down as soon as we tried to open her mouth. I inserted a NPA to assist with maintaining an airway. My partner then started to attempt an IV in her left AC, but was not successful. Rather than try again in her arms we placed the IV in her juggler. She had a blood sugar of 537 and a BP of 106/64. She did not have a history of diabetes. her eyes were pinpoint and fixed. Her friend reported that she had smoked crack the night before and was using pain killers.

Bagging her brought her pulse ox up into the 90's. We pushed a total of 4mg of narcan, but had no response. While trying to push the drug our patient's mother arrived and started screaming at the other women on scene, then they started fighting while we were working our patient. It took the police department to break them up. We loaded our patient up in the rig and took off lights and sirens for the closest hospital. We took our patient right into the trauma room and met the code team where we handed over patient care. They RSI the patient and try more Narcan, but they seem just as stumped as we did..... What would you have done? Any ideas what was going on with our patient? Tell me what you think! JS

Friday, December 11, 2009

pics and quick trip to the tattoo parlor

The pic above was taken of my partner joy riding around the ER at our local hospital.

So we go to pick up a patient from the hospital. Our patient is nonverbal and not alert. He is returning home after being treated for an infection. My partner is teching and I'm driving. All I have is an address on a major street in Detroit. As I am driving down the street I notice that this is not a residential area. All that I see is old store fronts suffering the wrath of urban decay.

I drive past the address because I am looking for a home. I turn around and drive back still unable to locate this house. I decide I'm going to pay closer attention to the store fronts.

I find the address. Its a tattoo parlor, not a house. It looks like the tattoo parlor is not open for the day yet. I get out and go around to the back door and knock. To my surprise a women with a shaved head and covered in tats answers the door. I ask if I'm in the right place, and she tells me that I am. We go in the door with our patient on the cot. At the back of the tattoo parlor they had built a small kitchen and bedroom. That's right our patient lived in the tattoo parlor. Can you believe that? I see something new every time I go to work. JS

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


As many of you know I work on a paramedic/EMT ALS unit. Most of the agencies around us are required to run paramedic/paramedic ALS units. We were granted special permission to run this way by our local medical control. This is important to understand. My department normally staffs one BLS unit and one ALS unit. In the event we catch a fire the four of us hop on the engine and the on-call firefighters staff the rest of the trucks.

I'm on duty the other night working on the ALS unit. The BLS unit is also up. We get toned out for a car vs women. Both units respond. We arrive on scene first. We are told right away that 2 people were hit, so I advise dispatch we have multiply patients. We requested mutual aid from our next closest station, we asked for one more ALS unit. My partner and I started working on the most seriously injured patient while the Basic crew started care on the other patient.

My Paramedic partner does his assessment of our patient. Our patient is A&Ox3, denies any LOC, but has a nasty open fracture on her left ankle, her foot was hanging on by the skin only. By now our mutual aid is arriving. I tell my partner I can splint the ankle and get her back boarded and he can go get his IV and other ALS equipment set up in the truck.

When our mutual aid arrives on scene they show up with 2 ALS engines, and a BLS transport truck. We only requested one ALS unit. We are not union and we are happy not being union, our city takes good care of us. Our mutual aid paramedics are IAFF union members and some times that creates some issues between our departments. Don't get me wrong I was a union firefighter for years, and I have no problem with the unions.

Our mutual aid personel swarm our scene like bees. Not asking once what we needed. I had three of there personel come up to me and try to take control of my patient from me. When I told them what I was doing and what was going on, I was told that I was not being talked to. I said to them that we were an ALS unit 3 times, they ignored me. I told them that it was my patient and my paramedic partner and I were transporting this patient to the local trauma center. They said they were putting our patient in their truck. I said no way, my patient was going in my truck and yet the continued to ignore me. Finally I had to yell for my partner to come out and help me. He forced our patient to our truck. Once there the medics from the other department saw the monitor and IV bag hanging they said "Are you guys ALS?". I could do nothing but shake my head.... We transported our patient priority one to the trauma center. Then we chatted about what had happened. So my question to my readers is how do we stop this from happening again in the future? JS

Monday, November 9, 2009

Bloody Trauma... For Bob! (Pick of the shift)

We are dispatched to a fall at the local senior apartments. We arrive to find a 65 year old male patient laying on the floor next to a broken glass table with blood everywhere. Maintenance man is holding a towel to the patients head, the towel is soaked with blood. At this time our patient denies any LOC and is A&Ox3. I remove the towel to find his head squirting blood. I quickly apply a trauma dressing and ice pack to his head and wrap with cling. Next I grab C-spine, my partner and I collar and backboard him. We get him on the cot. By now he seems to have lost a great deal of blood, he bleeding through trauma dressing after trauma dressing. He is also getting confused. We start 2 large bore IV's for volume replacement. We also put him on 15LPM of O2 via mask. We transported him priority one to the closest hospital. On scene our patients vitals were as follows: 118/70bp, 72pulse, 18resp, and alert. When we got to the hospital he was 90/50bp, 110pulse, and confused. We rushed him into the trauma room and quickly turned over care. By the time we turned over care I was covered in blood, something that hasn't happened to me since I was a rookie... There was just that much blood! What would you have done differently? What could we have done better? Tell me what you think please... JS

I"m sorry

Let me say I'm sorry. I have not been posting new entries very often. I have a great deal I want to tell you all about. I have just been very short on time. I'll be honest, I met a girl and she is taking up a lot of my free time... and I like it! I wish I could tell you more but I want to keep my personal life private. I promise I will start posting again, but give me a little time please. Thank you for understanding. JS

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Devils night in the "D"

A buddy of mine from another fire department met up with me and we headed for Detroit. The night before Halloween is known as devils night in Detroit. Back in the 80's and early 90's Detroit used to burn with arson fires. Today it is still a busy night but not like it used to be.

We stopped at a Fire bar for a beer to make our plan and to chat with some old friends. In the past when we have done this we would go to a firehouse and wait for them to get a call and follow them. We would chat with the crew when we arrived and told them what we were doing. They always seemed to welcome us with open arms. Firefighters come out from all over the country to chase DFD on devils night. Last night we met guys from Boston and Rhode Island.

Let me say that I love my Iphone. You can listen to Detroit fire online at, there is a link to it at the bottom of my blog. There is an APP called emergency radio for the Iphone. This APP allows you to listen to many departments from all over the country, So we were able to listen to DFD live on my Iphone. This made our night, we were able to go to more fires than ever before. We had a few good ones including a fire involving four structures. I was not very impressed when we arrived at an electric pole fire to see a firefighter spraying water on a charged pole that as arching and on fire. It scared us a little so we moved on quickly!

I would like to thank the Detroit Fire and Police departments. They let us watch them work their trade and they welcomed us to do it. We had a great night and didn't make it home till almost six AM. Can't wait to do it again next year. I have some more pics and will upload them soon, sorry about the poor quality of the one posted, I took them with my phone. JS

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Home invasion

We responded to an injured person yesterday that was attacked in her home durring an attempted robbery. Two men pretending to be flower delivery guys forced their way into her home after she opened the door for them.

The intruders had a gun and told the victim to take them to the safe in the home. When she refused they beat her over the head with a gun in front of her grandchildren.

Then they duct taped her and dragged her by her hair to the safe. She refused to give them the combination to the safe.

Not being able to gain access to the safe the intruders fled the scene. When police arrived they found boot prints outside the home. Neighbors also stated that they saw a panel van parked across the street for hours before the crime.

Our unit arrives on scene after the police cleared it for us. We treat the patient and transport to our local hospital. Our patient's vitals are stable, and she has a nice bump on the top of her head.

She is later released from the hospital. The police are currently investigating. This was just one of our runs that day. It was one of the busiest shifts I had in a long time. JS

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Friday, October 16, 2009

Dib (pick of the shift)

We arrive at the local senior apts to find an 86 year old female laying down in her lazy boy chair. She is on home o2 at 2 liters per min via nasal. Her resps are at 28 and labored. Patient has no history of copd but does have a history of chf, cad, esrd, and dm. Patient has no visiable adema. What would you do!

This is what we did. We moved the patient to our cot and then sat her up. Sitting her up seemed to help more than anything. We gave her an albuterol sulfate breathing treatment, this provided some relief. Next we placed our patient on high flow o2 via non rebreather mask and provided rapid transport to the hospital! Tell me what you think. JS

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, October 12, 2009

The test

I'm trying out a new app on my phone for posting to my blog! Hope you enjoy the pic of my brother and me! JS

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Katrina, FEMA, and freelancing

I have been wanting to write this post for a long time. I haven't until now because it shows some of my fellow firefighters in a negative light during the Katrina response. I try to be as positive as I can be on my blog. Taking the recommendation of my friend Bob, writing this post is more for me to vent about my experiences and anger than to entertain my three readers. Also there was a group of firefighters from another south east Michigan department that deployed to New Orleans that were not happy with what I did down there. These firefighters didn't speak highly of me after they returned home. They seemed to make it into a union issue; I was a union firefighter at the time. So maybe if one of them reads this it might set the story straight.

Let me tell you a little about my brief career with FEMA and the USFA. I started as a DAE (Disaster reservist) with FEMA a few years before Katrina. This was a position that my former Fire Chief helped me get. I was deployed as a task force leader in Florida for the response of hurricanes Charlie, Francis, and Ivan. I was also deployed as a community relation’s specialist for hurricane Dennis the following year, and just before I was sent to Louisiana I was sent to the Carolinas to do damage assessments after Hurricane Ophila. Then I received my position as Operations Chief of the Incident Management Team (IMT) in LA. This was a position with the United States Fire Administration (USFA). Later I served as the leader of this team before returning home.

When FEMA asked for volunteers from the fire service to respond to Katrina for a community relation’s mission, they were told that this would be non-operational type work. Yet many of the firefighters took it upon themselves to freelance in operational type roles. Some didn't know they were freelancing because they were just following orders from their task force leaders. These task force leaders were operating outside of there given mission and thought they were doing the right thing.

My IMT was tasked with being the liaison between the USFA and FEMA, and was responsible for all firefighters assigned to the LA theater, including New Orleans. That was about 2600 firefighters. This team was not put into place until 10 days after FEMA started sending firefighters to LA. Needless to say we had our work cut out for us just tracking down and accounting for all the firefighters in the field.

I worked out of the Joint Field Office (JFO) in Baton Rouge LA, however my supervisor was at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg MA. My point of contact in the JFO was Thad Allen's (USCG) chief of staff. I did not report to anyone in the JFO and that really bothered some other groups working in the JFO. It seems like in the federal government everyone has built their own little empire and is really hung up on their job titles. This often prevents any work from being done. This created a great deal of friction and hindered my team’s efforts many times.

While serving in this role I took a trip down to New Orleans to meet with task force leadership and try to get a count of how many firefighters were working in the area. I also wanted to make sure our firefighters were working the correct mission. Remember that these firefighter were supposed to be doing non-operational community relations type work. FEMA has USAR, DMAT, military and mutual aid fire agencies to do the operational work, and these groups were doing a good job. I had gotten wind that many firefighters from community relations were riding on firetrucks in some of the smaller communities around New Orleans and doing operational work. This might not seem like a big deal, but they got hurt they would not be covered by FEMA, and could open us up for a huge liability. Remember that everything I'm about to tell you about was for the good of these firefighters, and to make sure they made it home safe and sound.

I arrive in New Orleans at the disaster recovery center (DRC) and met with the task force leader. The task force leader was a firefighter from another Midwest City that came down as part of the 2600 from the USFA. He had been informed the day before that we would be coming down. He put on a really nice dog and pony show for us. He took us out into the field to meet with some of his firefighters. He had several hundred firefighters under his command. He had members of his staff take us out and show us what his firefighters were doing. We went to a red cross station to see his guys handing out water and mre's, then we went to a school where his firefighters were cleaning up the school trying to get it open for classes. We chatted with the firefighters and helped them work out pay issues and lodging problems.

While we were touring the school a squad leader come to me and asked if we could talk in private. So I went and talked with this gentleman. He told me that he had a couple of guys reassigned from him after an altercation on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. He gave their names and told me that they had been reassigned to a firehouse in Algiers to work as firefighters. He was also aware that nobody was supposed to doing operational work. I thanked him for the information and told him that it would be kept private. After seeing the school we were taken back to the DRC.

When we arrived back at the DRC I again met with this task force leader. I told him that I thought they were doing some good work and to keep it up. I asked him if he needed anything from me or my team, and that we would be happy to help any way we could. So I then told him that I had been hearing rumors that firefighters were working in firehouses and that this was not our mission. I asked if there was any truth to these rumors. He told me "no!". He did say that he had some guys sleeping at firehouses because of the problem with lodging, and I told him that was not a problem as long as they were not working in those firehouses. He told me that as far as he knew they were only sleeping there. But he seemed uncomfortable talking about this issue, and that made me think.....

After leaving the DRC in New Orleans I decided to make a stop at the firehouse in Algiers to check on the validity of this story... Guess what I found? That’s right, I found two firefighter from Texas, one had a huge black eye! Story confirmed! I showed these firefighter my ID and started a dialog with them. They were very helpful and this was the story they told.

A few days before they were walking down Bourbon St. and saw a guy shoving another guy on the street. Remember, at this time New Orleans was a closed city and the only people allowed in the city were military and government workers, and for some reason almost half the bars in the French quarter were open. They were entertaining all the workers there to help. Back to the story, These two guys decided to try and break up the fight before it got out of hand. As it turned out the guys shoving were also USFA firefighters. When they stepped in one of them was clocked in the eye by one of the guys shoving, but they managed to keep their cool and break up the fight.

The next day these two firefighters went to the DRC to make a complaint about the fight and a statement. They were told by task force leadership that they wanted to keep this issue "in the firehouse", and if they agreed they would be reassigned to a firehouse. They were then told to take their US Government car back to Texas and pick up their Bunker Gear. They agreed. After returning to New Orleans they learned that the guy that had punched one of them in the eyes was in fact the task force leader himself. However they had decided to let sleeping dogs lay because they liked their new assignment.

I told them that they were not supposed to be doing operational type work and that I had to investigate the issue. I told them that if they got hurt they would be on their own. I also told them to stay put right now but let me know if anything changed. I then gave them my personal cell number. I also informed them that after this was finished I could put them on my staff and get them away from that task force. They agreed and I was on my way back to Baton Rouge.

On my way back to the JFO I received a call on my personal cell phone from these 2 firefighters. They told me that they had just been informed that the next morning eight more guys from the task force were being assigned to that firehouse to work as firefighters. So the next morning I returned to the Algiers firehouse. As I arrived I saw the guy that had given me the tour the day before talking to 8 firefighter outside the firehouse. I walked up to him and asked if we could talk in private. He told me that he was following orders and that these guys were now assigned to this firehouse. I said ok, and told him that none of the USFA guys were supposed to be working in firehouses. I got in my car and started back for Baton Rouge again. Before I made it 20 mins down the road my government cell phone was ringing, it was our task force leader, I told him I would chat with him after I returned to my office and hung up the phone. He tried to call me many more times, even blocking his number in hopes that I would answer. He started yelling union shit at me, and how we needed to stick together as union brothers. I told him I was not working for the union right now (I was the union steward at home dept at that time) and that I was working for the USFA and that I would chat with him when I got back to my desk.

A few mins after my last conversation with the task force leader my personal cell phone was ringing. It was my 2 friends in Algiers. They told me that they were ordered not to talk to me or anyone else from the JFO and that the entire task force was being told the same thing. I said thanks for the update and kept driving. Before I made it back to the JFO my personal phone was ringing again. This time the 2 firefighter were telling me that they were already receiving threats from other members of the task force. I told them to pack their things and head for the JFO ASAP, and when the got there to tell security that they had a meeting with me. Our security was being done by Blackwater at that time, and they didn't screw around.

When I made it to my desk I had over a dozen messages on my desk phone from the task force leader. However my first call was to my boss at the USFA. I asked what he wanted me to do. The first thing he said was that we had to get all the guys in the task force out of operational assignments, he then told me that these guys were freelancing and should be sent home. I told him they where just following orders from the task force leader and shouldn't be punished, but we agreed that they needed to be reassigned to community relations functions. I then told him about the fight involving the task force leader on Bourbon Street and about my visit the day before. I told him how the task force leader was lying to my face about firefighters doing operational work, and about the 2 firefighter I met in Algiers and about the threats they were getting. He told me that the decision was mine on what to do with the task force leader, but that the recommendation from him was to send the task force leader home and call his Department Chief at the Midwest city Fire Dept and tell him what his firefighter was doing.

About the time I was finishing up my conversation with my boss the two firefighters from Algiers were arriving at my office. I had them write formal statements detailing the events of the past few days. Then I asked what they wanted to do. I told them I could have them reassigned to Alabama, or another part of LA, or they could stay at the JFO on my staff or they could go home. They decide to work in the JFO for a while then moved on to another part of LA.

Let me tell you that I was pretty pissed off for being lied to, for the threats against the 2 firefighter, and most of all for the freelancing being done by the task force leader..... After I had a couple hours to cool down I called the task force leader. When I called him, I told him that his services were no longer needed and that was to report to the JFO the next morning to be out-processed. I thanked him for his service during his time in New Orleans. He did not take it well and started yelling at me on the phone. He asked who my boss was, and I told him, but he didn't seem to want to call the USFA. I told him if he didn't come to Baton Rouge in the morning I would be forced to get law enforcement involved and his Fire Chief at home. I told him the choice was his. He did report to the JFO in the morning and I took his government issued property away from him, including his cell phone and told him to go the demobilization center to go home. He decided instead to try and see the Chief of Staff at the JFO. I walked past him outside the Chief of Staffs office and entered the office. The Chief of Staff and I walked out to get lunch and our former task force leader was trying to get his attention. He was ignored. I guess he sat outside his office for almost 2 days before Blackwater took him to demobilization. He finally went home having never seen the Chief of Staff.

I promoted the Asst. Task force leader to Task Force leader. I told him what he had to change and he complied. To my knowledge he served as task force leader for the duration of his deployment. I was told that the firefighters from another southeast Michigan fire dept were also assigned to firehouses in the New Orleans area. They were told that I made the rule that USFA firefighters were not allowed to work in operations. That was not true! I just didn't want anyone I was responsible for to get hurt and not be covered. I didn't want that on my chest. I hope they can understand that. I was just trying to do what I thought was the right thing. Shortly after this event I returned home and resigned my appointment with the US government. I was burned out. With all the bull shit going on down there it was really hard to get anything done without some kind of interference. I guess you could say I gave up, but I feel like I did my part for King and country. I spent over 3 months down there, 3 months of getting paid for 12 hr shifts but really working 16-18 hours a day seven days a week, 3 months of MRE's, sleeping in tents on a cot, and using porta-Johns, 3 months of ignoring my family, my job, and my union. It was just time for me to go home! My boss was very upset about my decision but I taught my Asst. how to do my job, and I was told that he did it well! Tell me what your feeling are on this post and Katrina. JS

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My trip to the V.A.

I was doing a hospital transfer from our base hospital to the closest VA. Our patient was a 34 year old combat vet with terminal cancer. He was going to the VA because the government wouldn't pay for care at the private hospital. He was one of the nicest and most agreeable patients I have ever had the privilege of treating or transporting. We chatted all the way to the VA, talking mostly of his young daughter, family, and the military.

My patient lived in Reno, he moved there to find work after getting out of the Army. He had returned to Michigan to see his family before he passed, but while he was here he got ill and was forced to go to the hospital.

We arrive at the VA, and from the moment we entered the hospital we were treated like crap. Some one had already accepted our patient via the telephone, but admissions wasn't going to let him in without a copy of his DD-214 (military discharge paperwork). The problem is his DD-214 is in Reno. After much conversation they decide to accept our patient.

Our patient is ambulatory but is laying on our cot because he is a little weak. We arrive on the floor and approach the desk. The unit clerk tells us last room on the right. We proceed down the hallway and enter room. I turn down the bed for our patient and we lower the cot so he can take the 2 steps to the bed. Just after our patient lays down his nurse enters the room, looks at me and starts yelling "You should have waited for me before you moved the patient!". I told him that I could have him get out of bed, walk back to our cot and then get back in bed, if that was what he wanted. He just stormed off down the hall. I quickly caught up with him, and tried to give report. He refused to take report from me or even look at the chart. So I walked away from him and started for the desk. Then the nurse said don't you need my signature? Like he was going to screw with me any way he could. I told him no, I don't need you to sign, we are a county unit, not a city unit! I then told him that the chart would be at the desk! We then promptly left the VA.

Our Veteran deserve better than this! And if this is what government health care is like, then we are all in trouble! JS

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My summer in photos

Little Round Top

The National Fire Academy


Hanging with D.C. Fire outside the White House

Lazy days on the boat

Recovered treasures

From the lake bed

Getting ready to get wet with members of the dive rescue team

On the range

Paintball weeked warriors 2009

Sunset from the boat

B-17 Bomber At Selfridge air base

World War II reenactment


With The

U.S. Army

Michigan west coast

Baltimore Harbor Fire Boat

Port Huron

Me and Mom at Michigans East Coast

Torch Lake... Thanks Kevin

Historic Fort Wayne (Detroit)

Party with health care providers, staying hydrated

Me and Crzegrl

Grab Life by the horns

Chillin with

my close friends

Fort Mchenry

It's safe to say I had a great summer! But I'm sad it's over. JS