Fireman Sam

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“Playground entrapment – child stuck between metal bars”.

Control got on the radio and had some more information about the call. “4 Year old – conscious & alert – not injured, just stuck”.

Although this didn’t seem like a medical emergency and thus probably best left to FIRE to deal with; I was around the corner, so I decided to respond.

Veteran EMS personnel have an innate ability to remain composed and come up with solutions in difficult and testing situations. I wasn’t a veteran though. Au contraire – I practically had novice printed all over my brand new, crisp, not even one speck of blood, still smelt of a Chinese factory, emergency vest. I certainly didn’t want to embarrass myself, but – “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”, my father says – so off I went.

Twenty seconds later, I found myself at the edge of the park. I was immediately surrounded by frightened mothers, all pointing to an even more terrified woman, in the left-hand corner of the playing area. I started to regret coming to this party. I was the first on scene, and clearly outside of my comfort zone. I took my red bag out, knowing full well that I wouldn’t be using it. Be that as it may, I like being fully prepared when responding to an emergency. “You never know”, my father says. Yes, my father has several important mantras, so WHAT!

I walked up the hill towards the play area, and found a child that was indeed very much stuck. His hysterical mother was not helping the situation whatsoever. She was crying and flailing her hands and it was making the child and me quite uncomfortable. “Please try and calm down”, I whispered, “you’re scaring the kid.”

I took a deep breath and said, “Ok, I’ll try to extricate your son but I must admit that I don’t have much experience with this.”

Her eyes bulged as she said in a shrill English accent, “I don’t believe it – Then why did they send you!?”

“What number did you call?” I asked.


“Well, that’s why they sent me. 101 is the ambulance service and I ‘work’ for them. Had you called 102 you would have got the Fire department, and they are far more experienced with these sorts of predicaments,” I said with more than a hint of sarcasm in my voice.

“So what should we do now?”

“First let me ascertain if FIRE is on their way.”

When our call-center gets calls such as these, they usually have the common sense to alert the correct department. I called Control and confirmed that both services were indeed en-route with an ETA of 5 minutes.

I was alone on this one for a while, so I got to work.

The way I see it; however the foot got in, it can come out, as long as the ‘stuck’ person is cool and collected. Problem is, he wasn’t; so I began my ‘treatment’ by handing the screeching child a pack of Winkies to calm him down.

“What are you doing?” There was that shrill whine again.

“Aren’t you going to get him out?” – “Why are you giving him candy?”

“I can hardly be expected to rescue a wriggling hysterical child!” “First let’s calm him down and then we’ll focus on a plan to remove his tiny foot out of the even tinier hole.”

My reasoning made sense and Mum took a step back.

With Winkies in hand, the child was a bit more composed and I started applying the basic tools for a foot extraction;

Apple juice from his Sippy cup, and Moisturizer from his Mum’s purse.

I applied them both (don’t try this at home), and after a little wiggling, lifting, pushing, and pulling the child was free, just in time for the ambulance and fire engine to turn up.

First attempted leg extraction: SUCCESS !




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“In the beginning G-d created” (Genesis 1:1) Can also be explained to read “First (ie. most importantly) – Good Health” – for in Hebrew, the root word of “to create” also means “to be healthy”. In laymen’s terms, good health is absolutely fundamental to our leading successful and productive lives.

Whilst somewhere in the back of my mind I knew this was probably true – 3000 ‘calls’ and 5 years later – I can swear it. I have seen, and bear witness to some of the most indescribable tragedies imaginable. From treating victims of terrorist attacks, to performing CPR on infants, I have ‘been there and done that’, and my appreciation for life has increased exponentially. Jerusalem has an exceptionally low crime rate and so GSW and Stabbings are rare. But there is also a high birth rate and so emergencies involving children are common and very distressing. Pediatric emergencies are the worst type of call and affect me deeply. Every once in a while I come home and tell my wife that the time is ripe for early retirement. But then I’ll wake up the next morning, switch on my beeper, and start all over again. I love what I do, and I do what I love. But let’s get back to the beginning…

In the beginning So every EMT has their very first call. It’s not something you mentally prepare for; it’s just something that kind of happens. You complete the course, get your certification, and all of a sudden, you are thrown into a real emergency and there is someone totally relying on you to save their life. And that person is not normally alone. In most instances there is a room full of people, glaring at you, hoping, praying, that you know what to do. Did I know what to do on day one? – Not really! Please understand that the EMT course is loads of fun. We get to practice on dummies, and we sometimes even stop in the middle of an intense CPR, to take an ice-cream break. Not so in real-life. Our patients are not dummies, and there is no stopping a CPR unless the patient returns to a spontaneous pulse, or is declared dead.

Bottom line: the classroom leaves you ill prepared for the real world, and once you get out there, the learning curve is sharp. Whilst probably true of most professions, in emergency medicine it’s truer. You’ve learnt that if a person has difficulty breathing, you move them from supine to sitting position, put on a non-rebreather mask and start the flow of oxygen at a rate of 10-15 LPM. Cool – I’ve saved a life, and maybe there will still be time for that ice cream after all.

How about this though; how about the patient is barely breathing, sweating profusely, with pink froth coming from his mouth. You’re alone. Now what. Can’t sit him up; he keeps on slipping out of my hands. What to do first – take his vitals, tear open the O2 mask, but I need to sit him up, he is drowning in his own fluids. Help!! – Aaargh, Where is my ALS backup? Every EMT reading this knows what I’m talking about, and everyone else wants to know what pink froth is – well; it’s a symptom of PE. But let’s get back to the beginning…

In the beginning Sometimes it’s unremarkable – sometimes it’s unsightly – and sometimes it’s petty. Unit #28 first call was to a “Serious Injury – Male Crushed in Elevator Shaft”! – I kid you not. His very first call was to an “X”, where there was nothing to do except find the nearest toilet, and vomit. If his was unsightly, then my first was petty. Actually it was the absolute paltriest call I have ever responded to.

I had just graduated as an EMT-B and had purchased some supplies online, even before I was officially accepted to any of the local EMS organizations. Big mistake for three reasons. First is that you don’t yet actually know what you’ll really need and what is just ‘extra’. Second is that the pre-prepared kits you buy online are garbage. And third because the organization you will volunteer for will give you a first-responder kit.

I had just finished packing up my bright red bag, when I get a phone call on my cell. It was from a neighbor across the street, and he told me in the most condescending voice he could muster, that his daughter had gotten a splinter, please could I come around. Really, a splinter, on day one. I didn’t even know what to do with a splinter; it’s not in the textbook! But I was way too macho to admit that, so I went over, red bag in tow. I get there to find a 3 year old screaming hysterically. It was then and there that I learnt lesson number one of my career. When treating screaming kids, have a distraction, like a candy, at hand. Cut a long story short, I calmed her down, extricated the splinter, and waved the cute kid and pompous father goodbye. “A job well done”, I thought as I schlepped the 15kg bag back home. “It has to get more difficult than this though”, I mumbled. Trust me – It did.