We can handle the truth

In my chosen profession as a Firefighter/EMT I have an opportunity to witness people in their most raw moments, often while they are experiencing intense feelings in real time.  I get snapshots of people’s lives just like Instagram, but I’m really there. This is truly a unique experience…and people lie to me and all firefighters/EMTs all the time.

I went on a call recently that was dispatched as a fall.  As I knelt beside the patient to begin my assessment she said, “I’m an alcoholic and I’m drunk.” Thank you, I thought to myself, now we can get somewhere.  Then, I realized that the family member I was relying on for information is also drunk.  She is unable to provide information pertinent to the situation (medical history, medications, events leading up to the fall).  The patient feels no pain. This could be because she isn’t hurt, but after observing the flight of stairs at her feet, I believe that the denial of pain is the drink talking because she can’t feel me touch her legs.  But this situation is unique because the patient was honest.

Usually people deny alcohol use when they are falling down drunk and smell like the inside of a cheap liquor bottle. Occasionally, they will admit to having just two drinks.  The deuce for some reason is the magic number.  It’s somewhere between believable and full of shit, but if I’m at your house for an emergency it’s most likely the latter.  Patients  most definitely deny drug use (and most people don’t consider marijuana a drug).  I’ve started asking, any drugs, alcohol, marijuana? When we smell the reefer madness and call them out, they deny it (while I cough and ask for someone to open a window). Sometimes we give them an out.  That smell must be coming from across the hall then, huh?

They lie on purpose to protect the ones they love or the ones they hate.  What did you get hit with? I fell down.  They lie so we won’t expose the truth.  Who shot you? I didn’t see ’em. Is it possible that you could be pregnant? No.  They lie by omission.  Have you ever experienced this pain in your chest before? Nope.  Never? No.  You’re daughter told me that you had a heart attack in December.  Oh yeah. I did have a heart attack and the pain started out like this, but then it got worse.  But I believe that they lie because they think that I, like the rest of the world, will judge them.  Rest assured I am judging you, but probably not for the reasons that you think.  Sometimes I’m judging you because you called 911 for a problem that I had last week and solved myself without using emergency services. I’m judging you because, damn your house looks like a wreck. And most of the time I’m judging you because you called me to your home to help you with a medical emergency and now you are lying to me and that makes it harder for me to help you.  And it’s not like we’re not going to find out if you’re buddy who you say just passed out for no reason is really unconscious because he just did heroin.  If you tell us the truth (no matter how strange it sounds) that makes it easier for us to help appropriately and in a timely manner.  End of story.

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