Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We're All Islanders!

My sweet boy is only 4.  But he loves hockey. My little 40 pounder is destined for Gretzky greatness. Anything round he sees, he immediately associates with a hockey puck. Anything remotely resmbling a New York Islanders Hockey Team emblem will immediately prompt a "Daddy, look!" shout, with a stiff, outstretched arm and finger pointed right at it.  At the rink where we go for lessons, my boy just had to take another one of those little New York Islanders pocket schedule of games - one of the many now strewn about his room.  After all, we do live on Long Island.  "We're All Islanders!" the schedule cover boasts. 

"Pedro" is an islander too.  The island of the Dominican Republic.  He was sitting in the driver seat of his truck on Jericho Turnpike when I found him- the accident victim of a rear end collision.  No airbags deployed, and there was no intrusion into the cabin of the truck. But Pedro had some pretty intense whiplash. Traffic was heavy, so we immobilized him, slapped a collar on, and got him into the bus quickly. He was going to be ok. Pedro didn't
 speak much English though. At least not outwardly. Who could blame him.  Not only was he an accident victim, but he was surrounded by police officers and an indignant perpetrator of the accident, all loudly muttering (and not exactly under their breath at that) innuendos of immigrant encroachment.  

"Alberto" is an islander too.  The island of Cuba.  He came into my law office seeking my representation after he was hit by a car while riding his bicycle one early morning on his way to work at the Car Wash.  He speaks Spanish mostly. His doctor told him he has a fractured pelvis.  Who would have guessed that the insurance company medical examination,
 performed by a highly qualified, handsomely paid long island doctor, would report otherwise. 

We're all islanders, right? So, why is it that some islanders are treated differently than others?  I am an Islander as well. Too often I shun the love of my wife.  I don't talk to my friends about things that bother me.  Sometimes I don't reveal myself to my children.  And I don't seem to take time off from protecting my family- I'm not really sure from what though.  

It has been said that "no man can be an island".  Logically, then, no man should be treated as one. 

"...Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."  John Donne (1572-1631).

PostScript: After reading my blog, Mr. Donne's estate has retained my legal services to pursue a case against the New York Islanders for plagarism, due to the likeness and similarities of the "We're All Islanders" slogan to John Donne's quote.  

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Princess and the Power Ranger

My firehouse had a halloween party today for the kids. We throw one every year. Its always cute. Kids, costumes, games, music, and lots and lots of sugary treats.  My beautiful girl dressed up as a princess, and my sweet boy was a power ranger

"What should I dress up like?" I asked my daughter. 
"Um, like a daddy, smiling as she shouted, as if she solved a major mystery. 
"Oh yeah? OK. What should I wear as a costume?"
My little girl's answer came quickly to her:  "A bagel".  
Wow. A bagel. Esoteric, obscure, humorous, yet round and appetizing all at the same time. 
Anyway....As soon as they put on their costumes, my kids assumed their roles.  Skylar floated down the stairway in her dress that sparkled and flowed just above the floor, yet not high enough to reveal her little feet. And her tiara was just precious. Whereas Skylar floated, Brandon jumped fearlessly down the entire set of stairs.  He flashed his lightning 
bolts, and spun ninja kicks until the sugar wore off.  I hid the nun-chucks from him.  No one got hurt, thankfully.

There's a princess and a power ranger in all of us if you look in the mirror close enough.  I responded with my crew to a 'signal 9' yesterday.  The chief was at the scene before my bus was '22' (arrived) at the house. The chief radioed on fireground:  "Just the monitor." No stretcher, no trauma bag, no oxygen?  I knew "Sam" the patient had already died well before we got there.  I ran an EKG strip as part of the "c/y/a" process.   And as I waited with my brethren for the County medical examiner to arrive I looked around Sam's den for important information (date of birth, family contact info, etc.).   It was, in many respects, the antithesis of his lifeless rigor mortis. On a bookshelf, a collector's card from 'The Terminator" of Arnold  Schwarzenegger (dark glasses, leather jacket, spiked hair); a photograph on his desk of himself with Bill Clinton; trophies; awards; and three empty cans of "Milwaukee's Best" beer. He was 89 when he died. But Sam obviously was a power ranger.    The face of death, however, is just something that can't be disguised. He was stiff. Discolored. With a strange expression frozen on his face.  There was an eerie, thick, silent vibe in the house. It reeked. 

I was wearing my EMT uniform. Some of the crew on scene saw a dead man.  I was in the same room as they were.  Yet, I saw a power ranger.  Subtly,  I left and attempted to honor him with an emotion of laying my EMT jacket over him like a blanket, which would then  turn into the costume of life he once wore. The call was over. I wasn't ready for any other calls just yet though.  My EMT jacket was still with Sam.  I came back home, and soaked up my little princess and power ranger.  They each recharged me. I gave them eac
h a bagel I had bought on the way home.  Toasted. With cream cheese.  They loved it. 

Friday, October 26, 2007

Passion for Hats and Lights

I remember responding to a 'signal 9' (that's my house's code for 'rescue' call) not so long ago. It concerned an elderly lady at an assisted living facility. The terms 'assisted' and 'living' are all relative, evidently. The outside of the building looks nice enough, as does the reception area at its entrance. But do you know that rather odd smell of 'old lady' perfume that mixes with cheap, stale make-up smell and mothballs that emanates from certain closets of the 'maturely challenged'?? Yeah, baby. That's what permeated the facility's hallowed halls beyond the reception area. The residents all seemed depressed, or sleeping. I probably should have checked them for a heartbeat while I was there. The facility's "nursing" staff seemed too removed enough to care. As a matter of fact, they all seemed to do their best to avoid me and my brethren for fear of being asked questions like "what happened"? Frightening indeed.
The facility was right around the corner from the house. My bus was the first to arrive. Understand, that we are a volunteer department, so, when there's sufficient EMS staff on board the bus, it leaves the house to go to the scene. So, here I was, in all of my EMT glory, riding with a more senior EMT (I will call him "senior"). I give dispatch a '22' (arrived at scene), grab trauma, O2, collar bag, and go in, past the pillared entrance.

"Where is she?" I ask.
"Oh, back there somewhere," the saggy woman wearing a nurse costume mumbled, as she wiped the sleep away from her eyes. She really looked the part. I mean, she even had white shoes on, and wore a little white hat just like Trixie from "Emergency - The TV Series".
"Can you show me?" I asked with urgency.
"I can't leave my desk", the very nice lady stated authoritatively.
Great. There's a lady in distress somewhere in the building and 'slumber nurse' is playing dress-up with her wardrobe. There seemed to be a ruckus down yonder, so, that's where i headed, but not before slumber nurse complained about how bright the ambulance emergency turret lights were. And why, she wanted to know, do we need those walkie-talkie things on if we're not using them? (Insert cat-fight sound here).

I saw the patient sitting in a puddle of blood down the hall. Blood was pouring out of her nose area at a pretty fast rate. 'Senior' was just looking at her. The zombies costumed as facility staff did their best to run the opposite way. They were all old too though, so they didn't really run. They just opened their eyes wide and kind of 'race walked' in all different directions. The chief radioed for a stretcher. Me, well, I ran over to the patient, did my best to determine the mechanism of injury, and mostly applied direct pressure to stop the bleeding. Turns out the old lady fell and hit her nose. The excessive bleeding was due to the fact that she was the closest thing to a Plavix addict you can be without having pure water for blood.

The whole scenario wasn't very life threatening really. But I often reflect on that call because of its ironic moments. I mean, I was presented with a gusher, sitting in a blood puddle, and I just sprung into action without hesitation or reservation. Others ran. And even others asked 'what happened?' They were the ones who stopped, thought, and decided to concern themselves with...well, themselves. Where was their compassion? Where was their sympathy?
Ah, but then again, where was my own? I did not stop. I did not think. If I did, I might have acted like a zombie similar to the facility staff. I might have even just watched, like "senior" was doing. Instead, I did not concern myself with anything. Something within me took over. I seemed to have removed myself from the situation. I was on some kind of autopilot I suppose. Yes. Automatic. At the very instant when I am supposed to have been compassionate I was apathetic. It's so strange to me, really. I am passionate about being an EMT while at the same time I am dispassionate about my manifestation of being one. I have apathy towards those who I treat because I have compassion for them before I treat them.
My lawyer hat looks nothing like Trixie's. I described to someone what happens when I wear it though: 'my nerves run through every part of my file.' Every week I get at least one resume and cover letter claiming "I have a passion for the law". We, as attorneys 'appeal' to judges - in the 'Court of Appeals' no less. We are told to represent our clients 'zeal
ously'. Yet, we tell jurors to act without sympathy; without prejudice; without passion. We are taught that the law treats the underprivileged and privileged the same way. And (too?) often, we as attorneys turn a blind eye towards the truths of our clients' cases. My lawyer hat is BIG and TALL. That's so I can fit any one of a number of hats underneath it. I could be wearing a hat of compassion or dispassion at any moment. And when common sense tells you to look for one type of hat on my head, you will probably find a different hat there.

I love my wife. I love my children. I kiss my beautiful wife smack on the lips before I leave for the day. My sweet boy and girl cry passionately when I leave the house in the morning to go to the office.

"Daddy, daddy!!! One more kiss and hug, plllleeeaaasssee?" Tears dancing on their cheeks, breakfast syrup on their little chins, standing in the doorway, running in place, half naked. I run from my car at the curb, and give those beautiful kids a kiss and a hug that i hope lasts the rest of the day for them. And then I trudge to my office, and become a slave to its calling.

I get through the day
wearing my attorney hat only by becoming dispassionate about my family. That is to say, I work late because of them; I don't think of them because I have to complete my case assignments so that I earn money to support them; I don't call them during the day. I don't email them.
I am a player of the game of passion everyday. At home, at the office, on a call. When the passion switch in 'on', the passion light is off, and vice versa. (Insert Neil Diamond, 'put on your Heartlight' background music here). I know, I know... confuses the crap out of me too. And let me tell you what wonders it does for my marriage. I have hope though. My wife still turns me 'on' when the lights go 'off'.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fire in California

My thoughts and prayers are with you all out there. 

A good man, and a good attorney, Johnathan G. Stein, is doing some great work in California for the victims of this horrible disaster. As he has stated here, he has graciously offered his services pro bono (yes, that means free).  

Here is some gut wrenching video footage of a family evacuating after holding out until the very last moment, and some footage that I found striking, including two firefighters who saved at least four houses from certain destruction.  

Channel IconChannel Icon

Two false alarms, the same man trapped.

There were two fire calls on my way to the office today- the pager and siren went off just as I opened my door. Frankly, it was kind of creepy the way that i seemed to have set off two fire alarms just by opening the door to my car. "I'm not gonna lie," as my EMT buddy Joe always tells me- I loved the sound of the pager tones.  And when they stopped, the town's horn siren filled in the gap between the repeat pager tones.  I was excited. No, more exhilarated than excited. Whatever. It was a positive, energizing sentiment- almost like what I feel in vegas after chain drinking Red Bulls and smoking a non-filtered cig while looking at a winning hand of blackjack with a bet just big enough to make me worry.  Last time I got that feeling while wearing my attorney hat was... I can't really remember. Let's just say eons ago for now

I don't cherish the reasons for the calls, that is for certain. I do, nonetheless, crave that 'rush' of going from Zero to 100 MPH in an instant, and all else that goes along with it.  And being kept from feeling it more often than I do by my Attorney responsibilities doesn't make missing that rush any easier. It's a balancing act all around, that's for sure. Walking the tightrope between the fire/rescue rush and providing my family with more and better life opportunities vis a vis and all of its glory. 

Then again, there is always the cloud of retirement that lingers.  But hasn't the whole concept of retirement, as in total leisure lifestyle without any income at all, sort of become passe at this point, even in this Country? There are those I know who speak of retirement at 55, 60 or 65, but I don't think many of them actually think they will actually retire then. I think the vast majority of people now expect - or if they don't they have to expect -  to work at least part time even well into their 70's.  Maybe, a better plan than retirement is to find some kind of work that I enjoy doing- and striving to do it well into my 70's. I mean, is 'old school' retirement really healthy anyway? I'm probably better off doing my best to keep body, mind and soul active.  What am I really going to do if I retire at like 65 or 70 anyway? I will most likely be rife with back pain or some other 'old man ailment' that would hinder any adventurous plans of mine. 

 I want to enjoy my life now. I don't want to wait. I shouldn't have to. But how can I do what I want to do and still keep my family in the balance?

Oh. The two fire calls this morning were false alarms. Thankfully, none of my brethren (and sistren?) got hurt on their way to the station house.  Maybe that's what my worry is- a false alarm.  I hope I'm not hurting myself by worrying. Or worse, my kids. I'm still trying to listen for those pager tones and sirens. Are they real or just in my head?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mean lawyer, a laywer mean.

No calls last night. Or, maybe there were, and the County just saved all of them for themselves. 

I took my sweet girl to the pediatric urologist this morning. Nothing too serious, especially since she doesn't feel embarrassed at her tender age about frequent urination, or "accidents".

 "Where are we going today, daddy?" 
"We're going to visit a special doctor," I tell her in a tone that any adult would consider patronizing.
 "Well, sweet girl, there's doctors there that will help us feel better," I say to her.
"Why don't we just call the firehouse? Isn't that where you go to help all the people?"

I love the fact that she has that idea in her head. I love the fact that I have been able to communicate the idea to her.  And I love the prospect of having my sweet daughter carry on the notion of helping others long after I'm gone.  

Now, all I have to do is find a way for her to afford health care coverage when she is an adult. My co-pay today was $40 dollars, and, from what I see health insurance carriers paying out these days, the doctor's office won't get paid much more than that. So why, then, did my law office's health insurance rates go up 14%, and where exactly is this money going? The rate of inflation in this country is less than half of that.  Oh. By the way... its not the lawyers' fault. Don't go there. Physician insurance only goes up half of that.  In fact, there were hardly ANY change in prices for several years before that for physician insurance.   
"Magic wand, stat!"

Me, I'm still a volunteer emergency responder. I don't get paid for what I do. Nor does my breathren. Instead, I have grown a thick layer of skin to deal with all of the lawyer jokes, the adversity within the legal system, and my circus-like office (I swear they can do a reality show on all of the characters in my firm.  That's the skin many see. That is the callous that has become the attorney means to my EMT end.  My sweet boy and girl, well, they don't see that skin. They see a man who helps people. And they sense the importance of it.   

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


Just learning how to post on this thing. And trying to focus my ideas into a theme of sorts. But while I do, take a look at a quote from a TV series that used to be on TNT, called "Saved"

I just wanna say.... I wanna say I love my job. How many people can say that?  And I love my real family- who really are selfless- they are people who do things not to be noticed nor celebrated, but just because they can.  Right here, right now.  Sometimes I feel invisible.  I feel invisible now.  But not when I'm doing my job.  I'm a paramedic.  

Here is a link to the show:  Saved- the TV series

They canned the series.  I thought it was one of the best on TV.  I guess the whole idea of a conflicted and confronted paramedic wasn't appealing enough to all of those potential patients out there.