Call to the clinic - they need a paramedic. PA and nurse practicioners only on duty this Sunday afternoon. Mr. Medic in in the helicopter on a call. Ms. Medic is off duty and out of the area. Nothing but EMT-I's around for help. Sid takes charge and I offer to be a third in the back.
Patient is a female in her late 60's. Clara. She's been traveling by car with her husband and son for over a week now. Insulin-dependant diabetic. Blood sugar is reading "HI" on every meter (>444). Hypertensive at 200/100. Cardiac changes (sorry, can't read them that well yet). Clinic does not want to give insulin without more info. Medical control concurs. Our protocol is for saline on hypoglycemic patients. 500mL saline in, 2L O2 nc when she is transferred to our cot. Clara is babbling. Has been for hours now. Saying things in German, her native language, but not one she speaks to her family. She needs to go to the hospital now. Sick with a capital "S".
Thunderstorms are closing in on us, no helicopter transport. Gotta go by ground to the community hospital about an hour away, more or less, depending on traffic and weather. Husband grabs a few things out of her purse, then digs through her wallet - leaving the medical cards and ID, I'm assuming. He hands the wallet to me in the clinic room. "We will take care of it. We do this all the time" She's been incontinent so I tuck the wallet between her calves on the cot.
The ride was one of the hardest I've done so far. Sitting on the bench, taking bp, pulse, counting resps, pulse ox is on the fritz - change of batteries doesn't help. Feel like an elephant lunging around the back of the ambulance. All the while trying to listen attentively. She's trying to communicate. How her husband is wonderful. How she is a burden and doesn't want to be. How great her family is. She seems a bit more lucid than she was in the clinic, but not much. I keep scanning the scenery, willing the ambulance to move faster. No facial droop, no slurred speech, no weakness...
Arrive at the ED. Push the cot into one of the two emergency rooms (plus three more for observation). Nurse asks if she can move herself over. She does with lurching difficulty. Big Don (our driver today - not an EMS guy, but drives for us) leaves pulling our cot so fast I let go of the head. He seems mad about something and does not talk to me at all. He's a pro bed changer, though, and gathers up all the linen with the blue bottom sheet as an envelope. I glove up and grab the package from him, depositing it in the utility room linen bag. I can still see the circular dark blue wet spot on the sheet. We clean up the cot, put on fresh linen, and load it back in the rig.
I check the "miscellaneous area" for any gear with our name on it. There's a backboard and bag of straps there from the North District, so I load that in our rig for the ride back.
I want to go check on Clara once more before we go. I told her husband I would look for him when he arrived. But Sid and Big Don are at the rig, Sid pushing past me to jump in the passenger seat and Big Don getting in as driver. Very brusque. No comradeship, no witty banter as I get with Mr. Medic or Ms. Medic. I jump in back and tidy up. Ask if we can stop for something to eat. Sid and Big Don sigh and stop at McD's. (I have become addicted to their pineapple mango smoothies) They talk freely of country life among themselves (horses, hay, antelope sausage), but basically ignore me. Whatever. I eat and close my eyes. Trying not to get too motion sick in the back of our Type 1.
Sid's phone rings. She asks "Do you guys know what happened to Clara's wallet?"
"I put it between her legs, between her calves, but I don't know where it went..."
Big Don broke in "Musta gotten wrapped up in the sheets or somethin."
I brightened. "Yep, I put the dirty linen in the bag in the utility room..."
"Nope, in the first room."
"No, Don, you handed the linen to me and I put it in the utility room."
"Nope, Sid, tell 'em to look in the first room."
My turn to sigh. Whatever. Has to be in there. Not in the ambulance. Didn't see it on the ground in the bay.
I fueled and cleaned up the rig, listened as Mr. Medic stopped by to swap stories, and went home. Tones went off again around midnight, but I clicked off the radio and eased back into bed as I heard Floyd and several others take the call.
Totally forgot about the wallet until the next day. Until the medical director called my cell. I repeated my version of the story and now feel like I'm being accused of stealing. I take full responsibility for not taking proper care, but now I feel like a criminal accused.