Mother’s Day

I was asked to repost this and another paper I wrote during my first year in college.

Sunday, three A.M. a full moon illuminates a forest alive with night creatures. Their eyes aglow as if in wonderment as our emergency beacons pierced their world. Only the sounds of our engine broke the silence as we raced through the night. No need for the siren. We were ten miles from the nearest major road, fifteen from any community and hadn’t seen another vehicle since leaving the hospital garage.

My partner, a trainee, scanned the road ahead for a sign of our contact while I wondered what we were rushing into.  Our only information was a call received by the dispatcher requesting an ambulance to an isolated rural area. The caller did not reveal the nature of the emergency and his location directions were vague. He said someone would meet us on the main highway. That made me nervous! I decided to radio the dispatcher for police assist. Unfortunately for us, that meant a town constable at home in bed twenty miles away. On the plus side, the dispatcher at the time was my wife.  As she still liked me back then, she decided to request assistance from the Sheriff’s office and two other police departments from adjacent jurisdictions.

Suddenly, headlights flashed in front of us. A large, dark car pulled out from the shoulder of the road, its driver waving frantically as he turned onto a narrow, gravel township road forming a dust cloud between us.

Maintaining a safe distance back, we followed the dust cloud at a slower speed allowing my partner time to note any landmarks he could radio to the dispatcher.

Abruptly, the dust dissipated revealing the dark car with its mysterious driver stopped next to an open grassy area.  A dirt drive wound its way up to what appeared to be an old basement dwelling set good eighty yards from the main road.  We stopped a few feet behind him.  As I exited our rig in an attempt to approach and question the driver he silently pointed toward the dwelling then sped off down the gravel road.

My attention turned to the house. It was built on a low knoll, had large front windows and, thankfully, was well lit both inside and out.

“Something is missing!” I whispered. “No vehicles, people, dogs or movement.”

Slowly we inched our way up the drive. When almost parallel to the dwelling, it made a sharp right to an exterior wood frame, enclosed stairway atop the knoll. There, in the glare of our floodlights lay the body of a woman. Dressed in a blood-stained, pale green nightgown, her head turned away from us; she appeared to be sleeping,  but it was an illusion. An obvious gunshot entry wound to the back of her head told a different story.

Immediately, my instincts and training took control.

“Shut off all our lights, give me the radio and get your ass out of this rig now!” I yelled to my partner. “Hide in the woods beyond the tree line!” Next thing I knew he was running fast and low towards a large pine tree.

I radioed the dispatcher, “We have a D.O.A with G.S.W.!  We need help fast!”  *

Now, what do I do?  Sitting in a darkened ambulance, on a small rise next to an illuminated earth home, I was a sitting duck. If the shooter was still there, one well-aimed bullet could have hit me or the large oxygen tank and I am history.

What if there are more victims inside? What if they are still alive? Call it brave or insane; I had to know. It was my job to save lives.

Flashlight in hand, I made my way through the shadows to the stairwell. Standing to one side, I held it high above my head to disguise my position and exact size as I peered through the door. Looking down inside, I saw a single, bare bulb ceiling light, a child’s bicycle in a corner and a second body at the foot of the stairs. As the woman’s, it was face down in a pool of dark, clotted blood. It was a man with a gunshot exit wound in the back of his head.

The bicycle – is there a child here?

Against all policy, I descended the stairs, stepped over the man’s body and entered the living room to a scene of rage and anger. Furniture overturned, appliances were broken, dishes shattered and personal items everywhere but no child.

Cautiously I searched the remaining rooms. I saw a lifestyle of modest income and means but no child or other bodies. I was relieved.

Retracing my path, I exited the house to call in what I’d seen. As I reached the radio to give the dispatcher update, the dark car returned. As if in slow motion, it appeared on the gravel road and turned onto the grassy area in front of the dwelling.

Cutting my report short, I waited and watched. The car stopped, and the headlights went dark. The only light was from the house and beautiful, setting full moon.

I could hear the radio in the ambulance as the dispatcher is telling me the closest police unit it still fifteen minutes from our location.

Estimating the distance from my position to the car at forty yards, I realized I did not have many options.

I saw one person, the driver sitting behind the wheel staring at the house seemingly ignoring me.

Was this a neighbor, friend, relative, curiosity seeker or…?

I had to know! I could not be out here in the middle of the wilderness trapped by my fears.

Heart in throat, I walked to the car while keeping my flashlight trained directly on his face.  I got within ten feet when he suddenly turned on the interior dome light and looked at me. He was young, late teens, early twenties, long black hair, average size and scruffy appearing. He had a strange, peaceful look on his face, a calm as though his burdens were gone.

As I attempted to talk to him, I visually searched the interior of the car with my flashlight. He had no less than eight guns and what appeared to be hundreds of rounds of ammunition scattered over the seats.

He asked me, “Are they dead?”

I believe so.” I replied.

“Good!” he yelled as he slammed his foot onto the gas pedal and sped through the grass to disappear down the gravel road.

There was a return to silence as a soft glow in the east announce\d the rising of the sun.

It was going to be a beautiful Mother’s Day – for most.

G.S.W. = Gunshot Wound

D.O.A. = Dead on arrival

Thoughts of an Early Saturday Morn

I’m going to get off the politics this morning and talk a little about what it’s like living with Type II, Insulin Dependent Diabetes.

Since being diagnosed with Diabetes, I’ve done a lot of research on how I feel about the disease and, how I plan to live with it. I believe in knowing my enemy, to better deal with my feelings; to accept the fact that genetics is the primary reason I have the disease; I saw my father die at age 47 from it and my beloved Nana lose her legs in her failed battle. The list of people succumbing to Diabetes grows longer every year, many more are added because of lack of knowledge, lack of willpower and even lack of money to treat.

The ancient Chinese general Sun-Tzu wrote in “The Art of War”

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

Although not completely analogous to living with Diabetes, for me it is akin to being in an arranged marriage to an extremely diabolical person whose ultimate goal is to make my life miserable until I’m dead. However, unlike a marriage between two people, one cannot get a divorce from Diabetes, you either learn to live with it, or you refuse to live.

I feel that the primary battle of every Diabetic is within the self. Denial is the first battle that must be won; to deny one has Diabetes equates to running through a pen filled with starving carnivores while carrying fifty pounds of raw meat.

Knowledge, knowledge of the self, the disease and more knowledge of the self. Sound redundant – yes? Good, it’s meant to be. To live, not just exist with Diabetes is to fight small skirmishes every day. When buying food processed foods, read the labels for sugar content; you will be surprised at how much sugar is in our foods.

I love potatoes and ketchup; I’d kill for a plate of old-fashioned French fries, not the potato sticks of McDonald’s. A plate of them with good rich ketchup is a treat for me, but it’s also carbs and sugars (potatoes and ketchup), sends my blood glucose * up. It takes a good 24 hours before it does that, so if I eat French fries with Ketchup today, Saturday, I won’t see much of a difference in my blood glucose test tomorrow morning, but Monday I will.

Did I mention Diabetes being diabolical? The lesson I learned, the hard way, of course, is that in my arrogance, I didn’t know that it takes over 24 hours for some sugars to register in blood glucose. Therefore, the meal I eat today may not affect my morning glucose test tomorrow which gives me a false sense of security in what I eat tomorrow. If I have more French fries tomorrow, Tuesday’s reading is going to be higher and I’ve just added 25 pounds of raw meat to my dash for life through the pen.

Knowledge, I can’t scream any louder!  Knowledge of the disease, its management, and the self, are the primary keys to managing Diabetes.

If you are unwilling to work for yourself and those you love, then screw it. Go eat a dozen Hershey bars and drink a six pack of beer; just make sure your life insurance is paid up to date because your family will need the money to plant your ass.

I will have more on this subject next week.

  • A blood glucose exam is done every morning to check the level of sugar in one’s system. I have to prick the end of a finger and place a drop of blood on a test strip. Will discuss that in detail in a later post.

 

 

Things I Never Told Nana

I

My father and I never bonded, hell sometimes I wondered if he even knew who I was. From the time I was born until age 15 when he died, he only actually communicated to me twice. Oh yeah, once in a great while he told me to do things, but that’s talking, not communicating. My bad, I forgot, he taught me the difference in spelling lavatory and laboratory when I was about eight, but that was it for father/son bonding. I can remember as a young kid how I wanted to badly for my dad to notice me the way he seemed to notice my two older brothers, especially the older one, Ronnie. But he didn’t: as a matter of fact neither did Ronnie.

I first began to notice this when we moved from our house in Camden, a suburb of Minneapolis to an apartment over the “dairy store” my parents bought at 1119 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis. In the front room, which was over the front part of the store, my parents had their bed set up in a closet area. Next was the living room with an inside staircase to the store, then my brothers’ room (I had two brothers) was next to the dining area where the space heater was. At the back wall of the dining area was a door into the kitchen, bathroom and my room sort of behind the refrigerator (a Kelvinator, in case you wanted to know). My room was the darkest as it only had one window which had a large tree overhanging it. I always wanted to climb that tree but never did because I was afraid of heights: the fact is heights still bother me but not as bad as when I was a kid.

The kitchen had a door leading out to a very scary old set of wooden stairs leading down to the dirt parking lot in back of the store. About halfway down, there was a small landing then where they made a left angle (if you were ascending) turn and ran adjacent to the “bottle shed” where we stored all the empty refundable bottles. Everything was refundable back then, well not exactly everything, I wasn’t, but then that was my fate. Almost from the time I could walk, it was my job to sort the empty bottles by make, size and what they were used for. I learned to hate Grain Belt and Hamm’s beer bottles cause their labels were always sticky.

Constructed of corrugated tin panels over the wood frame on a dirt floor, the “bottle shed” had no heat in winter and no air conditioning in summer. Winter wasn’t so bad, but summer was a killer with the heat, humidity, and bugs. Come to think of it, we had those same three problems in the apartment, the bugs especially in my room because it was almost right over the shed. I can remember having a lot of those sticky fly traps things hanging over my window and the doorway. The spiders never had to weave webs in our home, the fly traps provided their meals.

My room was the coldest one in our apartment, but I got used to it. Guess that’s why I can’t sleep well when it gets too warm in my bedroom now. Thank God for central air conditioning, back then we cooled at night by setting a block of ice in a large bucket then having a fan blow over it. If that didn’t work, we soaked our sheets, then got as much water out of them as possible before wrapping ourselves in them to lay down in front of the ice block. I’m surprised I never wet the bed, then or now.

I don’t recall my mother ever coming into my room at bedtime for anything other than to tell me to put the book down and go to sleep. My dad didn’t even come in to do that. Nope, I never heard: “Did you brush your teeth? Did you go to the bathroom? Did you say your prayers? I wasn’t subjected to any of those ridiculous practices. To this day, I don’t know if my brothers were either because they slept near mom and dad; I didn’t have to.

I was lonely at times, but I had my good friend Teddy with me. Yep, you guessed it, I had a real Teddy Bear. Nana gave him to me, and I named him Teddy; I was talented even as a child. Nana told me that Teddy was named after President Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt so I should be proud; I was, and still am.

I told Teddy everything – all my hidden stuff and more. Even things I tried talking to Nana about, but they might hurt her to know. I don’t know why I felt that way other than the fact that I never, ever wanted to hurt her in any way. I guess I was afraid of losing her love yet knew Teddy would always love me: he was the brother I never had.

For awhile, I wanted to call Nana and tell her everything, but I didn’t dare. Back in the 1950s, we didn’t have cell phones, and long distances calls were expensive. There was no way I could hide calling on our phone, and I didn’t have money to use the pay phone on the corner. I think I once tried to call her on the police call phone next to the pay phone, but the operator told me to hang up. It was ok though, I probably could not have heard Nana with all the buses and streetcars making noise. I liked the streetcars but the buses always coughed black, smelly smoke when they started to more.

My older (by 3 years) brother David hated Teddy, but I think he hated me even more because he would do things to hurt me. He would think it funny to steal from me, lie about me and even harm Teddy. Once, he even cut Teddy’s neck so bad I had to suture it up. That’s when I learned how to sew, not real well but I did suture my Teddy until Nana could show me how to do it properly. She said I did a good job of basting it then gave me a curved needle and heavier thread to “heal your Teddy.”  I actually enjoyed hand sewing for many years and later in life when I began getting arthritis, I started to do satin stitch embroidery. I figured that is Rosie Greer could do needlepoint, so could I.

“Be sure you sew the cloth, not the fingers!” was Nana’s credo. Funny, even now, some sixty odd years since last we spoke, I can still hear Nana’s voice. She was a born teacher; one that never stood at the head of a class but she was always at the head of my class.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Wisdom of My Nana

As a child, I often sat with my grandmother beneath her grape arbor in Mankato, MN, there to talk and listen to her stories of nature. She was not a learned person in the sense of a formal education, but she was a sagacious woman in the ways of the world. Tragically for me, and the world I lost her when I was fifteen.

Before she died, she had to have one of her legs removed because diabetes had shut down the circulation and she was developing gangrene. I lived in Minneapolis, MN, at the time so I went to Mankato, (90 miles) and stayed at the hospital with her from the night before surgery, during surgery and most of the day after, when I had to leave. That was the last time I saw her or heard her voice. Her last words were, “we will share our love of nature under the arbor again one day.” I miss her wisdom.

Starting yesterday, and continuing throughout the night and into today, St. Louis, MO is experiencing severe storms. The thunder rages like the sounds millions of buffalo stomping over the plains in the days that were. Lightning, the arrows of Father Sky, piercing the darkness,   illuminating their way while torrents of rain assail their path. These were the visions my grandmother gave to me. She made me understand that nature is not science, nature is alive.

When I would ask her why storms came, she would tell me about how she had to do the spring cleaning of her house and that Mother Nature was no different.

“Mother Nature’s house is much bigger than ours.”, she would say. “She has more work to do, so she tells Father Sky he has to help her.”

“Make the Sky Buffalo run over the cloud prairies to warn all the creatures that we are going to clean. Wake them with the light of your arrows that they may prepare and seek shelter.”

But Nana, the wind blows so hard it shakes my brain to pieces!

“Child, pay attention, it is rare that the wind begins by blowing that hard but if it should then you best hide down in the root cellar cause a tornado may be coming. You don’t recall cause you were only two, but a big twister came through the town in 1946  killing eleven people and injuring a hundred or so more. They are very dangerous.”

Does Father Sky send tornadoes to hurt people?

“I don’t think so. I’m not sure what causes twisters but, like everything else in nature, they serve a purpose. Perhaps it’s a way for nature to make sure humans know who is really in charge. An old Lakota lady once told me that twisters were nature’s way of cleaning out the weak and cutting new paths for the strong. Heard tell on the radio that cold and warm air crashing together cause them. I just do not know.”

What happens to the animals when a tornado comes?

“Sadly, many animals are killed by twisters because they have nowhere to hide from them. Humans, at least the smart ones know enough to find shelter when they can.”

Nana, does the Sky Father always send twisters when he sends the winds?

“No darling, sometimes he just sends the big winds to clean out the old nests and dead branches from trees so there can be new ones.”

But Nana, if he does that, he might hit me on the head with a big branch or nest!

“That is possible, yes but most of the time the Sky Father will send warnings such as gusts of wind, thunder and many times the temperature will suddenly drop just before the storm to warn us. Course, nowadays, we have the weather guessers who might be able to predict a coming storm.”

So the Sky Father makes the wind blow and the rain fall to help the Earth Mother clean her trees and stuff?

“That’s right hon, he washes out old branches, nests, leaves and even dead animals then rinses the trees to wash away the dust.”

And the Earth Mother likes for him to do this?

“I believe she does for aren’t we all a part of her? Don’t the minerals contained in decaying branches, leaves, and animals return to the soil to help fertilize it?

But Nana, if it rains really, really, really hard all that water will fill up the creeks and rivers to flood stuff!

“Yes, that is true but what happens when there is flooding?”

I dunno know.

“Just like the trees, when Father Sky sends his rain down upon Mother Earth, the water washes away natural debris and vegetations into our streams and rivers. There, the debris-filled water will carry its burden to larger rivers such as the Mankato River which in turn, flows into the Mississippi River. As the rivers fill with water and debris, they will overflow their banks and fill the land. When the water recedes, it leaves the sediment which is a natural fertilizer. I heard that this happens every year in the Nile river in Egypt and it may happen in your lifetime. “ (Nana, if you’re listening, it occurred in 1993 – worst flood in history.)

Nana, does the Earth Mother have a big dumpster or trash can to put stuff in?

“She certainly does, she has seven of them – the Seven Seas.”

But Nana, what happens to all that sediment stuff that goes into the seas?

“That which can be recycled by Mother Nature will be. That which cannot becomes deltas such as we saw down in New Orleans.”

I remember, but we saw stuff like soda bottles, and glass and stuff down in the delta place.

“Sadly, you are right. There are things that even Mother Nature cannot rapidly fix. It is a tragic mistake of human greed and indifference that produces the filth and poisons we see on our Mother Earth every day. Perhaps one day people will wake up before it’s too late and realize what they have done.”

Nana, I miss you and love you more now than ever before.

My Life in EMS – Chapter 3

Jan. 02, 2016

R. Papa Nyk Lindsoe

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a Great New Year to Everyone.

Let’s hope 2016 is better than 2015, and 2017 worse than 2016.

    Working as an Orderly in a city hospital in the early 1960s was an adventure in learning. If I wanted to learn something, either the student nurses or the interns stopped me with a not so polite inference that it wasn’t in my job category. In retrospect, I think the student nurses were more aggressive about it. If they saw me helping a single intern they were dreaming of setting up housekeeping with. God forbid I should ever sit at their table for a meal or coffee.

Now don’t get me wrong, I had opportunities to get noticed. I was young, in decent shape, fairly good looking, and strawberry blonde hair. I got a lot of offers most of which were to buy my hair for wigs. I started out wearing it fairly long, but after a drunk decided a handful was a good handrail I cut it.

The ER was exciting, especially on pay day weekends when government checks came, and there was a full moon. Drunks, fights, accidents, and just plain morons filled the ER from sundown to sunup. You could even tell when we had heavy snow by the pregnant women in labor coming in. Snow storms in January could equal population explosion in September.

Interspersed between the poor old black man with epistaxis (Don’t swallow, please don’t – you have to spit the blood out!), and the young white kid who broke his arm trying to run down the up escalator, came the ambulances.

As I recall, at the time I started working in the ER, the hospital was owned by the city of Minneapolis (Minneapolis General Hospital), and it had six ambulances operating within the city limits. As I mentioned in the last chapter, they were International Harvester Travelall conversions of varied age, and condition. Four were kept parked in the two door, two deep, ground level garage under the Men’s Ward, the others either in the shop or parked in the courtyard when not in use, which was rare.

One of the first things I learned about the ambulance service was the term “Gomer-mobile.” It’s a rather derogatory term which, considering our new “politically correct police” is probably no longer heard, but we’re talking fifty years ago when there was real freedom of speech.

“And just what is a ‘Gomer-mobile?” you ask?

There were basically two types of “Gomers.”

The first being the chronic alcoholic who, having run out of money couldn’t afford to get a drink. This usually occurred within two to three days before retirement, disability, and/or assistance checks arrived. Perhaps they had received their money but had robbed – preying on the weak is not a new phenomenon.

Depending on individual addiction, an alcoholic may have onset Delirium Tremens (DTs) within 24 hours of the last drink consumed. This is a potentially life threatening condition which, left unchecked may cause a plethora of symptoms ranging from being pale to a major coronary emergency. Chronic alcoholics know this, and often seek relief even before onset by getting to the nearest ER for medication.

Unless a person lived (many were homeless) within walking distance to the nearest ER, transportation was necessary, BUT if the person had no money, how was he/she to hire a cab, ride the bus or even pay someone to take them? Easier to call the city hospital taxi aka ambulance service aka “Gomer-Mobile” for a free ride.

This practice was so inbred into the community, and the hospital that there was actually a list of routine stops set up to pick up repeat patients. All they had to do was call in, give their name and the ambulance would know where to go. All, this and no computers!

I joke, but mean no disrespect. Alcoholism, like any addiction is a serious illness requiring continued medical and psychological care.

Once the ambulance brought the patients in, it was my job to get the males undressed, take their vitals and clean them up for the doctors and nursing staff. It wasn’t unusual to discover infected sores and wounds, fleas, maggots and other critters on them. At first I was grossed out, but the more I cared for them the more I realized they were human just like me. I actually got to the point I was on a first name basis with some of them. Some I took to the morgue.

The second type of Gomer was, and maybe still is the hypochondriacs, and the lonely attention seekers. Realizing these are generalizations, I want to make clear my position that they, as with addictions ARE viable mental health issues. The primary difference being the level of emergency care required to treat. The problem for the emergency care worker is differentiating between actual physical issues, and those “imagined” by the patient. Whatever the case, the patient was, and I’m sure still is treated with respect and dignity by all emergency personnel.


Medical slang for a patient who “has lost–often through age–what goes into being a human being” (quote from Samuel Shem’s “The House Of God”). Typically an old demented non-communicative patient. Stands for “Get Out Of My Emergency Room”. Urban Dictionary, Web

Illness anxiety disorder, sometimes called hypochondria or health anxiety, is worrying excessively that you are or may become seriously ill. You may have no physical symptoms. Or you may believe that normal body sensations or minor symptoms are signs of severe illness, even though a thorough medical exam doesn’t reveal a serious medical condition.” Mayo Clinic, WEB

My Life in EMS – Chapter 2

R. Papa Nyk Lindsoe

Never fear, Flash is here!

Yep, that was my non de plume when I was an orderly in the ER of Minneapolis General Hospital back in 1963! I was proud of it too. Not only could I move fast but my hands were “the fastest I’ve ever seen” according to one doctor. Actually speed wasn’t always necessary, accuracy was more of an asset, and that took me awhile to learn.

When I applied for the job as an orderly, there were two openings, one in the ER and one in Male Medicine – the infamous “Men’s Ward.” Now, I don’t know if anyone remembers them but at one time hospitals were built with wards only – no two bed or, God forbid a private room. To me that was like saying, “Dude, don’t get sick or you’ll end up losing your clothes, your privacy and possibly your anal virginity in the MEN’S WARD!” Thank God they assigned me to the ER where I only had to deal with puking drunks who played grab ass and psychos, both patient and staff. I also got to play janitor, bodyguard, maggot cleaner and bather amongst other fun tasks.

There were occasional moments of excitement like when this one drunk decided he didn’t like me so he jumped off his gurney and punched me. As usual, I reacted pretty fast and he landed on the floor. Of course my supervisor, Olive Lindbergh heard the commotion and came running. Without a pause she yelled at me. Umm, hey lady I was defending myself!

“You should have called for help.”

OH, must have missed that part in the manual. Was I supposed to do that while he was hitting me in the face or after? Hey wait a minute, there was no manual.

Umm, lady I have a right to defend myself with or without verbal accompaniment. Can I help it if I’m called Flash for a reason?

She got even two days later when the ambulance brought in an old drunk who had been sleeping in a basement window well for several days. His legs were in pretty bad shape and when I started to remove his socks they moved. I mean they moved by themselves or maybe it was the wiggly little white things on his ankles. Rephrase, in his ankles.

OK, nineteen year old kid, relatively new to the world is undressing a rather malodorous old man who’s down on his luck and needs help, but his socks moved! When I finally got them off and saw maggots in his ankles I almost lost it. I had no idea what to do so I calmly screamed “Nurse!”

In less than a second my buddy, Ms. Lindbergh was by my side asking me why I was yelling.

“His socks moved. His ankles are full of maggots and I do not have a cellphone because they haven’t been invented yet.”

“Calm down Flash (She said my name with such crisp disdain), just get a basin and clean them out” says she.

“With what?” Says I.

“A spoon.”

“A spoon? You want me to use a spoon on a man’s ankle like I’m eating a bowl of cereal – scoop it up?”

By now I’m wondering if the Men’s Ward wasn’t a better idea.

“Do I use a sterile spoon?”

“No, just get a clean one” she says as we walked out of the room. “Call me when you’re done and I’ll have a doctor look at him.”

I’m thinking. OMG, I get to use a real medical tool to work on a patient. I’m on my way to becoming a neurosurgeon.

By this time I’m starting to feel sorry for the guy. Hell, down on his luck, sick, probably going into DTs soon and a future neurosurgeon is going to dig into his ankles with a spoon. If I were him, I’d be out the door and down the street about now, however, he was incapable of doing that.

Once I finished cleaning the guy up, I called for the nurse who sent in one of the Interns working the ER that night on rotation. He didn’t say a word to me. He looked at the man, asked him a question, got no response then walked out without looking at, or commenting about what I had done. Next thing I know I’m wheeling the poor guy up to the Men’s Ward where he lasted a few days before dying. Don’t think I ever knew his name – wonder if anyone did?

Now don’t take this as a condemnation of all doctors but this Intern was better suited to be working in a slaughter house than a hospital. He had no bedside manner, no leadership skills and the disposition of garden slug. Happy to say he was an oddity – most of the interns, residents and instructors were decent, caring people.

I think my biggest problem getting used to working in the ER was all the student nurses flitting around. Talk about a bevy of beautiful girls in white looking for Dr. Husband. You could almost cut the tension with a butter knife. Being an orderly I was safe from the onslaught. I was well beneath their level of interest I guess.

Back to my homework. In my next post, I go on my first ambulance ride in a 1959, low-boy Harvester Travelall ambulance. It’s the one on the far left in the pic.

My Life in EMS – Chapter 1

R. Papa Nyk Lindsoe

I began my career, if you want to call it that, as a paramedic in 1963 at the ripe old age of nineteen. I had just been discharged from the Air Force and was looking for a job but having problems finding one. One day my then soon to be sister-in-law who was a student nurse at Minneapolis General Hospital called and told me about two orderly position openings. OK, cool I had an interest in medicine so I applied.

(For those of you born after about 1980, an orderly is now called a Nursing Assistant or Generic Bedpan Tech.)

Living in south Minneapolis near the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and having no car meant a long bus ride to the hospital in one of those old diesel buses that belched black smoke each time the driver shifted. They were slow too, I think the schedule said I’d be at the hospital by “9:00 AM (maybe)”, of course that depended on how many unscheduled stops it had to make for people who didn’t know what “Bus Stop” meant.

“Hey, lady. We can’t stop in the middle of the grocery store driveway!”

“Hey no man, I am not letting you off on 10th street, that’s not even on my route!”

Some bus drivers were a little more colorful in their language, if you get my drift.

I did, obviously make it to the hospital employment office only 10 minutes late.

The lady at the desk said, “Rode the bus did you??

Yes Ma’am I did, how did you know?

“You’re late and you’re wearing eau de Diesel cologne! Sit down, give me your ID and fill out these forms for the exam.”

Exam? Panic attack time. What exam?

“It’s just a test of your reading and writing skills. The blood tests come if you’re hired.”

Blood tests? Oh crap what am I getting myself into?

I do my thing, complete the forms, take the little test that proves I can read but doesn’t know if I can comprehend what I read and wait for my interviewer, who’s late, and also wearing eau de Diesel cologne.

The interview seems to go well and when over, I’m asked to wait in the hallway.

There’s sick people out there!!!!

As I’m waiting I see this heavily starched old nurse goosestep down the hallway towards me. I’m thinking “This person has to be the first graduate of Clara Barton’s Marine Corps training program.” I haven’t met nor talked to her yet and already I’m nervous as hell. She goes into the office and a few moments later the other lady calls me in to meet Ms. Olive Lindberg, Charge Nurse of the Emergency Department. Up close I thought she was a lady wrestler for Verne Gagne. My opinion changed within the first two minutes. It went from fear to respect to, “I think I’ll live through this ordeal.”

Ms. Lindberg was well spoken, direct and very intelligent. She knew how to put anyone at ease or scare the crap out of a Marine Drill Sergeant. I liked her and apparently she liked me as she told the employment office to assign me to the ER and not the Men’s Ward. Yes dear, they still had wards in those days. As I recall, the Men’s Ward was capable of handling eighteen patients in draped cubicles. How anyone got well there is beyond me – just the farting and snoring would kill me. I really felt sorry for those patients.

So yay, I got the job in the ER and started on a Monday – a quiet day HAH! It is never quiet in a governmental operated emergency room. Even when there’s an illusion of it being empty, it’s just that an illusion.

My first day I learned how to properly mop up blood, scrub blood of the gurneys and wheel chairs and roll old, umpteen millions used Ace bandages while sitting in the smoked filled ambulance dispatcher/doctor on call room. Yep, they smoked in there and thankfully for me, I got enough second hand smoke I didn’t have to buy my own cigarettes.

As the weeks drew on I was put onto a rotating shift, 7-3, 3-11, 11-7. I did such a good job cleaning gurneys and wheelchairs they let me do them all the time. I think they even brought some down from the Men’s Ward because there were brown stains all over the wood. Oh, did I forget? My bad, the wheelchairs were the old high back wooden ones, sort of like an Adirondack chair on wheels and steroids. People loved to carve graffiti into them – try cleaning crap out of that!

One of the fun parts of working the ER was the student nurses and x-ray technicians, most of which were out to snag one of the many single interns. Impatient little twits – I kept telling this one that she should wait until he graduates, gets his practice and makes some money but no, she was in love. He dumped her for another guy.

It wasn’t unusual during Graveyard shift (11-7 am) for an intern and student to get cozy in the back of the on the ambulances. I think that’s where the phrase, “If the carriage is rocking, don’t come knocking” came from. A couple of times the amorous adventures almost ended up rushing out to a shooting or accident without letting off passengers first. Really funning seeing the back door of an ambulance open and half-dressed medical staff tumbling into the courtyard. It was funniest in the winter.

So anyway, after about six months I was settled in and a respected (?) member of the ER staff. Dr. Orn Arner, yep he was a Norseman and the Chief of Surgery under which the ER and ambulance service fellas, nicknamed me “Flash” because I was fast with my hands. Even got my own name tag with “Flash” in big red colors. I was proud of that.

Good place to stop for now. All things considered, I hope I’ll be writing more of my EMS history.

Hope you enjoyed.

Papa Nyk Lindsoe