Thankful – January 5, 2007

What an eye opener today was for me. I did a ride along with Brent in the ambulance from 1:00pm until midnight. He was working right downtown Vancouver – the East Side, which is known as the “not so nice” part of town. That is putting it mildly. It was a relatively uneventful night – especially for a Friday night. We only got to drive Code 3 (lights and sirens) twice. That was the most exciting part for me. I loved being able to race through traffic and watch as all the cars moved over and stopped for us. So cool!!!However, the not so cool part was seeing things that I don’t normally see, and things I don’t normally think about. We drove down several dark alleys, full (and I mean full) of people, mostly addicts. From the safety of the ambulance (with doors locked of course) I saw drug deals taking place, and some other not so nice things. Each call we went on, and each person that I watched Brent attend to, has left a small impact on me in some way, some left a bigger impact. We first went to the hospital to transfer an 89 year old Punjabi man to a rehabilitation hospital. He suffered a stroke and still hadn’t regained the use of his right side. He also didn’t speak or understand a word of English. Apparently he has been living here for almost 20 years! How is it possible to live here for 20 years and still not speak or even understand English?? His daughter in law was there though and she translated to him, she also followed us to the rehab center so she could translate again to the staff there. Kudos to her, what a remarkable daughter in law! Next we went to a community sort of center (icky) to see a 50 year old schizophrenic who hadn’t taken his meds for a couple days and was thinking about hurting himself or someone. 2 cops were there with him and since he was a psych patient, one of the cops rode in the back of the ambulance with the patient and Brent, and I sat up front with Ian (Brent’s partner who was driving tonight). The guy didn’t get violent, but you never know with psych patients. We ended up waiting awhile with him at the hospital. The cop waited too and he was really nice. He tried to convince me that it would be more exciting doing a ride along with them then it would be with the ambulance. By the way the night went, I am beginning to think he was right! Next we got called to a “3 house fire”. Lights and sirens!!! 6 fire trucks were there on the scene – roads blocked off. How cool it was to be able to drive right through. It turned out to be a garage fire only and they had it out about 30 minutes after we arrived. Luckily no one was hurt, so we headed back to headquarters. The next call was a transfer from the hospital to a care home. We picked up this man who was about 72 or so (who had a hip replaced several months ago and was just in the hospital for a procedure) – he talked a lot but was friendly and harmless. He lived at this care home (which was more just like a hospital) but he seemed to be happy there. He talked about it fondly and said they feed them well there. We got there and it was not a great place. He shared a room with 3 other men and it was nothing more then a regular hospital room. No privacy whatsoever. Stark…bare….sad…. well, it made me sad. He seemed happy to be “home” though. The few other patients I saw there were simply sitting in their wheelchairs staring blankly at something. Lifeless. It made me wonder what kind of life this man had before coming here. If this seemed like such a great place to him, my goodness, I can only imagine what he has been through.

Onto the next call, to a skuzzy hotel. We were told to wait outside in the ambulance until the police who were on scene came out and gave us the go ahead to go inside. When it was ok to go in, we trudged up this dingy stairwell where all the stairs were uneven and sagging. I thought they might crumple right underneath us. 2 cops were with us and we went up to find a 62 year old man in the hallway. Drunk and had a nice big gash at the back of his head. Seems he got into a fight with someone. This was an odd one. He lived at this trashy place and had dirty clothes on. However at the hospital he took out a wad of cash from his pocket and had about $1000 on him! He wasn’t cooperating at first with Brent and didn’t want to go to the hospital even though Brent told him he needed stitches. One of the cops stepped in and told the man to be quiet and listen to Brent. Oh and they found a knife on him too. (Brent and Ian did, not the cops). He finally started to cooperate so we took him to the hospital. Next was a call for a 40 year old lady who was nauseous and throwing up. Lovely. We pick her up from another not so great building (although not as bad as the previous one) – she is all skin and bones. She was moaning that her head hurt and she was feeling sick and it was like pulling teeth while Brent was trying to get information out of her. She was trying to make herself throw up which was just disgusting. Then she admitted she did crystal meth earlier and then had a few drinks. Off to the hospital we go. We got called to check on a guy who was wrapped up in a blanket sleeping at the back of a parkade. Someone passed by and thought he was dead, so they called 911. He was just sleeping. Poor guy, he only looked like he was in his 20’s. He was wrapped tight in a blanket, had a couple sweatshirts on, and had a bag of chips beside him. Brent and Ian woke him up and just asked him if he was ok. He said he was so we gave him a couple emergency survival blankets, then we left. All this made me so thankful for what I have. I am thankful for my family, thankful that I have people who I love very much and that they love me back, I am thankful for my friends. I am thankful for my pets. I am thankful for my house and that I have a warm place to be every night. I am thankful for the clothes in my closet and the food in my fridge. I am thankful that I am relatively healthy (I have a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis – it affects my spine and sacro iliac joints. There is no cure and I will have it for the rest of my life. But to look at me, you would never know anything is wrong.). I am thankful I can walk and take care of myself. I am thankful I have no addictions (well, unless you count candy or things with sugar….). I am thankful that I have a warm cozy bed to sleep in every night. I am thankful that I have a car. I am thankful for everything that I have. I don’t want to take things for granted anymore.