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15 Minutes

 

Confusion and Unease. That's what I would say is going on now out here in EMS land.

 

Listen up:

 

First the government told us we had to wear N95 masks when faced with a potential COVID patient. Then we were told a simple face mask was fine. The CDC then issued more revised guidelines that defined risk, saying as long as you did not have "prolonged contact" with a patient without wearing a mask, you were okay. 

 

Interim U.S. Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Healthcare Personnel with Potential Exposure in a Healthcare Setting to Patients with Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19)

 

Now a hospital in our area has defined prolonged contact as 15 minutes. They are saying, if you are without a mask for the first fifteen minutes, it doesn't count as an exposure.

 

Read this for yourself:

 

Once on the scene, and as soon as possible, a patient with suspected infection as per the most current CDC recommendations and guidelines should be provided with an isolation (surgical) type mask to wear. Responders should likewise don an isolation mask. If an isolation mask is worn by EMS providers within 15 minutes of initial contact, they will not be considered as having been exposed even with contact to a patient who has tested positive.

 

Where does that 15 minutes come from? What science is that based on? Are they saying it takes 15 minutes of exposure for someone to get COVID? We can get coughed on and respiratory dropletted upon for up to 15 minutes and we will be okay?  Come on.

 

We have also heard that at several services, even if you are exposed, you should keep working until you are symptomatic, even though it is known you can spread the disease on to others before you yourself show symptoms.

 

Many people are angry about this relaxing of restrictions because the relaxing seems more linked to the supplies and the need to keep a sufficient health force working than true safety.

 

Add that to our understandable paranoid belief that EMS worker safety might not be the top concern with higher ups and throw that against the onslaught of news describing the terrors of COVID, "the perfect killing machine," and people are rattled.

 

Here is what I believe:

 

Most Americans (70-80%) are going to get COVID eventually. (This includes many who have or have had it or will get it and not know.)

 

The effort at social distancing and closings are geared to flatten the curve (spread the sickness out over time) and keep the health care system from being overwhelmed, enabling it to save more COVID patients as well as other sick patients who will need ICU level care.

 

These efforts will fall short, but will be better than no effort at all.

 

We will have a true period where the shit hits the fan. Likely beginning in May.

 

The ever changing guidance to EMS reflects the need to find a balance between safety and not exhausting the supply of PPE and the supply of EMS responders. If you insist on the proper level of safety, too many of us will have to be self-isolated and there will not be enough PPE to make it through.

 

We are given a limited supply of PPE and told to only put it on when we encounter someone with a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness and possible contact with a positive patient. Yet we walk into a hospital and everyone is wearing masks, everyone except EMS. You see pictures in the paper of nurses gowned up in space suits to do COVID testing, wearing full body gear that looks nothing like the paper napkin gowns they give us for the most extreme cases, a gown that in my case doesn't even reach my knees. You can see why people feel uneasy.

 

Many like me are resigned to getting it. I hope that my 15 day January/February illness was COVID, but I fear waking up each morning with a raging fever. I'm 61 and am in good health for the most part. I have read enough to understand most of those dying are old and with comorbidities that I do not have.  I want to work.  I love being a paramedic, and have always been and am still willing to be on the front lines.  Like those I work with, I will take the risk.  Just be honest with us about them.

 

For many more posts on the COVID epidemic, go to:

 

Street Watch: Notes of a Paramedic

 

 

A Ravine in Winter

There is a picture in the Hartford Courant of Mark Jenkins talking with police officers looking as forlorn as I have ever seen him. They stand next to yellow tape sectioning off an area of woods just off Park Terrace where down a small ravine a man has been found dead. The paper describes the crime scene as a homeless encampment but it is little more than a small clearing with a dirty mattress, a blanket over some branches as a tarpaulin and a hollowed out log. Mark is the leader of the Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition. A former user, who went to rehab himself seventeen times, with the help of friends he found his way, and now has dedicated his life to harm reduction, which he describes as set of principles that recognizes the humanity of users and works to get them help or keep them safe until they are at a place in their lives where they are ready to stop using.

 

A couple months back, I got dispatched to this same place for an overdose. Mark and two members of his organization, Jose and Bryan, were already there. They had been on their way to work on the construction of their new walk-in center when they were flagged down. They found a man cold and not breathing on the broken winter branches and mat of old heroin bags. They gave him naloxone and by my arrival, the man was breathing again. He was just starting to rouse and was combative in his haze. They helped us carry him up to our stretcher. He was lucky someone has seen him and that Mark and his crew were driving by. In the hospital the man's core temperature was 90 degrees.

 

Some days when I am working, I stop by the site. A few weeks ago, after we'd pulled to the side of the road, I looked down the small ravine and saw a solitary man there. From my vantage, I saw he had his arm outstretched and was injecting himself. In the summertime the clearing is completely hidden by greenery, but in winter, it is all grey and naked trees. The man in jeans and a black shirt nevertheless blended in, as if in this same season, he were stripped himself of much of what he once was. I told my partner to drive on.

 

I don't know if the dead man is the same man I took to the hospital or the man I saw injecting himself in the cold grayness or someone else. I do know that he is not the first to die in those woods.

 

123 Americans died of overdoses in Hartford in 2019. 17 have already died in 2020.

 

In Mark's face you can see the burden of this war he is fighting against stigma, against convention and bureaucracy, against death, against time.

 

***

 

Connecticut drug deaths spiked in 2019, reaching record highs. Those on the front lines of the opioid crisis say they aren’t surprised

 

Harm Reduction

25 Years

I hit my twenty-fifth anniversary at work last month. Twenty-five years full time as a paramedic. I am sixty-one years old now and feeling the wear and tear, particularly in these last two years. I don't sleep well at night. My hearing is shot. I need a stronger prescription for my reading glasses (which I also use for intubating and IVs). Last summer I suffered my first worker's injury to my back that has left me with a lingering weakness in my legs.  Fortunately  it is not bad enough that I can't work, but it is bothersome nonetheless. I still carry all my gear up five flights of stairs. I don't get to the top as quick as I used to and I am sure to use the railing on my way back down. I was sick for over a month this winter. I had the really bad cough that everyone seems to have. I worked through the first three weeks because that's what we do in EMS, coughing up green phlegm and downing decongestants. My energy level just wasn't there. I finally said, enough is enough. I'm not coming back until I am well. I laid in bed for two days, and then when I went back to work after a week out, I had a splitting headache and was getting short of breath toward the end of my shift, and so I took some more time off. Good thing, I had plenty of PTO.

 

On Friday when I came in to work I saw the boss (a young man I precepted) and told him I wanted to change my status to part-time. I managed to get some more hours added to my hospital EMS coordinator job so going part-time at my medic job was going to be necessary anyway eventually, but finally saying it out loud, it felt momentous. I'm not going to work Sundays anymore (unless I want to) and other than a few remaining shifts I am already scheduled for, no more getting up at four in the morning. I will still work twenty hours a week, but will just call in when they have shifts available (they always do) and work the hours I can that don't conflict with my work, family, and trying to get healthy again life-style.

 

The boss said he was glad for me, and then gave me my twenty-five year plaque and pin, which had been sitting in the supervisor's office. I took it and shook his hand. The plaque is in the back seat of my car now. Eventually I will just put it in a box in the garage along with my 10, 15, and 20 year plaques. Not that I don't appreciate it, I just don't display things like that.  I also get to choose a 25-year gift from a special catalog). I got a kitchen knife set for my 10th and 20th anniversaries, which I still have (9 knives for the 10th and 13 for the 20th). For the 15th I got a GPS that my wife lost. I am thinking about whether to get the 17 piece knife set, a digital smoker, or a snowblower. The snowblower would be great for snowy mornings, but if I am no longer getting up at 4, the need isn't as pressing, plus with global warming, I shovel less and less each winter anyway.

 

When I went to punch in Friday, after I'd gotten my plaque and told the boss I was going part-time, I saw a flyer over the clock and a picture of a guy I'd gone to paramedic class with. I was 34 and he was 24 back then. Like me he worked 25 years for the same company but in another division. The paper said he had a medical emergency and passed away unexpectedly. He was just 52. Nice young man with a family. A good paramedic. Since we were in different divisions, I saw him infrequently, always at the hospital pushing a stretcher. We'd say hello by name, and then go on our ways.

 

On Friday I worked with Jerry, an old partner of mine, who's been with the company almost as long as I have. We have a great time together, laughing most of the day. Riding with Jerry, it's like we're not even working, just two friends hanging out. During a downtime between calls, we ran through the list of all the people we'd worked with who had died over the years. It was a long one. Some of the people we struggled to remember their names.

 

I still love being a paramedic. I just know its time to take care of myself and my family first. Today, instead of sitting in the ambulance writing this, I am in the stands watching my twelve year old daughter warm up with her team on the basketball court. I am putting the computer down as the game is about to start.

 

 

1200

1200 Dead.

 

In 2018 Connecticut overdose deaths dropped after six years of steady rises. Was it a plateau? Or just a pause in a grim climb? The first six months of 2019 hinted that the deaths might be be on the upward move again, but none of us were prepared for yesterday's news from the Connecticut Medical Examiner's Office.

 

1200.  An eighteen percent increase over 2018.

 

94% of the deaths involved opioids.

 

The dead ranged from 17 to 74.

 

The culprit:

 

Fentanyl was present in 979 of the deaths (82%), its most ever, continuing its unremitting rise since 2012 when it was detected in only 12 deaths.

 

What's the answer?

 

End the stigma. Treat drug users like we treat victims of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes. With compassion, love and evidenced based medical care.

 

Recognize addiction for what it is — a chronic brain disease, not a character flaw.

 

Make rehab available to those who want it and make medication assisted therapy (MAT) methadone and buprenorphine available to all who want it.

 

For those who aren't ready for rehab or MAT, bring them in from the cold, open drug overdose prevention sites where users can be in the presence of trained providers instead of forcing them to shoot up behind dumpsters, in park thicket and in locked public restrooms where we find them dead.

 

Make naloxone as widely available as possible and drill in the message, never use opioids alone.

 

Sue the pharmaceutical companies for their pivotal role in creating the epidemic (lying about the addictive qualities of their products and for producing massive quantities of painkillers even though they knew they were shipping vast amounts to distributors who were then flooding the black market with their products.

 

Use the money to fund a drug war against addiction.

 

Above all, be kind to those afflicted.

 

Missing

She frequented a neighborhood park near the hospital. I'd see her times smoking a cigarette while she sat on the playground swings. Many nights, she slept on cardboard by the fence, sometimes she tied a tarp from the fence down to the grass to provide shelter on rainy nights. She was tall and gawky with red hair and looked a lot older than her thirty odd years because she had lost most of her teeth. Nothing makes a person look older than when their gums recede. I first saw her one morning this summer when the temperature was already up into the 90's and the humidity made it hard to breathe. I asked her if she wanted a bottle of cold water, which she did, smiling in such a way you could see her youth hadn't completely been obliterated from her body from the hard living she had put it through. I also gave her an orange and a couple bucks. She had a tattoo of a blue pony on her neck. It was faded, but the pony looked like a magical kid's pony — the kind that could fly when it wasn't being cuddled by a four-year-old.

 

I never found out too much about her. I knew her name Tammy and knew she was a heroin user. I didn't know her back story of how she came to call the small park her home. She rarely came down toward Pope Park where we post sometimes in the ambulance and where I get to know many of the users walking east up Park Street to buy their drugs. I usually saw her as I drove past in the ambulance headed west.  She walked alone, going in and out of bodegas or standing on the corner lighting cigarettes. Even among the murals and store signs on Park Street, her orange red hair stood out like technicolor in the old movies.

 

Early on a cold fall morning when you could already start to see people's breaths as they stood at the bus stop or hurried down the street to whatever job put subsistence in their pockets, we get called for an overdose on the basketball court in the park. My partner pulls the stretcher and I sling the house bag over my right shoulder, and carry the heart monitor in my other arm. The fire department responders stand in a semi-circle over a body. One of the guys gives the finger across the throat sign to say we won't be needing the stretcher. As I get closer, I see two feet sticking out from under the blanket. I pull the blanket back and stare at the face. When someone dies their soul leaves and their face becomes almost unrecognizable to what they once were. Then I see the tattoo.  I look at her face again. It is white and waxen. She's been dead for hours. Her limbs are cold and stiff. Her mouth is riggored shut. I run my six second strip of asystole.

 

A slow drizzle has started. I pull the blanket back over her face. We head back to the street, past the empty playground. The morning is black, white and grey.

Judge Rules for Safe Injection Site

A federal judge ruled yesterday that a nonprofit group in Philadelphia's effort to open a safe injection site where people can use drugs under medical supervision does not violate the federal crackhouse statutes prohibiting the operation of a space "for the purpose of manufacturing, distributing or using controlled substances."

 

U.S. District Judge Gerald McHugh wrote: "The ultimate goal of Safehouse's proposed operation is to reduce drug use, not facilitate it." 

 

The federal government has not only vowed to appeal, they have threatened to shut down anyone who attempts to open such a site.  Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen said, "Any attempt to open illicit drug injection sites in other jurisdictions while this case is pending will continue to be met with immediate action by the department."

 

Ten years back I would have thought a safe injection site was a foolish idea, but after witnessing the sorrow, devastation and death caused by the opioid epidemic, I have come to see these spaces as essential.  The evidence from safe injection sites operated legally in countries around the world shows that they work in reducing death and the spread of disease as well as increasing the number of people getting into treatment.  They are a common sense solution to a major problem.  Today users in Hartford shoot up in public spaces, leaving drug paraphernalia (open needles) on the ground, and many of them die behind dumpsters, in public bathrooms and in their battered cars because they are found too late to be revived.

 

As Mark Jenkins of the Greater Hartford Harm Reduction Coalition often says, we have plenty of public drug consumption spaces in this city already today.  The restrooms of McDonald's, Subway, Burger King, the public library,  not to mention sidewalks, alleys, and public parks are all commonly used to as public places to inject drugs.  But these sites are far from safe for the user or the public.

 

A safe consumption space provides a clean environment where users not only get sterile supplies, they get counseling and access to social services.  They are treated by people who care about them and recognize them as fellow human beings who are afflicted with a severe chronic disease.  They are not stigmatized as scumbags and degenerates. 

 

We can't forget that nearly all of these people are trapped in a vicious addiction that often began through an injury or illness and a visit to their doctors.  Their doctors prescribed them dangerously addictive medications that the pharmaceutical companies were making billions off of, while hiding their addictive dangers. Even those who began their drug use through experimentation don't deserve the horror that addiction inflicts.   If you take addicted opioid users and put them in an MRI, the imaging will show the damage done to their brains as surely as it will show the damage done to hearts injured by cardiac disease, or lungs by respiratory disease. 

 

Heroin destroys and rewires the brain's reward pathways.  For many, the damage is so severe, recovery is not possible, all that can be hoped for is periods of remission.  The job of harm reduction is to keep people alive and minimize the ill effects of their drug use.  It is about being our brother's keeper.

 

 

Peace to all.

Two Boys

We are called for an unconscious and find the man out cold on his feet near Pope Park.  He is a tall man in his early thirties with a ghost white complexion, standing there on the side of the road, his head nodded forward, arms hanging down swaying.  Another drug user on the nod in Hartford.  I shake him and he opens his eyes and says he is fine, but then he drifts back out.  My partner wheels the stretcher over and we gently push him down onto it.  He wakes enough to again, say he is fine, but he drops back out.  In the ambulance, I check his ETCO2 and his pulse saturation.  The numbers are 66 and 90.  I can stimulate him and the numbers come up a little, but if I leave him alone, he doesn't breathe well enough on his own.  I put in an IV, which he doesn't feel.  I take a 10 cc syringe, squirt out one cc, then add 1 cc of Naloxone to the syringe.  I slowly give him one cc of the mixture, delivered 0.1 mgs of Naloxone, a tiny dose.  When he doesn't respond, I give him another 0.1 mg dose, and soon he is talking to me.  He doesn't even know I have given Naloxone to him.

 

"I don't need to go to the hospital," he says.  "What time is it?   I have to get back to work or I'm going to lose my job.  I'm on my lunch break."

 

It is three-thirty in the afternoon.  I ask him where he works and he says he is a house painter.  He asks where we picked him up, and after I tell him, he tells me he is painting a house a few blocks from there.

 

I tell him the doctors will look at him at the hospital, and after, watching him for an hour, will let him go.

 

"Dude, I can't wait that long," he says, "I'll lose my job."

 

I feel for him, but we had to take him in.

 

His name is Keith and he lives in an upscale suburb of Hartford.  The street is familiar to me.  I did an overdose there maybe a year before. I remember the mother sobbing at the sight of her son on the bathroom floor, even though we were easily able to revive him.  I sensed she was at her breaking point.  He had already been through rehab four times.

 

"You didn't give me Narcan, did you?" Keith asks.

 

"Yes, I did," I say.  "Just a little, enough to keep you breathing without me having to shake you every minute."

 

"Fuck, I'm going to lose my job."

 

"You have to be careful if you are going to use," I say.

 

"I only did a half a bag.  I just haven't used.  I got out of a program last week."

 

"Your tolerance is down.  If you are going to use no matter what have someone there with you.  Have Narcan around.  Do you have it at home?"

 

He nods.

 

"Who do you live with?"

 

"My Dad took me back in."

 

"Does he know how to use it?"

 

"Yeah."

 

"You have to be careful with the fentanyl around."

 

"I know my friend Marty died a month ago."

 

The name rings a bell with me.  "What was his name?"

 

"Marty Harris."

 

"I took care of him before," I say.  "That was a year ago."  Marty was the young man I remembered.  The news of his death, even though I barely knew him shocks and saddens me.  Marty and Keith were the same age

 

 "He got out of jail after nine months and he oded and died."

 

"I'm sorry."

 

"Man, I'm going to lose my job."

 

Once we get to the hospital, he gets even more anxious, and he ends up pulling his IV out.  I try to get a nurse to come over.  I give the heads up that he wants to leave.  The nurse says he'll get a doctor to look at him.  The doctor comes over and the doctor and Keith end up in a shouting match.  The doctor tells Keith he obviously doesn't care about his own life because he is doing drugs that may kill him.  The young man tells the doctor to fuck off and walks out, swearing that he is going to lose his job and he has to walk all the way back to the job site.

 

That night I google his friend Marty's name and add obituary and the name of the town to the search.  And there he is – a picture of the other young man.  There is nothing in the obituary that mentions drugs.  It just says he died too soon and what a kind heart he had.  He was a high school swimmer, an avid soccer fan and an accomplished cook.  He liked to camp with his family in the Adirondacks.  There is a long list of family members he left behind.  I read the comments.  One poster says how he remembered him so fondly as a little boy playing in the neighborhood.  There are even pictures of him when he had to be about five.  One shows him with another young boy, and I wonder if it is the man who I transported today.

Another poster writes:   "He is no longer in pain."

Austin Eubanks

I attend the Department of Public Health's 2019 Connecticut Opioid & Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Conference on May 2. The featured speaker is Austin Eubanks, a survivor of the Columbine shooting. He and his best friend were golfing and fishing buddies. He shows us pictures of the two of them smiling, no idea what fates life had in store for them. In the school library, they hear an odd sound from out in the hallway. Another student says it sounds like gun shots. But they are in a school. Guns aren't allowed in schools. (This was of course the first mass school shooting, while today students drill for such occurrence). Then more commotion and a teacher bursts into the room and says "Everyone get under the tables!"

 

Even with that they stand around for a moment, thinking "really?" Then the gunmen, armed with shotguns and automatic weapons, enter the library. His best friend and he hide under a table as the shooters walk through the room systematically executing their fellow students. They are under the last table. His friend is killed instantly, while Austin is shot in the hand and knee.

 

He survives only by playing dead. He tells us how detaches himself from the scene. Later when he is rescued and meets his father, he bursts into tears, the emotion finally ripping through him. But then he is medicated for his injuries. Doctors prescribe him heavy doses of very powerful drugs. He is seventeen years old and has never drunk a beer or smoked marijuana.

 

He tells us that what the opioids he is given do best is not affect his physical pain, but they take away all his emotional pain. They enable him to block all his emotions. While his physical pain subsides in a matter of days, his emotional pain is still off the charts. He keeps taking the medicine –at times more than he is prescribed — because it is working for his emotional pain — blocking the horror of what he has been through and the thought of all his slaughtered friends. The pills provide an escape that quickly leads to addiction. Within a matter of months he is not only drinking alcohol, but as his tolerance for opioids has increased, he is now obtaining pills and illicit drugs on the black market.

 

He uses all these substances for years to manage his emotional pain, which is not addressed by any of his doctors. Because he is able to put a tie on and go to work, he fools people, he tells us, but his life eventually unravels completely. He uses heroin, methamphetamine and other pills to keep his emotional pain at bay and to keep from feeling the sickness of withdrawal. He loses his job, his family — he is married now with a son– breaks apart. After more than a decade of struggle, he finally makes it though multiple recoveries and finds his way home. He reunites with his son and becomes good friends with his ex-wife, remarries and has another son. He becomes a committed advocate and travels the country speaking about the opioid epidemic, offering messages of recovery and hope. He tells us how important his family is to him now, how grateful he is to have found his way home.

 

He tells us about the difference between feeling better and being better. He urges us to pay close attention to people's emotional pain. He brings the message that those addicted are not junkies and scumbags, but our brothers, sisters, parents and friends. He receives a standing ovation from our packed conference crowd of nearly 300, all people dedicated to battling the opioid epidemic.

 

Three weeks later, I open up the newspaper to see the headline Columbine Shooting Survivor Found Dead. His family issues a statement:

 

"(Austin) lost the battle with the very disease he fought so hard to help others face."

 

Was he using when he spoke to us. Were we fooled because he had a tie on and spoke without slurring his words? Or did he relapse after? It doesn't matter. The point is the battle is never over.

 

I wonder what would Austin's life have been like had he not gone to school that day twenty years ago?

 

Thirty-seven-year olds die of opioid overdoses daily in this country. How do people think of them? Are they scumbags and abusers? Are they the unclean? Or are they members of our community? People to be cared for and shown love and mercy?

 

How close we all are to our lives suddenly falling apart. I think of all my patients who look up at me with irrepressible sadness as they say, "I used to normal once."

 

The scenarios are there for misfortune to knock on any of our doors.

 

All

I'm on scene of an overdose. A fifty year old man in an unkempt apartment went unresponsive after sniffing two bags of heroin. His neighbor found him, giving him 4 mgs of Naloxone IN, and then called us. The man is alert and oriented by our arrival and does not wish to go to the hospital. The neighbor says he will watch the man. The neighbor still has another Naloxone in case the man goes out again. He says he gets his Naloxone from the local harm reduction agency.

 

The cop on scene shakes his head and says, "They'll give out Naloxone for free, but kids have to pay $800 for an Epi-pen."

 

This is an argument I hear quite often. "They'll give a drug addict free Naloxone, but my wife, who is a school teacher, has to pay $1000 for her Epi-pen."

 

What is the implication behind the officer's remark. Is drug user's life less worth saving then a kindergartner who mistakenly eats a cookie with nuts in it?

 

Last year over 70,000 Americans died of accidental overdoses. Only about 150 people die a year from fatal food anaphylaxis.  3,000 die from any type of anaphylaxis.* Each of these deaths were preventable. Were the 70,000 who died of overdose all scumbags who willfully chose to become addicts? Were those  Americans who died of anaphylaxis all a higher class of citizen?

 

"Well, the junkies made a choice to use illegal drugs," an EMT says.

 

In EMS we talk all the time about the lack of respect we get as a profession. What makes us professional?

 

Is it the 120 hours of the EMT class we took? Or even the 2,000 hours paramedics get?

 

Is it how spick and span our uniforms are? How shiny our badges?

 

Or is it the way we treat our patients? The compassion in our hearts that recognizes the humanity of all our people no matter their circumstance?

 

Recently a local fire department in its annual CPR lifesaver awards ceremony, chose not to honor its members who had saved overdose victims from cardiac arrest, alongside those who had achieved ROSC in victims of heart attack or other "medical" cause.

 

There is too much hatred in the world. There is no place for it in EMS.

 

We should never pit patients against each other.

 

We should embrace programs like community Naloxone in the same way we should embrace efforts to hold pharmaceutical companies responsible for price-gouging families for the costs of Epi-pens.

 

We should teach people how to properly use Naloxone with the same fervor that we should teach people how to properly use epinephrine.

Goals and Globetrotters

Saturday night saw one of the pinnacle achievements of my life.  Twelve months before, while attending a Harlem Globetrotters game with my daughter, I announced that I was going to learn how to expertly spin a basketball on my finger just like the Globetrotters do.   Ever since then, I have carried a basketball in the ambulance.  In between calls while at posting locations, I have taken the ball out and practiced.  At home I have a basketball in every room of the house.  I even found a heroin addict in Hartford who for $5 a pop would give me spinning lessons. He was an ex-basketball player, who I am pleased to say now has a handyman business and is no longer on the street. (At least that was his plan when a few months ago, he told me I wouldn't be seeing him around anymore, and true to his word, he disappeared no longer to be seen at his regular haunts.  I can only hope he is doing well).  I practiced so much I developed tendinitis in my elbow and had to suspend all spinning for a month. The elbow is much better and I can spin again without pain.

 

When I received notice that the Globetrotters were coming back to Hartford for their annual visit, I purchased Magic Passes for my daughter and I as well as third row seats at mid-court.  As a returning attendee, I took advantage of the 50% deal when the tickets were offered in a special pre-sale.  The Magic Passes entitled us to attend a pre-admission event where we could meet the players on the court, shoot baskets and spin basketballs.

 

Thanks to my daughter, my tryout was recorded for posterity.  

 

 We had a great time, the Globetrotters stormed back from a 9 point deficit in the 4th quarter and beat the hated Washington Generals in a thrilling victory.

 

My daughter met "Swish,"a female Globetrotter.

 

While I was not offered a contract, I did have the opportunity to buy an official game ball for $60 and a Washington Generals t-shirt for $25. 

 

I write all of this because my ability to devote a year to spinning a basketball is one of the great side benefits of being in EMS.  Over the years, EMS has allowed me to pursue a variety or hobbies and interests while at work getting paid simply to be available to respond to emergency calls.  In the 30 years I have been involved, I have read the works of Shakespeare, written five books and countless blog posts, learned to play poker (and when it was legal to play on-line, made a fair amount of extra cash), trained for triathlons and Tough Mudders (when I was assigned to a contract town, I was able to ride my bike on a 0.7 mile loop around the industrial complex where the ambulance base was located -- my longest at-work ride was 26 miles), learned to speak Spanish, failed in an attempt to learn Vietnamese, wrote a food blog on take-out food in Hartford, trained to perform a 100 push-ups in a row (okay, so I only got to 79, and started cheating at 57), amassed one of the nation's premier heroin bag collections, and now have learned to spin a basketball.

 

So what's next?  I think I will work on my balance with a goal of standing on one foot for ten minutes.  My longest time on 10 tries today was 1 minutes and 49 seconds on my left foot and 1 minute and 36 seconds on my right.  I am six foot-nine and sixty years old, so not only is my balance not great, with each advancing year it becomes less so.  I need to improve upon it if I am going to be able to keep at this job I love.

 

Wish me luck.