Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Six Degrees?

One of the reasons I wanted to be an EMT is so that I can be there for people in my community, ready and able to help them at a moment's notice. I want to be a familiar face in times of trouble, so that it won't always feel like a sudden houseful of strangers.

I didn't realize just HOW familiar things would end up. Or how very small the world is around here.

A couple of weeks ago, we responded to a major trauma; a pick-up truck rollover with one person trapped and the other ejected.

Turns out that one of the first drivers to come upon the scene and stop was a woman whose niece is the girlfriend of one of the patients. Another one of the first people to stop was a firefighter from a neighboring town, who happens to also be an ER doc down the road a ways- who knows the patients.

I found out the next day that one of the members of our department goes to church with the grandmother of my patient.
And another member of the department told me that he is her ex-husband's cousin.
And just last night, discovered from a woman who assisted in my EMT class last summer, that my patient is the father of a good friend of her son's.

A couple of days ago, I had a repairman here fixing my water pump, who suggested I might know his father-in-law. And indeed, I do. He's one of my favorites of the fine older folks in town we see from time to time.

Met a guy at an incident last week who was good friends with the father of a guy I dated in high school.
Met a FF/EMT yesterday (out here assisting in a search) who went to high school with my sister.

I've had my father as a patient. Taken care of both parents of a friend of my daughter's. Seen numerous parents of people I've gone to school with. I've lost count.

And even people I don't know, there are connections. We had a patient last week who didn't make it, and the announcement at her college was made by... the husband of my best friend from junior high. The same former best friend whose son took his firefighter 1 class with my son.

The concept of "six degrees of separation" has become popular in the past several years.

Around here, if you get TWO degrees of separation, it's unusual. And I doubt anyone makes it to three. Everybody knows everybody, or knows someone who does.

I think it adds to both the stress, and the satisfaction, of the job. It feels great to help out folks you know, or whom folks you know, know. And it feels crappy not to be able to help them. Two sides of the same coin. Add to that the feeling that once we meet them, EVERY patient becomes "someone we know." No anonymous EMS out here.

There's an EMS book out there, by Michael Perry, called Population 485: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time. No kidding.

It gives a whole new feel to the landscape, as we drive past place after place where we've been. A litany develops. That's the house where the woman fell, then the one where we had the stroke patient, and then that really sweet guy who died last year, remember him? And there was the alarm activation that really was an alarm doing its job, saving the people and the house. And the house where the single Mom was home alone with her baby and got really sick and we needed to help find emergency childcare, and that house is so-and-so's Mom. And this is the one where we couldn't get the patient to hang up her cellphone. It goes on and on. Accidents, fires, sickness, injuries, and the occasional baby, all paint a very intimate picture of a place.

Maybe I'll post more from that little book I found last year, the history of one of the local fire departments. Turns out, especially in a small town, that the history of a place IS the history of the fire department. That's who witnesses all the major events, the major changes, along with a long string of more personal events. And those are the people who end up knowing nearly everybody.

1 comment:

GreenJello said...

Even in a bigger town, it's amazing how small the world really is.