Healing Touch

Healing Touch

A Story by George Love

A young woman needs help from paramedics and faces death in spite of their best efforts



Healing Touch
The call came in around nine o'clock PM, just as we returned from another run.  We were tired from dealing with deadbeat calls all day.  Seems everyone on Medicaid needed the orange and white taxi that day, and in spite of able bodied family members with nice (and I do mean NICE) cars available to transport the majority of these patients to the clinics for scheduled appointments, everyone had an excuse.
     We did not think this call to be any different from the rest of the taxi runs that day.  A high fever, loss of appetite and body aches.  This sounded like a flu call to both of us.  We switch on the emergency equipment and found the house after less than five minutes.  At least the response time was a good one!
     The patient met us at the door, hunched over in her dark blue terry cloth bathrobe, grabbed me by the arm and led us inside.  She sat heavily in the overstuffed chair and we found our first surprise.  She was quite young, probably around 25.  Taking a quick history, she revealed her age.  25, man were we good or what? 
    We started our assessment, taking vital signs, history, list of medications and all of our normal sick call routine. She was definitely legitimate and we suspected food poisoning due to her last meal intake. About twelve hours prior to her first bout of nausea and vomiting, she ate a small plate of raw oysters.
     “You need to go to the hospital,” I told her. “We think this may be food poisoning, and you are dehydrated from vomiting.”
     “That’s why I called you guys. You would shoot straight with me, not like that jerk that showed up earlier.”
     “Who was here earlier?” my partner asked.
     She gave the name of a medic we knew who worked for a different service. We knew the service well, and could not imagine how she ended up calling them instead of us through 9-1-1.
     “They said I was a seeker, only wanting drugs. I don’t even take aspirin,” she said. Another wave of nausea over took her and she hung her head over the side of the stretcher.  If it has not been mentioned yet, Paramedics HATE PUKE!!!! Not that anyone likes puke, but Paramedics HATE puke. 
     We started an IV to help start rehydrating her, my partner switched on the lights and siren if for no other reason, we had a puking patient onboard and we were at our base hospital in less than ten minutes. Not a bad call, so far. We were twenty-two minutes in total. That is when the call started going funny.
     We arrived at the hospital and unloaded her. She sat straight up in the stretcher and blew huge chunks this time. Food poisoning did not seem to be the only thing going on here. This was worse than normal vomiting. This was projectile vomiting.
     I asked her about her headache, which was mentioned as minor in the first history. Now she mentioned a moderate headache, but now her speech slurred. My partner and I exchanged a quick look, knowing she needed a higher level of care that this small hospital could provide. 
   “I’m asking for diversion to the Island,” he said as he ran inside. The hospital on the Island was fifteen minutes away, but it did have the level of care a young stroke victim requires.
     “Diversion’s a go, and they’re sending a nurse. Katie’s coming along to give you a hand in back,” he said. 
    “Please,” she said as we reloaded her. “Take off the gloves. I don’t want the last touch I feel to come from latex. I want a human touch.”
     This struck all of us as odd, but the request made sense. If I were dying, I would not want to experience the cold touch of latex to be my last human contact. 
     “It will be okay,” Katie said. “I’ll not say a word to anyone.”
     At this point in the infectious disease control protocol, it was at the medic’s discretion when and if we wore gloves. Full blood borne pathogen guidelines were still a couple of years down the road.
     I stripped off my gloves as we continued to care for our patient. We could not do much more for her than monitor her, keep her head elevated and not over hydrate her. She held my hand as we made the fifteen-minute trip in about eleven minutes. 
     It may have been my imagination, but she did not slur her speech as much once we arrived at the trauma center. She refused to release my hand as we continued to help move her to the hospital bed, give patient report to the staff and transfer her patient records. 
    The neurologist ordered a CT of her head, and guess who the lucky medic was who got to stay with his patient through the procedure. She still held my hand fast, gripping it tighter each time someone suggested she let me go.
     Now, close to eleven thirty that night, and we transferred her to a bed in ICU. Still holding my hand, she drifted off to sleep, and we finally left our patient. Her condition listed as stable, the stroke diagnosed as moderate with a great prognosis for almost full recovery and one very tired ambulance crew. 
     Shift ended with no more calls, until seven o’clock AM. The hospital on the Island called to give us a report on our patient.  The CT showed a massive bleed, fatal in 95% of all patients at that time. A repeat CT taken that morning showed the bleed at less than a tenth the previous size and the patient had no deficits.
    “Never underestimate the power of the human touch,” she told the attending. “That medic made me believe I could beat this, and without his touch, I would never have believed it. I thought I was dead.” 
     The attending entered that quote in her chart under patient comments. He could not explain her recovery.

© 2008 George Love

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I suppose this is a relatively old piece, but I want to review it anyway.

Being written from the perspective of a paramedic provides a tone of cool, no-nonsense knowledgeability that leads the reader to feel the seriousness of the woman's condition. But, there's no jargon that would make it difficult for a non-paramedic to enjoy the story.

The ending draws smiles, both on faces and from hearts; human contact should not be underrated.

Posted 11 Years Ago

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Added on February 5, 2008


George Love
George Love

Murfreesboro, TN

I am a retired Paramedic with over 20 years of Emergency Medical Services experience. While attending Middle Tennessee State University and Volunteer State College, I majored in Music, English, Preme.. more..

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