This past week, my partner and I were dispatched through EMS on a call to assist a patient who could not get up off the floor after sliding off the bed. We call this a “lift assist”, and normally this call will be classified as a refusal for treatment and transport. The patient is not charged for this type of assistance. We help them up, check their vital signs, and get a signature. That’s it.
It was at the end of our 4 AM to 4 PM shift, around 3:35 PM. We had just wrapped up a “run” at one of two local hospitals and were en route to the station, when dispatch broke through with the call. We were on that side of town, so it made sense to send us over to the private residence where this woman had apparent weakness, tried to get up out of bed, and fell to the floor.
Dispatch is pretty good about screening callers about the situation. Typically, we do a lot of transfers from hospital-to-hospital or hospital-to-rehab (nursing homes). We do the occasional hospital-to-home. And, yes, we also run 911 emergencies. On those type of calls, we also get pertinent information regarding the patient’s COVID status.
If a patient has been in the hospital, there will always be a COVID screening. So, the information gets transferred to our dispatch laptop in the ambulance. This will read something like “Covid neg” or “Covid -”. Usually, we also get “negative Covid symptoms”.
On this particular call, we got nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. Dispatch has not screened for Covid even though we are heading into possibly hostile territory.
We show up and gain access through the front door via someone in the house, a male in his late 50’s. He and his wife are inside the house with our fall patient in the bedroom. He states that he doesn’t have the strength to lift her up. All are unmasked except my partner and me.
The patient is lying on the floor and explains her situation. My paramedic partner is asking questions to determine injuries.
She appears out of breath but she is resting on the floor. We get under each arm and plan to lift her up. She is to use her own leg strength (what little she has) to help at least stand so we can pivot her hips onto her bed.
The more energy she exerts, the more she starts coughing… not just a polite dainty cough, no, she sounds like a mix between a walrus and a dog barking. I turn my head to try to escape the violence of this cough of hers.