Part 3: The conclusion of the Triennial Memphis drill. Anyone else with pictures please send!
An ambulance going to Baptist East (one of four participating hospitals taking patients), was used to transport me and one other critical patient, as well as one yellow-tagged sitting-up patient. The yellow patient with arm issues sat upright, the other critical patient was like on the floor part of it which I think is normal, and then I was on some kind of ledge that was higher up, against a wall. The guy in the ambulance was also very nice, but flat-out admitted he really didn’t know what he was supposed to do with us in terms of simulations. Our vitals were already on our cards so he didn’t see a reason to re-take vitals. He did take the blood pressure of the woman on the floor part who he could most easily reach. Now, I’m still on a strapped-in stretcher while in the ambulance on this ledge thing, but I’m still sliding, this time to the right, off the ledge. My arms are dangling, and my entire body, with straps against my wounded stomach and legs, was being held from falling primarily by straps…ie I wasn’t flat on the stretcher, I was hanging halfway off it. I’m assuming that had I started screaming he would have re-positioned me quicker, but as it was, I pretty much had to say something before he noticed. Plus, my hair was stuck in the velcro part of the stretcher, which was quite painful.
We were basically out of character the entire way there since our guy didn’t know what he was supposed to do, including where exactly at Baptist East to drop us off, and such. He was commenting on how he had never had so many people in an ambulance and could see how overwhelming and hard it would be in a real accident. He also said something about how they were normally just a transport ambulance that didn’t do emergencies. I’m kind of unclear on what exactly was going on. Anyway, he did verbally, when he saw my card, state out loud how he would have treated hypovolemic shock/fracture, by like putting pressure on something, IVs, stuff like that. He was probably right, I wouldn’t know though. He also was like wow, you should have been the one on the floor here, you are by far the most critical. Well, thanks. LOL.
The sirens were going, the lights were on, the ambulance was speeding, and there I was stuck to the stretcher in a neck brace, hoping that we wouldn’t get into an accident as the ultimate irony. We finally got there and the floor patient was taken, the walking girl got out I think (i’m fuzzy), and then finally, I got taken out. I was wheeled in and immediately had a bunch of Baptist people peering down at me, asking me questions. I told them I was cold and that my legs and stomach hurt and that I wanted my sister. The registration lady got my basic information, although I claimed I had forgotten my address, and had to think hard to know my phone number. They were very kind. They slid me onto a flat bed and verbally stated what they would have done, based on the card vitals and stuff, including oxygen, IVs, blah blah. I asked for a blanket and was given one. After a while, they came in to take me off the backboard, although they left the neck brace on. My hair was stuck so tight to that velcro that it was VERY painful getting it off. I know most people sick enough to be in an ambulance are hurting enough that getting their hair stuck in Velcro is not their biggest issue, but c’mon – is it that hard to do something to ensure the added pain?
Once they had assessed me, put an ID tag on me, then left a green piece of paper on me, I was left alone, lying flat on my back, in the little trauma curtained area I had. I kept listening to the lady next to me hack and hack, hoping she wasn’t truly sick. She eventually pulled the curtain and I saw her face was covered with fake smoke/blood from smoke inhalation. She coughed and coughed and they were all like, um, are you kidding or is that for real? She said she was faking it until she did it so much she actually had to do some coughing for real, lol. She is a retired RN and as we compared experiences, she was appalled at all the errors.
I was getting bored/tired/uncomfortable with the neck brace and lying on my back, so I looked at my watch. Which wasn’t there. Long story short, it turns out it broke off me in the field due to how my arm was rubbing against the stretcher/rocks. Nice. They did find it though so I’ll be getting it back soon it sounds like. But my watch is like my security blanket so I was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO lol.
I would occasionally raise my neck up to see what was going on, watching stretcher after stretcher get wheeled in. I wasn’t sure why I was just lying there for so long. At some point I think I heard one of them say something about how I should be in ICU. A few minutes later a man came in and took off my neck collar so I could go, the drill was over for me.
I (not on purpose) left grass and fake blood all over the place, it actually looked pretty realistic when I glanced back and saw the bed. The man handed me a certificate for the cafeteria and walked me to the elevator. He explained that after I went up stairs I’d see where to go, could get, food and then I could ::blahblahblah:: to meet up with everyone. I nodded but had no idea what he said and figured I’d be able to find it. I started wandering down, looking around, when a nurse intercepted me and was like, Can I help you? I was like um, I’m one of the plane crash victims and I was told I could go to the cafeteria but I’m not really hungry, I’d rather just go to the meet-up place to get back on the bus. So she was like Oh, I’ll help you get to the bus. I was like awesome. She was not specifically a part of the drill but knew it was going on and thought maybe it was a test, seeing if the hospital would be so overwhelmed there’d be victims just wandering the hall. Interesting possibility. I did have massive fake injury so it was obvious I wasn’t a normal patient. She walked me to the bus, which was wonderful of her, and she was great and it was smart of her to make sure I got in the right place. The problem is, that wasn’t technically the right place had I still been playing victim – so nobody would have known where I was. I guess because I said it was over she figured it was fine to go straight to the bus.
I found out the drill eventually got canceled because of weather getting bad, but it was pretty late by then so it wouldn’t have to be re-done. There won’t be another one for three years. Boo. I’ve decided I want to be a professional disaster simulator and always be a belligerent head injury because I’m amazingly good at that. 🙂 I was jealous of my new friend Leslie who got to be all nutty.
So overall, it was a well-executed/coordinated experience overall, all coordinators, makeup artists, support staff, everyone, was very kind and gentle. The problem was, at least in my personal experience, many of the emergency people weren’t quite sure what was going on. I had at least three different times they could have killed me had I truly been suffering. And I didn’t expect riding on a backboard to be so incredibly painful on my head, or for it to be so easy to slide off! I now have more faith that the Memphis Health care Community is caring, and I met a lot of neat nursing students, but I hope that in three years they’ve addressed all the feedback they got from this survey, so that people like me don’t die in a real crash!!
I enjoyed the experience even though I didn’t end up getting home until after 9pm, and even taking a shower didn’t get all the dark blood off my arm, so I look kind of dirty, but oh well. It also gave me a better idea of how emergencies work in general, and a greater appreciation of how hard it is to coordinate/communicate on a wide scale in a catastrophe. Even though as an OT I’ll never be directly doing things like giving IVs and prioritizing for ambulances, it was still good to see how it works, since every event that happens affects future care. Ok.