Sunday, January 25, 2015

HELLth  to HEALth  - copyrighted

by Barbamedic

Some A+D Ointment for your soul?

Now what I am referring to is Anxiety and Depression.  WE ALL need a cure
for this at one time or another in our lives. We all experience it, and must
learn to be proactive in our own afflictions.

 It would be so nice to have an ointment to slather and rub on to penetrate that very deep source of the emotional pain, the worry, the fear and the deep distress from within and cure it.   As quoted from A+D  about the skin   "Because it's so delicate, it requires a special understanding to help care for and nurture it".  "Care for and nurture it"  is what I extracted from this for you.  One must  be absolutely  introspective and take a deep and honest look at themselves from within. What are your symptoms? How are you feeling physically?  And mentally?  Do you have any knowledge of why you are having anxiety?

Speaking for myself, I am fully aware of WHY I feel so bad when I do.
In my years of hospital experiences, many patients come in and are so despondent
and many do not understand WHY?  Often it is a true intrinsic medical condition that they are experiencing.  Others, on the flip side of this, are the severely and chronically depressed individuals with extreme extrinsic reasons for their condition. These individuals may be in such a knot and are bound so tightly,  they cannot escape the state of HELLth they are in without professional assistance.

Management of anxiety and depression requires some work, and as I stated earlier, a commitment to being proactive for your own health.  I can offer you some tips, wish you luck, and send you prayers and good vibes.

1.)    Get a good medical physical and tell your physician about the state you are in.  There are diagnostic  tests that are very basic and can lead to many hidden diagnoses.

2.)    Work on proper sleep patterns and getting enough sleep. It may be as  simple as adding a natural sleep supplement (Melatonin)  or mild prescriptions (Lunesta and several others).

3.)    Improve your diet with better nutrition. Try adding some vitamin B complex, vitamin C,  and vitamin D.  Beware of unproven supplements, although  some are very good. Fish oil is a very good mood enhancer, as it is a basis for the building blocks of some neurotransmitters in the brain. Other supplements have been insufficiently tested and may affect you adversely.

4.)    Incorporate more exercise into your life, as approved for your condition. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins,  triggering a positive feeling in the body, similar to that of morphine.

5.)    Start on a path to wellness.  Find support, make new friends, find ways to improve your life. Even small changes can make a positive difference. Take small steps initially, but always try to move in a forward direction.

6.)    Walk, walk, walk!  This is not just for exercise, but for fresh air, sunshine, feeling at one with the universe, and  inner peace.  Light increases serotonin, which is a neuro- transmitter that influences well being and mood.

7.)    Restore good grooming habits.  Look the look, talk the talk, walk the  walk.  Speak with good breath, smile with clean teeth, let the wind flow through your sparkling hair.  You will begin to feel better if you adhere to good habits.

8.)   Keep busy and incorporate the things you enjoy into your routine. Enjoy something each day, even if it  is only for a short time. Watch a sunset, spend time doing a project you love, sit by the lake, enjoy a  hot chocolate by the fire.

9.)   Do random acts of kindness.  I feel great when I go the extra mile for someone in need. The more you give of yourself the more you get....even if it is the mere enjoyment of giving and expecting nothing in return.

10.)  Get connections and come out of isolation. Share yourself by attending gatherings, joining a club,  playing card games with friends.   Isolation leads to depression and the body is known to respond as it were experiencing severe somatic illness.

There are many causes of these problems, thus the many solutions start with you! So go ahead and rub that jar of healing ointment on and begin your journey to good health.

Remember, It's your HELLth  or  HEALth !

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Epiphany

Reflecting back to the very beginning..... Chicago....1978.   I was not born and raised in "the business."  My dad was not an Undertaker and neither was my Grand Pappy.  Dad was a dentist and a very great one at that. 

 "Pappy" was a retired Chicago cop. He was in great shape, handsome, and took care of a the roughest police district in the world named "Bloody Maxwell" .  It was a melting pot of many people on the near west side. Grand Pappy and Dad were instrumental in helping me by teaching me how to run a business, so they are aforementioned.

I am often asked how, exactly,  did I even think to become a 
mortician? Where do I start?  Should I start with my successes, or perhaps my failures?  Or for the other darkest sides of this business that put me to my knees or made me shed tears for tragic losses of life....or having to hide laughter from things that were just too funny and had to immediately exit. I often find myself explaining about embalming and debunking myths pertaining to the dead....there are
many tales to tell. I will write about these subjects in future writings.

I guess I will start at the beginning......

I just finished the university as a language major, specializing in the German language with four year degree. I was 22 years old and I STILL did not know what the heck to do for a living.  I was in shock that I actually did this.... getting a degree in GERMAN!!! What the heck was I even thinking?  I got this degree and had no valid idea what I was going to do with it!  I never told my Dad that "Deutsch Sprechen" was not exactly my gig. 

 I was never really guided in the right direction of selecting a worthwhile occupation at the time. He didn't care that much, but I could never admit it to him.... he knew though that it was partially wasted, but I would be onto something bigger eventually.  He would sarcastically speak German to me all the time, even in public and laugh out loud right at me.  He sounded like a staunch old German man, but thought he was the funniest thing, as he sounded almost Schultz-like (Hogans Heros).  He did not know German, but made a point to buy Berlitz tape courses just to constantly mess with me. On the other hand, I did have many bio sciences on my transcripts which really did become my passion as time unfolded. 

SO, as the story goes.... one night I met these people in a bar..... and they were telling me about where they worked. A funeral home!!! I felt exhilarated!  I knew I would love knowing about this!!! We did some disco line dancing and talked more and drank even more, for it was the 70's.    I was a little tipsy but I was maintaining normalcy. I was highly inquisitive about the whole topic. The funeral home was in walking distance of the bar....hmmmmm.  A tour was in order, and I schemed to get what I wanted.

My posse of girlfriends,  my cousin, and I went to funeral home with a young man who claimed to be the manager of it. We were all being pretty bad with our loud and careless behavior. We were making jokes about the Stiffs and the Zombies from The Night of the Living Dead. Svengoolie was even mentioned. It was nearly midnight and I was thinking to myself that this situation had great potential in making a fun time even better.  He offered a tour and most of us accepted, with the exception of my cousin. I forced her to go because she was crashing at my place for the night anyways. She begrudgingly went. Besides, the walk would sober us up a bit.

We walked over and began touring the funeral home.  We entered with a bit of hesitation at first glance, as reality hit us in the face upon our entrance into the dimly lit foyer. We saw names of deceased on the wooden boards with white letters. I knew these were not just dead bodies, but people who once loved and were loved , and who also felt hardship and illness.  It all began to fall in place.  It was a bit chilling though.

The next  room we entered was the parlor.   We were looking at all the dead bodies in the caskets.  They were already lying in state and presented well with care of the embalmer. They were waiting to be viewed the following day. Their faces had a peaceful look and seemed to have a hint of a smile.  One of the caskets were closed and I asked our new friend about this. He told me there had been a terrible fatal accident and that kid had sustained major facial trauma.  It was a 17 year old boy. I felt so bad, as he was even younger than I was.

We carried around our glasses filled with our new friend's private stash of straight bourbon that he insisted on pouring for us.  So much for sobering up.  Anyway, there was so much to see and this was really getting to be interesting and fun for me!  We went into the morgue where all the preparations were done on the dead and saw even more bodies on the white porcelain tables, covered with white sheets.  We saw embalming machines, and various tools, and chemicals they used to preserve the remains.  There was just too much to absorb.

Next, of course, we went into the casket showroom.  I never saw such a selection of coffins and caskets before and I wanted to see what it felt like to be dead.  I layed in a pink steel casket with pretty pink velvet embroidered lining. I kept thinking that if the lid slammed down, they would surely forget about me and leave. Another one of my friends picked her favorite and got in. What a hoot!  

Then we went into the chapel where the services were held.  He switched on the sound system to play the funeral music, and after that the Rolling Stone were playing. Then the party was beginning to end for me.  The parlor was not too comforting and I had a few too many bourbons.  

No one was fit to drive. I told my friends it was time to leave and we had to take the CTA home.  I puked later.  And that was my
Epiphany, to become a mortician.  That really was a tale from the mortuary.

So I signed up for school to become a mortician and started
in winter. The school was ironically across from the American
Medical Association, there were always plenty of jokes regarding this.  People said we would get to embalm the Doctor's mistakes. That was where we did classroom studies.
Then.... the actual embalming class was held at the old Cook County Morgue. That part is when it all came to life.  At least it did for me. 

The later years of my life brought me to the in between, to save lives and I became a paramedic. I observed many occasions of people crossing over to death from life perhaps in a mere second of time. 
Some parts of both my careers have many sad and very touching events. Parts also have happy, or very maddening parts dotted with pure insanity.  To expound even further....hours of boredom interrupted by sheer scathing terror. I really never wanted a 9 to 5 office job, anyways.

When your toast comes out of the toaster in the morning like this, you know it is gonna be a really bad day.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The Tones Go Off

I missed many holidays because I was working.  Sometimes I really envy the people that have 9 to 5 jobs...they get up at 7 AM, get ready, drive to work while drinking a cup of coffee at a nice slow and even pace, and arrive at work. They can chat with the office crowd. I cannot say that I haven't ever had that type of work....I have had "normal" jobs in my younger day. 
In Emergency Medical Services, for a semi-rural department, things can get very hectic, scary and hairy, especially in the middle of the night.....well,  also in the daytime hours. The EMT s and Paramedics are allowed to respond from their homes at night, provided they can get to the scene or to the station to pick up the required apparatus within an allotted time frame. This is usually an ambulance and a fire engine.  There is also someone that may act as a first responder that goes directly to the scene....someone that has some gear in their possession. They carry oxygen, a med bag with basic items, such as bandaging materials and splints, and maybe a blood sugar machine. This person could be of higher training or of lesser training who can manage the ABC's.  That means airway, breathing and circulation, the very first steps of managing a patient. The first responder must also know CPR.  This person is also important because they radio transmit basic needed information regarding this patient or of the scene. The crews like to know if the scene is secured and is safe to enter.

Soooooo..... When I am on night duty, I am obligated to respond to any and all calls during that particular night. I carry a pager that alerts me by making a very loud beeping sound. The dispatcher sets off those loud beeps so the crews are alerted to a call. The tones go off!  That is the terminology for it when the beeper opens up and beeps by radio transmission.  Certain set tones are set for individual departments and these other tones preempt the beeping tones. The pertinent voice information follows from the dispatcher as to the nature of the call and the address of the scene, and any other important information we may need.  Again, is the scene safe?
Are the Deputies en route?

Usually I am asleep.... AND THEN,  the tones go off !  It blasts me out of bed, literally!!!  I jump out of bed immediately, heart pounding, and  not just because of getting a call. It is because I am literally so startled by the very loud sound it makes, even though I have heard it so very many times before. I begin to recover and I take a deep breath and jump into any needed clothing, gear, and footwear. I start thinking and analyzing what I hear from Dispatch. I grab my reflective coat, my keys and drive to the station as rapidly as I see fit by the information I already know.

I usually call on a portable radio that I am enroute to the station or scene, especially if there is any variation of what I was originally supposed to do. For example, I may go to the scene instead of picking up the ambulance.  This is usually for the reason that I could actually be passing the scene of an accident while  going to get the ambulance. In most cases, stopping would be the right thing to do. In cases where I have absolutely no equipment or radio that may be the absolute wrong thing as that could confuse the flow of the ways things are supposed to go.
Things do not always go as planned, personally or otherwise. For example, I have been caught in the shower too many times over the years when the tones go off. It is always at the worst point of the shower that this has happened. It is usually when your hair is full of shampoo. That means you are at the point of no return and you have to do a crappy job of rinsing. It also means that you can skip the towel....there is just no time... and force your clothes on a wet body. Putting on a sports bra on a wet body is one of the most difficult jobs I have ever I grit my teeth and jump around, and starting to sweat. Block that picture from your mind,
although very true to the situation.

And my hair! I have to rip a brush through it. If it is cold enough, I have had my hair freeze solid when wet.  Plus not a bit of makeup,  and a general unkempt look,no time for that... maybe even bad breath from sleeping.... that is usually the time when you are the star and expected to take total care of the patient.  Those times make it so very hard to be on your "A game".  We try to carry mints, but we forget to refill them every now and then. Hope they are unconscious or they soon will be.  Hah!
The movies and TV shows depict it as being such a glamorous job.
All the men and women never have anything visually out of place, not even one hair.  They always have crisp uniforms and look fresh. That is not at all how it is in real life. Sometimes we are stuck on a call for several hours,  such as a standby for a structure fire.  The ambulance crew may be out in the rig for several hours. We possibly can catch a nap in our bunker gear and hope the chief has called for port-o-potties when we are there for so many hours. If not, we are SOL. If we are really lucky, a truck arrives with coffee and Gatorade and awesome little pound cakes and other great snacks. We love that truck ! And we love the people who come out to set all that up for us.

WE never know what is to be encountered.  All that is known is what the dispatcher tells.  All the dispatcher knows is what they have been told by someone else on a phone.  Things can get misconstrued, or the patients can mislead. I am not saying that is the norm.                                  

CALL 911!!!!!   

WE have to be very vigilant as some stupid move or mistake on someone's part could fade all our lives as emergency personnel. Many of us have sustained injuries ourselves through falls, slipping on ice, pulling muscles, getting hit by vehicles, getting hit by people, getting burns, inhaling bad fumes, stuck with needles, and many more maladies that are encountered. I have personally been stuck with a few needles, fallen backward off the back of an ambulance and injured my tailbone. There are so many things that have happened. They are always unpredictable things.
Our patients that we encounter have endless amounts of ailments. I never thought there could be so many problems with people. We never know what will happen until we see for ourselves.  I have so many pictures in my head that haunt me until this very day.  Sometimes I replay these scenes in my head for years.

One day I made a mistake and said that I thought I had mostly seen "everything".   WRONG.  The very next call after I said this, a poor woman was sunbathing in the park and sleeping all nice and comfy. THEN, a BIG radio controlled helicopter stalled in air and fell right out of the sky. There was a remote control helicopter meet going on at that same park.  It silently fell out of the air on her and sliced her diagonally from right shoulder to left hip with a big gaping blade laceration. WHAT THE HELL! She was transported and had to have multiple sutures. I will never ever say again that I have seen it all!

I have come across hangings, rollover accidents involving children, 
teenagers ejected from vehicles and found to be dead, overdoses,
gunshots to the head and other body parts from suicide, pedestrians hit with brain matter on the road, motorcycle accidents that have hit head on with automobiles, and school bus accidents with children injured. I have seen limbs severed and found them in unusual spots away from the bodies.  I have seen a child scalped from a motor vehicle crash. I have seen a woman so strung out that she perceived herself to be having orgasms all the way to the hospital. (I want some of that which she took!) I have seen a child on the back of a motorcycle fly backwards over an estimated 150 feet and land with a severely broken pelvis so his legs appeared to be spread and twisted over his head from thigh with both feet over head.  So many more tales to tell. I haven't even touched on some of the more gruesome ones.
On the flip side, a call may come over the air for a woman bleeding.
Well... that could mean a number of things, but that is all the dispatcher had for us. The people hung up the phone! So off we go
having not a clue if she is about to deliver a baby, or has misused a chainsaw, or has a knife impaled in he chest.  We arrive on scene
and find her sitting in a chair. She stated she scratched a mole and it would not stop bleeding. I smiled and took care of her with a little pressure and a band-aid, but deep down I am thinking to my self...."wth... it is 3 AM and I am out of my warm bed on this cold night for your stupid bleeding mole.  I have to type in a seven page report besides!!! This sucks!!! "  But I politely take care of her, swearing under my breath, have her sign a release, and clear the scene....along with the engine, the chief in his car, and the paramedic response vehicle, and the ambulance that I responded in. She won't get a bill for this, because there was no transport.  BUT the taxpayers will be paying that bill!

Back to my warm bed and praying for the Pager God to let us all rest for a few more hours.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


                    From the words of a Mortician

There is a job not many know
Many sorrows we can never show
That involves just so many things
Of what the twisted fates may bring.

There is a happy season to be born
And as loves in your life are left to mourn
Comes the season to wither and fatefully die
Where the beginning of the end indeed draws nigh.

I saw my friend Jim, walking just the other day
There was something he really wanted to say
He greeted me, smiled, and tugged my sleeve
But he just turned away so quickly to leave.

I wish I had insisted and chased him a stride
He could not say any,  he had too much pride.
His eyes did not sparkle and he looked just so pale.
I turn now at night and wonder just why did he fail.

In the late night hours the death call came in
A  faltering sad voice of  some next of kin
I knew what it was as I stood up to answer
Was it a homicide, accident, some form of cancer?

   It was Jim's own son calling who lived so  far away
               He said he had many troubles until  his dying day,                      Telling the story of his hanging and details of this case.
 Soon he will be interred into his final resting place.

When I heard of this news I felt a cold chill
I cursed the Reaper for yet another friend to kill
Picturing a broken sad man hanging from the rafter
Who will never again imbibe life, love or laughter.

The FIRST CALL is the start of what was to follow
The family must plan while in grief they shall wallow
An appointment to meet and most details taken
Making plans for a man that shall never reawaken.

I then met the Coroner at the scene of Jim's death
On a clean white sheet as we noted no breath
After the rope was cut and he was lowered to the floor
His body was stiffened for he went through Death's door.

Jim was taken to the morgue then I headed for home
I left his remains there on the prep table all alone.
Crawling back to my bed on this crisp autumn night
Why in God's name did Jim give up and end his plight?

I should have seen the signs in my depressed fading friend
Could have deterred him from the planning of  his life to end
I wished I had made some time to invite him for some tea
The only help that is left to offer is of my trade professionally.

I know I will do my absolute best as to how it all should be
I will even put a smile on his face for everyone to see
Everything to be perfect, his suit, his shoes, his casket
By his feet is a token from me, a note in a flower basket.

It is a very deep and personal note between just him and I
An apology to him and  a very sad and personal goodbye.
Hiding it there to go unnoticed by mourners who attend
I'll remain in good with our Maker so to see him in the end.

Good Bye My Dear Friend.
We lose our friends and family, too.

Sunday, May 4, 2014


I have certainly, in many ways set myself apart from others.
Oh, not in a bad way really....but, for example, I went to the last class of a 48 hour series to fit the new curriculum of "advanced paramedic".  All through those hours of sitting in class, as I occasionally glance around, I see many people in EMS.  Most are young strapping bucks, and there are a few doe and one with fawn soon to arrive.  And here I sit.... more than a bit older...  at least I still have a decent rack!    YEAH!!!  At least I am not a trophy!
WE all ride the "Bambilance", and most of us have dodged a few bullets, either figuratively or literally speaking.   YUP!!!  You can tell this is Wisconsin!

People try to attack us at times, many assault us in different ways. These are usually the druggies and drunks. For the most part I have been very lucky. I have been slapped and scratched. I have been grabbed from under my breast while taking a blood pressure on a drunk man.   I have been spit on . I have been kicked. And someone tried to bite me.

Some people just do not want to go to the hospital, get violent and try to abandon ship. There are rules for this of course. Generally we do not take people that are fully competent and wish not to go, even if they need to go.  That is their decision.  BUT...
"implied consent" allows us to take unconscious persons or people that are not acting competent due to a head injury or obvious danger to themselves if we do not take them. Sometimes, that is when the "real fun" begins.

I have helped others chase patients like that.... we know the outcome will be very bad if we don't catch and transport. I probably jogged over fields and valleys for more than few in my day.

One person was captured by the deputies and another medic after leaving the scene of his own motorcycle accident. Now the accident was not too serious, but he bolted through several farm acres after 
he dumped his bike on a curve. He did not want to go with us AT ALL!!! Maybe he was hiding his use of illegal drugs. He argued so strongly with my squad officer and he was put in his place by my squad officer.  Some of the EMS officers think they are "all that and more".  Well, the guy was really pissed and the cops told him he had to go to the ER and was also under arrest.  He agreed not to fight or run and only to sit on the ambulance cot.
I said to him that he still had to be seat belted.  Well everything seemed cool and we went en route to the hospital 10-40.  (That means non-emergent with no lights and sirens.) We stopped at a stoplight and GUESS WHAT????  The male patient stood up RAPIDLY and took two giant leaps and jumped out of the back doors as we started to roll again. Our mouths just dropped! That S.O.B.!!!  He secretly unlatched the buckle! Another chase again...but the deputy was right behind and to the ground the patient went in a flash.  This time he was handcuffed to our cot and transported to the nearest facility.  I do not believe it was alcohol, maybe drugs, maybe a concussion?  He did not present in an obvious way in his diagnosis.  People will try to schmooze when they are hiding something or lying.

As in the words of TV Greg House M.D........ "Everybody Lies"

Friday, May 2, 2014


The right shoulder is painful today.  Years of wear and tear on it...... pushing, pulling, turning, rolling, assisting, catching, and all the other things I do and have done to patients and  "former" patients....
It has not been my intention to yank or wrestle or even FIGHT with some of them, but it has happened.

I didn't want it to fight for the most part... but, then again, I wished many times I could have really kicked their ass but good!!!
IF it were in some way  just legal!!!!

In that type of context in my writing I am putting it very lightly to you that some of these patients are living.


I have years of stories to tell you before my own life fades. I do not intend to make this something to scare you, or cause you unrest, although the thought is amusing to me.  All of what I am about to tell you are based on true happenings with only names or  places changed to secure the ethical practices I have been sworn to in my early careers as a Funeral Director/Embalmer or in EMS (Emergency Medical Services). 
 I also cannot guarantee any certain truth about lives of people involved.  I do guarantee the practices and procedures of technical aspects are truth... but that is also subjective as neither mortuary science or emergency medicine is an exact science.  The years in Emergency Medicine is the flip side of the record in which I had been partaking while, concurrently Undertaking. Sorry for the really bad pun.

For years I owned a small funeral home in an ethnic melting pot of the big city. I got married. I popped out three babies. I was a social flower that bloomed. I lived large and I even got large.We lived in an apartment above the funeral home. I raised my three delightful children there and went to work downstairs. I had a nice husband (at first of course..or I wouldn't have tied the knot.)  I got divorced 13 years later. (He became 'not so nice!!!)    That is why 13 is such a lucky number to me! Then I moved about 65 miles north. I felt that was far enough for beasts not to roam.

I also worked in a hospital as an Emergency Medical Technician-Paramedic and in the field based out of a Fire and Rescue Department in a small town on the ambulance. That was the Northern Life that I choose for "fun" while going through an ugly divorce.

I guess people like myself are "adrenalin junkies". We do not run the other way when something happens. Our eyes open wide and our pupils dilate, our ears perk and we zone in to sounds as if we have bionic hearing.... then in a guttural "HUH????" comes out of out mouths.  We start to drool and run toward the scene.  Soon , as I have many times observed, the fire and rescue personnel become like buzzards, flocking over the sick or injured to get their "skills" in. They are starting IV's, immobilizing the patient on a backboard, calling in other departments for MUTUAL AID.  They are putting on oxygen and bandaging.  And all this is for a scraped elbow!  Now I really do love helping the new firemen, because they are so cute...but event then I say this is overkill....sorry for the pun again. They really did not need to send 8 emergency vehicles
to that scene.  Ahhhh wait......CHAOS ...  Chief Has Arrived On Scene....

Dead or Alive.  They are loaded on white sheets being soiled in crimson and taken away. SOMEWHERE.... is it bright lights and cold steel?  Or a cold dark room where they lie alone until their disposition is determined and next of kin are notified?   

Stay tuned for the next chapter....... 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014