September 10, 2001

"Good days, bad days. Up days, down days. Sad days, happy days--but never a boring day on this job. You do what God has called you to do. You show up, you put one foot in front of another, you get on the rig and you do the job, which is a mystery and a suprise. You have no idea when you get on that rig, no matter how big the call, no matter how small, you have no idea what God's calling you to do.
"You love this job. We all do. What a blessing that is. A difficult, difficult job, and God calls you to it, and he gives you a love for it, so that a difficult job will be well done."
-Father Mychal Judge

Father Judge was killed the following day, Sept 11, 2001.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The wife will be upset for my not getting my chores done before playing, but I remembered a great story that just had to be shared.

We get called to a clinic to assist in lifting someone off the floor. This isn't an unusual call for us. We frequent a lot of nursing homes to help the elderly back into beds or their wheelchairs. We didn't have any reason to think this was any different. That was until we opened the door.

On the floor of the men's room was 625 lbs. of back injury waiting to happen. This gentleman had found his way between the toilet and the wall. For reasons unknown to me, this is a common place for people to get lodged. His pants (tent) were around his ankles. Again, the usual place for people in his situation. The concept of emergency medicine goes right out the window when something like this presents itself. We are no longer firefighters and paramedics, but rather all turn into a collective mind of contortionists, engineers, plumbers, and magicians passing ideas around the group like mashed potatoes around the dinner table.

We break from our huddle and take our respective positions. Strategically placing one on the toilet, two at the feet and a floater to make sure we don't break and arm (the patients--we aren't afforded such courtesy) or pull a chuck of flesh off.

With a good coordinated attack and a little KY, our patient is pulled free. A job well done, right? Wrong. Somehow our task morphs into us following the patient home and helping him up the stairs and onto a couch.

Across town we engineer a new battle plan. Two above pulling and two below pushing get the job done. Home we go to choke down a few Motrin and a Pepsi.

You all thought that was the story. Guess again!! That was just the intro. Here we go.

Last day of the set. Always a good feeling to know that in less than 24 hours you can disappear for 4 days and no one need know where you are or when you'll return, except the wife of course.

We are called to a patient with difficulty breathing a few blocks away. Ambulance goes, engine stays.

The smell is something that very few will ever experience and describing it does it no justice. Infection, urine and filth all rolled into a foul and potent stogie.

As we come up the stairs, we see the kids running back and forth in the living room. It isn't until we reach the top of the stairs that we realize what or who it is that they are jumping/sliding on. It's our patient from earlier in the week lying face down on the floor, unable to move.

We ask him if he's injured and how he got where he is. The story is that he slid off the couch the day we put him there and hasn't moved since. This is where I asked myself, "What the ****!!?" He tells us he slid down and was sitting reclining for about a day. His leg fell asleep so he tried to reposition and rolled onto his face, where he remained for 3 more days.

Don't worry though, he wasn't alone. He spent these 3 days face down on the floor of his BROTHER'S HOUSE!!!!! His trash brother had brought him food and a mug to drink water out of while he lay unable to move on his floor. It wasn't until his own crushing weight made it difficult for him to breath that he asked his brother to bring him a phone and he called 911 himself.

We were able to roll him over to ease his breathing, but that's when things got real tough. He couldn't hold himself up, so we put a sheet under his armpits and held him in a sitting position. The source of the stench became morbidly apparent after we rolled him over and watched the maggots crawl over his gangrenous leg. You see, his weight had led to the lack of circulation in his leg and that along with his own excrement had sped the process of decay.

There was no way we'd get him out as just the two of us, so we called the engine. Once they arrived, we rolled him onto a tarp and dragged him out like an elk that had fallen into a tight spot. We eased him down the stairs, infection and urine pooling on the tarp in front of our faces. The entire time we were working, the captain, having exercised his right as most senior and highest ranking individual, waited outside.

To wrap things up, we got him to the hospital where he lost his leg and nearly 100 lbs of adipose tissue that had rotted. We also informed child protective services of the conditions those children were living in.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Guinea Pig

Ayden volunteered to come to school with me today. By volunteer I mean I didn't have to drag him down the hall kicking and screaming.

My first class on Mondays is a scenario based class teaching field diagnosis and treatment. Ayden was playing the part of a toddler that had gotten into a bottle of bleach. He was a natural at playing the toddler part and by the time the last group came through he was coughing rather violently and telling them his tummy hurt. He's a natural!

He totally stole the show, which is par for the course with this little man.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Tangled Web

I found a great post on a blog that I frequent. It's a fair assessment of where I stand and where we stand as a nation. These are Xavier's Thoughts.

Looking at Conquest
It has happened. What Syd so succinctly dubbed the Electoral Apocalypse has occurred. Gun rights advocates lost in the 2008 election. What do we do now? Where do we go from here?

First, accept defeat with dignity and grace. We must do that. An individual or a group is not characterized in how they achieve victory, but rather in how they accept defeat. We were whooped. Our asses are on a silver platter in front of us. But we do not have to eat. We must determine how this happened and not allow it to happen again.

I was not surprised that some of my readers would be bemused at my using a MSNBC widget to keep up with the 2008 Presidential election results. But what better way to assess the situation than observing the opponent? The bias that we have seen in the mainstream media will be exposed as they turn on their anointed superhero of 2008. By 2010, Barack Obama will suffer many more slings and arrows than George W. Bush ever did. The mainstream media is not about providing information. They are about power. The power to get someone elected, and then the power to tear them to shreds. Who the President is matters little to these power mongers. Since they felt the taste of power in the taking down of Richard Nixon, they have systematically tried to dismember every President that has held office, whether they helped him achieve that office or not. Barack Obama will not survive this onslaught. His followers are too fickle.

Barack Obama cannot possibly fulfill all the deluded promises his devoted followers obviously believe he made. He will not buy anyone gasoline, and he will not pay their mortgage. No FEMA cards are going to be available for the economically and socially ignorant. His inability to become the Sugar Daddy to millions of denizens who feel they have been disenfranchised by the Great Right Wing Conspiracy of Hate and Intolerance will cause them to toss him aside with the contempt of a crackhead tossing aside a baggie full of baking soda when the reality of the illusion sets in. Barack Obama will no doubt be remembered as the most ineffectual and perhaps the worst President the United States ever elected. Two years from now, Obama will no longer have the power base he has mobilized. We must preserve our rights until then.

Gun owners were soundly defeated in this election. Two of the most vehement gun rights abolitionists ever to achieve office are now headed for the leadership of this country. We must examine why this happened.

Gun owners have allowed themselves to be divided. We must not allow ourselves to be conquered. We must accept any one who wants to legally own and use a firearm, regardless of race, creed, religion, or sexual orientation. The gun abolitionists can not vote against gun rights when over half their constituents own guns and vote for their own human right to self defense. The gun abolitionists can not vote against gun rights when those rights are inextricably tied to human rights and civil liberties.

There is a reason that gun abolitionists want to preserve hunting. Hunters are easily marginalized. They do not represent a majority of the vote. The same is not true of people who have a need for self preservation and self determination. Those people constitute the entire strata and constituency of the voting public. They cannot be marginalized. We must introduce them to the purpose and true meaning of the second amendment. I know that meaning, most of my readers know that meaning, but did QJ know that meaning? He does now, and it is something he will vote to preserve.

Gun rights are about self protection, not hunting. We must never allow our opponents to paint us as a group of big game hunters again. We are not just hunters. We must stand up and say who we are. We are mothers and fathers. We are Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Independents. We are black and white, yellow and brown. We are gay, straight, bisexual and asexual. We are Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Agnostic, Atheist, and we live in every state in the Union. Our education ranges from doctorates from Harvard and Stanford to GEDs achieved while fighting in the streets of Baghdad. A dusty pick-up truck with a gun rack inside the rear window is not necessary to be one of us. We have one common goal. That goal is the preservation of our right to self defense. That right, that need, is universal. We must never allow ourselves to be portrayed as ignorant rednecks with tobacco juice drooling down our unshaven chins again.

So I challenge each gun owner reading this. Take an Obama supporter to the range. Teach them to shoot. Teach them about the second amendment. Take away the political left's power to destroy our rights through the ambivalence of others. If we fail, our enslavement is inevitable.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Story time!

We were called to the trailer of a family that we know very well. The family consists of a mother and two daughters, all of whom are over 500 lbs.

Generally, our calls are related to a difficulty breathing and this time was no different. We arrived at the address and went inside. Mom and "Daughter A" were sitting in their customary recliners, pizza boxes are scattered about and Jerry Springer is blaring on the TV. It seemed all was right with this morbid part of the world.

"She's in the back." Bellowed one of the pair. So towards the back we go.

A home health nurse of some type is standing in a doorway. As we turn the corner into a tiny bathroom, a whole lot of woman is taking up the back half. "She couldn't get up off the toilet and now she's having a hard time breathing." Manages the nurse.

As I work my way into the cramped quarters, I see a toilet brush in the sink, covered with feces. Catching my attention I hear from behind me a muffled "What's that for?" I am ripped back to reality by a gruff "For wiping my a**!!" Whoa...Didn't see that one coming!

We get our patient up off the pot and into the hall before she says "I still have to go to the bathroom." Before any of us could ever hope to imagine we were hearing things, the nurse says "Just go ahead and go sweetie. We'll take care of it later." My only thought was that I'm certain I didn't just hear those words escape from her mouth. A few shuffles down the hall later the nurse unbuttons her trap and lets its poison pour out again. "Just go ahead and go." Then "Daughter B" says three words that may disturb me for the rest of my career. "I already did."

Here's where you all say "Eeewwwwww!" And this is where I say "You have no idea!"

Our sadist nurse acts as voice for the crowd when she says "Well, where is it?"

Now, I've heard that victims of violent crime as well as those whose house may be burning to the ground feel time slow down to the point where they are able to reflect and actually tell themselves "This isn't happening." I suppose this was a sort of violence, because what happened next will, without doubt, leave a scar.

All I heard was, "I don't know. DIG IT OUT!!" I'm sure I suffered a stroke or something because I don't remeber anything else.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

I had a pretty wild night at the hospital last night. I am currently doing my clinical rotations at the hospital for my Paramedic studies and I was working with the ECG techs for the night.

During the shift, a "Code Blue" was called to the ICU, so up we went. A patient had gone into cardiac arrest and they were calling all hands to come and work on him. We arrived just after the doctors, which put us after the nurses, respiratory therapists, lab techs and pharmacy techs (doctors are always the last to arrive).

The patient had had a lung removed earlier and apparently had been bleeding into his chest the whole time. Now he was so low on blood that his heart just stopped beating. Because the blood was all trapped in his chest, he also had a lot of pressure on his heart and other lung.

The docs pulled out his staples and cracked his chest open again. This, I would have to say was the coolest part of the whole procedure. They just opened him up wide and went to work removing the blood and clots. The whole time this doc is up to his elbows inside this poor fellows chest cavity he is asking for some sterile gloves. They never made it.

The doc was literally shoveling blood out of the patient and the whole time, this one lonely fly is buzzing around the place. Finally the doc had to stop and look around. As calm as could be, as if he was welcoming the family to Thanksgiving dinner, he said "Could some one get this fly out of here?" Then he carried on.

They got a pulse back on this particular patient and wheeled him down to the OR. He was still alive when I left.

If there's one thing that all firemen love, regardless of whether they are professional or volunteer, that would be to hear and tell stories. I'm not talking about the "my department is cooler than your department" stuff, but just the good, the bad and the ugly of the fire service. Although, if you want a good story about who's tougher, Google the fight between the Boise firefighter and the BLM firefighter. Bet you can guess who wins!! I'll try and keep some of everything in here. Monica tells me that I don't talk enough about my job and I think it's because I find some things are so mundane. I'll try and get some of everything. You can look in the labels for Tall Tales and that's where all the stories will be.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Ayden and his dad on the approach to the Matanuska Glacier. We spent an afternoon wandering the leading edge of the glacier and just checking out the scenery.

Being the frugal sort that I am, a child carrier was never even a consideration. Ayden spends most of our hikes together standing in one of my backpacks. By the end of the longer ones, he has worked his way into a sitting position in the bottom.

There isn't much that needs to be said about having pride in your department when you look at these photographs. I'm sure that they were talking about these men when it was said, "If you do this job well, they is nothing more noble you will do with your life."

These are the men we honor or do disservice to by the service we render. They are the reason that I put my boots in front of the rig every morning. They are the reason I answer every call like it's my first and my last.

I have been studying sources of survival information for the last year and a half or so, hoping to put together a program for our church along those lines. They ARE rebuilding the Teton Dam after all!!

Whether you keep your bail-out bag in an armored SUV and buy MREs buy the ton or ever had an inkling of a notion of a fleeting thought about survival, Greg Davenport is your man. He is a retired military SERE (survival, evasion, resistance, escape) instructor and now trains in the private world. His books and website,, are incredibly useful.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

September 11

This past week we remembered the lives lost on Sept 11, 2001. We had a memorial behind Station 1 that evening and spent some time hanging out with the guys. Pipes and drums played and it was really great. I'm disappointed more every year with the turn out to these events. It's been seven years now and there were very few people in attendance who weren't firemen or their families. I spoke with a Captain whose son got a new edition to a history book (printed in 2004). The attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were not mentioned. I get to know more and more of the men killed that day as I read their stories and get to know their lives. I will never say that I felt the loss that their brothers in New York felt, but I consider them my brothers and still hold dear their lives.

New Link

I've added a link that I have really enjoyed. Xavier is a practicing RN and he shares a lot of the same opinions that I do. Being 20 years my senior, Xavier has proven to be an invaluable resource for many questions as well as just a great read. Check it out. It's an entertaining, thought provoking and resource filled site.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

River Rescue

I was able to spend the last weekend being trained by the instructors of Montana River Guides. They spent three days teaching us the ins and outs of safely dealing with a very unpredictable challenge--Swift Water Rescue. While being on whitewater is nothing new or foreign to me, the demands of this class put things in a new perspective. Cody and Lila, our instructors, were able to draw on years of experience and research to give us a class that was top notch. And who wouldn't give a few days to go play on the river. Bumps and bruises aside, this was an awesome class.

Time was spent below the gates of Gem Lake where the instructors could customize the flow of the river, presenting new challenges to the students. The first challenge, of course, was beating the heat. We had a shelter set up, but being wrapped in a giant air and water tight garbage bag makes it tough to cool off. Among other tasks was a shallow water crossing in swift water. At the rate the water was flowing, it put about 200 lbs. of force on just our legs. Fortunately, we were able to stand Rob Hall out there in front and anchor off of him.

First Day Welcome

Water throwing is definately nothing new in the fire service. I guess I'm lucky enough to have my induction on video. That's me in the middle.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection- a badge of honor. Its story is hundreds of years old. When a courageous band of crusaders, known as the knights of St. John, fought the Saracens for possession of the Holy Land, they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but horrible device of war; it wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters of the Cross.
The Saracen's weapon was fire! As the Crusaders advanced on the walls of the city, they were attacked by glass bombs containing naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid, the Saracens hurled a flaming tree into their midst. Hundreds of Knights were burned alive. Others risked their lives to save their brothers in arms from dying painful deaths. Thus, these men became the first fire fighters...and the first of a long list of courageous Fire Fighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow Crusaders who awarded each hero with a badge of honor- a cross similar to the one Fire Fighters wear today.
Since the Knights of St. John lived for nearly four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea, named Malta, the Cross became known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is a symbol of protection. It means that the Fire Fighter that wears this Cross is willing to lay down his life, just as the Crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow men so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a Fire Fighter's Badge of Courage.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

In 2006 the Idaho Falls Fire Department organized it's first Honor Guard. Originally there were eight of us. That number dwindled to 5 rather quickly. Now we're back to seven fairly regularly, which is a far cry from where we would like to be, but we're working on it. We go to as many events as we are invited to. Obviously, our primary responsibility is to honor our fallen brothers and sisters, but fortunately, that has been very limited. We march in the 4th of July parade, which is where this picture was taken.

This was our fledgling year and we were really just trying not to stab anyone with the pikes and keep in step. I think we've come a long way in the last couple years. We'll keep our small corp sharp and make it work until we can find some volunteers. This picture was taken July 2007.

After a thorough soaking by the guys that were working that day, Chief of Department Dean Ellis spoke with us and let us know what he expected. Beginning that same day our academy set off hard and fast. It was a very short academy, only four weeks, so they had to cover a lot of information every day.

Things got cozy pretty fast that week. Our confined space training was as straight forward as it comes. It was basically "Get in that hole and crawl until you find the end." There was obviously a little more instruction than that, but that was more or less the idea. After the first time through, things got a little more challenging and the plain jane tube was looking mighty appealing.

Rebar. I love it!

First time off the drill tower. High angle rescue was a full day. Just enough to get the taste in your mouth, but not enough to make you good. Lots of practice.

Being the first to speak up in the academy isn't always the best thing. You usually end up strapped to a backboard, upside down in the shower. This time it paid off, though. That's me running the monitor...

...and that's Dan and Jon on the receiving end working their way towards the valve on that tank.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I met a man today who I would not wish to be, nor would I wish what happened to him upon any but the most vile of criminals and liberals.

Today we were called to help a man with a traumatic injury. Upon our arrival we found a man who had gotten his coveralls caught in the belt of a spud conveyor. He miraculously spun out of his coveralls only to be pulled in by his jeans. While being dragged into the machinery, his junk got caught in the belt, tearing open his scrotum and nearly severing his penis.

Like I said, something only a select few should have to experience.

The guy was quite lucid and, as long as he wasn't being moved,
relatively pain free (so he said). A crowd of his co-workers had gathered around and were sharing words of support at the same time we exposed his injuries. Beethoven himself could not have composed a more harmonious symphony of groans and gasps. The moans of his brothers (if by anatomy alone) were sympathetic and truly heart felt.

We drugged the poor fellow up and hauled him to the hospital. To my knowledge, he kept all of his bits and pieces.

As anyone who's been there can tell you, getting started in the fire service can be a bit rocky. I've spoken to quite a few guys who spent years trying to get on the department. Others have taken jobs with nearby departments waiting for their name to be called. I've been the exception, I guess. I tested once with Bethel, AK and was hired right away. I was also hired the first time I tested with Idaho Falls, ID. I feel very fortunate to be the exception.

Three years into my career now and I feel like things are still very tumultuous. I was settling into the role of being a tailboarder, a fireman. Now I'm in paramedic training and things are more foreign than ever. I suppose if I ever get too sedentary at anything I do it's time to try something a little more challenging.