My Life in EMS – Chapter 1

R. Papa Nyk Lindsoe

I began my career, if you want to call it that, as a paramedic in 1963 at the ripe old age of nineteen. I had just been discharged from the Air Force and was looking for a job but having problems finding one. One day my then soon to be sister-in-law who was a student nurse at Minneapolis General Hospital called and told me about two orderly position openings. OK, cool I had an interest in medicine so I applied.

(For those of you born after about 1980, an orderly is now called a Nursing Assistant or Generic Bedpan Tech.)

Living in south Minneapolis near the Veteran’s Administration Hospital and having no car meant a long bus ride to the hospital in one of those old diesel buses that belched black smoke each time the driver shifted. They were slow too, I think the schedule said I’d be at the hospital by “9:00 AM (maybe)”, of course that depended on how many unscheduled stops it had to make for people who didn’t know what “Bus Stop” meant.

“Hey, lady. We can’t stop in the middle of the grocery store driveway!”

“Hey no man, I am not letting you off on 10th street, that’s not even on my route!”

Some bus drivers were a little more colorful in their language, if you get my drift.

I did, obviously make it to the hospital employment office only 10 minutes late.

The lady at the desk said, “Rode the bus did you??

Yes Ma’am I did, how did you know?

“You’re late and you’re wearing eau de Diesel cologne! Sit down, give me your ID and fill out these forms for the exam.”

Exam? Panic attack time. What exam?

“It’s just a test of your reading and writing skills. The blood tests come if you’re hired.”

Blood tests? Oh crap what am I getting myself into?

I do my thing, complete the forms, take the little test that proves I can read but doesn’t know if I can comprehend what I read and wait for my interviewer, who’s late, and also wearing eau de Diesel cologne.

The interview seems to go well and when over, I’m asked to wait in the hallway.

There’s sick people out there!!!!

As I’m waiting I see this heavily starched old nurse goosestep down the hallway towards me. I’m thinking “This person has to be the first graduate of Clara Barton’s Marine Corps training program.” I haven’t met nor talked to her yet and already I’m nervous as hell. She goes into the office and a few moments later the other lady calls me in to meet Ms. Olive Lindberg, Charge Nurse of the Emergency Department. Up close I thought she was a lady wrestler for Verne Gagne. My opinion changed within the first two minutes. It went from fear to respect to, “I think I’ll live through this ordeal.”

Ms. Lindberg was well spoken, direct and very intelligent. She knew how to put anyone at ease or scare the crap out of a Marine Drill Sergeant. I liked her and apparently she liked me as she told the employment office to assign me to the ER and not the Men’s Ward. Yes dear, they still had wards in those days. As I recall, the Men’s Ward was capable of handling eighteen patients in draped cubicles. How anyone got well there is beyond me – just the farting and snoring would kill me. I really felt sorry for those patients.

So yay, I got the job in the ER and started on a Monday – a quiet day HAH! It is never quiet in a governmental operated emergency room. Even when there’s an illusion of it being empty, it’s just that an illusion.

My first day I learned how to properly mop up blood, scrub blood of the gurneys and wheel chairs and roll old, umpteen millions used Ace bandages while sitting in the smoked filled ambulance dispatcher/doctor on call room. Yep, they smoked in there and thankfully for me, I got enough second hand smoke I didn’t have to buy my own cigarettes.

As the weeks drew on I was put onto a rotating shift, 7-3, 3-11, 11-7. I did such a good job cleaning gurneys and wheelchairs they let me do them all the time. I think they even brought some down from the Men’s Ward because there were brown stains all over the wood. Oh, did I forget? My bad, the wheelchairs were the old high back wooden ones, sort of like an Adirondack chair on wheels and steroids. People loved to carve graffiti into them – try cleaning crap out of that!

One of the fun parts of working the ER was the student nurses and x-ray technicians, most of which were out to snag one of the many single interns. Impatient little twits – I kept telling this one that she should wait until he graduates, gets his practice and makes some money but no, she was in love. He dumped her for another guy.

It wasn’t unusual during Graveyard shift (11-7 am) for an intern and student to get cozy in the back of the on the ambulances. I think that’s where the phrase, “If the carriage is rocking, don’t come knocking” came from. A couple of times the amorous adventures almost ended up rushing out to a shooting or accident without letting off passengers first. Really funning seeing the back door of an ambulance open and half-dressed medical staff tumbling into the courtyard. It was funniest in the winter.

So anyway, after about six months I was settled in and a respected (?) member of the ER staff. Dr. Orn Arner, yep he was a Norseman and the Chief of Surgery under which the ER and ambulance service fellas, nicknamed me “Flash” because I was fast with my hands. Even got my own name tag with “Flash” in big red colors. I was proud of that.

Good place to stop for now. All things considered, I hope I’ll be writing more of my EMS history.

Hope you enjoyed.

Papa Nyk Lindsoe

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