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Sue Bush
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EMS:Courage And Compassion In Action

By Shawn P. Godfrey EMT-Paramedic
12:00AM / Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Village Ambulance Operations manager Shawn P. Godfrey
Because You Never Know

Welcome to "EMS:Courage and Compassion In Action," a twice-monthly column written by Village Ambulance Services Operations Manager and paramedic Shawn Godfrey. Godfrey's columns will appear on every other Tuesday and will focus on the reality of the emergency services medical profession.

The day-shift had been relatively quiet, so my partner and I were beginning to believe the evening-shift might make up for the earlier lack of production. Those of us who work in EMS operate under many laws of kismet. Two of those laws are: 1) if a previous shift offered few or, even more unusual, no calls, the oncoming crew was destined to compensate for this by laboring the entire shift, and 2) a series of slower shifts usually equates to “something big or odd is about to happen.”

The calm-before-the-storm, if you will. This story is truly a testament to these two laws.

For the fifth call of our shift, the 9-1-1 dispatch information denoted a young man called to report about a confused elderly woman at his home.

Although I had never been to the dispatch address, I was familiar with its layout and remember it boasting an old farm house, which sat atop many acres of land.

When we arrived, we found an approximately 80 to 85 year-old woman sitting on the steps of the front porch. As we slowly approached the woman, the man stepped outside and told us the unidentified woman was initially found sitting quietly in the den, watching television. Evidently, the man was able to convince her to sit outdoors while he summoned for help.

The woman was of a small build, dressed moderately well, and posed no real physical threat. She was simply confused and truly believed she was at home. Trying to convince the woman otherwise presented the biggest challenge. Of course, our intent was not to upset her, but no matter what we did, she would just clutch her pocket-book and tell us she was already at home and we should leave before she called the police.

Eventually, we persuaded the woman to embark the ambulance to allow us to examine her. Once inside, my partner and I tried to locate some form of identification. The pocket-book contained her expired driver’s license, a broken wrist watch, and a tattered black and white photo of an old farm house.

After a couple of hours, a police officer found the woman’s automobile parked on an adjacent back road, approximately 5 miles away. The woman must have walked after the car stalled and wouldn’t restart.

Shortly after finding the woman’s car, and tracking the license plate, the police were able to contact the woman’s husband. He lived approximately 25 miles away, and was searching for his wife all day. When told the address where she was found, he informed the officer that the woman had indeed gone home. This farm house had been the couple’s previous home for 60 years and, due to declining health, they'd moved to an assisted living center in the city about 3 years ago.

After transporting the woman to the hospital, and following a series of invasive neurological tests in the emergency room, the woman was diagnosed with having suffered a mild stroke, subsequently resulting in irreversible memory loss. Sadly, this woman truly believed she returned home after working all day in a pajama factory.

Remember this: some of us may grow old gracefully, able to watch our grandkids grow; some of us may grow old and require little help; and some of us may grow old and become confused enough to forget who we are. Live for today and cherish what you have, because you just never know.
Your Comments
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Shawn you are so insiteful. You are a great writer.
from: Andreaon: 02-10 00:00:00-2007

What a great story Shawn! As you know, we see similar stories every day. It's too bad the genaral public isn't more aware of this problem. Many people consider these folks to be "crazy" and never consider that there may be an underlying medical problem. Keep up the stories!
from: Mariaon: 02-06 00:00:00-2007

It is sad to realize this activity goes on right under our noses. Thank you for being there to help, and for bringing another dimension of life to the public.
from: Alon: 02-05 00:00:00-2007

Great story Shawn.You have great writing skill,it good to see you using them.
from: Winnieon: 02-04 00:00:00-2007

Shawn, nice article. How many of us in EMS can relate to a call like that. Good work, look foward to your next one.
from: Georgeon: 02-04 00:00:00-2007

Great story Shawn!The elderly are our history. We should pay more attention to them!
from: Colleenon: 02-03 00:00:00-2007

Great story.... better hair!
from: EMS Stalkeron: 02-01 00:00:00-2007

Thanks for keeping me enthralled, and up at night.
from: Timmyon: 02-01 00:00:00-2007

This is a very sad and touching account. It's a great reminder that while we can plan for the future as best as possible, we cannot account for every possibility life might throw at us.
from: Amyon: 01-31 00:00:00-2007

I really enjoyed this story!
from: Mikeon: 01-31 00:00:00-2007

Very touching article, Shawn. Keep up the good work.
from: Aliciaon: 01-31 00:00:00-2007

I hadn't really put into perspective all that goes on in your vocation. Thanks to all those who do what you do!
from: Nancyon: 01-30 00:00:00-2007

That was a great story. Very enlightening. One thing I don't understand is why the resident made her sit outside? I hope people that read this can learn to treat our elders with respect and care. Thank you so much for sharing this.. it touched my heart. You are a great writer.
from: Heatheron: 01-30 00:00:00-2007

It must break your heart to see people in such vulnerable states on a daily basis. Truly you must have great compassion to do the job you do. I admire and respect you for your commitment. I had a mentally handicapped cousin who did the same thing. He just wanted to go home. God bless the old lady and God bless the paramedics who care for us when we are in need.
from: bus 125on: 01-29 00:00:00-2007

Wow! Very nicely written.Everyone must live for today and not tomorrow .. as tomorrow may never come.
Keep up the good work my friend!
from: Erinon: 01-29 00:00:00-2007

Good Story!
from: Krystalon: 01-29 00:00:00-2007

Nice job Shawn, Been waiting to see the years of writing get published....should I ask for the autograph now???
from: Carrieon: 01-29 00:00:00-2007

Great article Shawn. Only someone as committed to your work would be able to write articles demonstrating the medical viewpoint and the compassionate view that many EMS providers have. I look forward to many more articles.
from: Donnaon: 01-29 00:00:00-2007

Shawn, You are truly an inspiration and mentor to everyone reading this article. I had the honor of working with you for three years; in that time you taught me only to be great in EMS but to be great in life.
One's life has value so long as ones attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, and compassion.
Excellent article! I look forward to the next.
from: Nikkion: 01-28 00:00:00-2007

Rod Serling Material but real. Great stuff!
from: yukonjackon: 01-28 00:00:00-2007

Shawn Godfrey's writing is compelling, giving us an insider's look at the EMT's journey into the night. I look forward to the next episode.
from: Lisa M.A.on: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Great article, much is so true. Keep it up and hope to read more.
from: Chuckon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Cool article, for some reason EMS Professionals are missed until they are needed. We are always pushed behind the "Fire Department". It is a great thing that you are bringing EMS to the front and showing people that we do more than just "drive ambulances".
from: Midnight Medicineon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

You have shared the human side of EMS and helped show us what some of the more important tasks that you do everyday. Thanks
from: CJMon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Wow! Great story. I'm hooked and can't wait for more.
from: Chris Bon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Shawn, another great one. We all really enjoy reading these. Keep up the good work :)
from: Melissaon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

It's about time you start writing your stories. Thank you for that. I am looking forward to more.
from: Annaon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Thanks for sharing your column with us Shawn. Looking forward to the next one!
from: on: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Yet another reason why we do what we do.
from: Markon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

Shawn, you are most definatly my favorite columnist. Great job and very compelling.
from: Kaitlynon: 01-26 00:00:00-2007

I really enjoyed this story Shawn. You're a great instructor too- much better than Kevin. More stories please!
from: Hilaryon: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

I think we've all lost someone close to us at some point, and the advice 'live your life now to the fullest' certainly rings true. But also, 'be kind to strangers,' how would you feel if somebody you didn't know was in your house and said you didn't live there anymore and told you to go outside? It just reinforces how important it is to have calm, reassuring, and pleasant Emergency Medics responding to help people get through hard times like that.
from: anonymouson: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

great article!!! looking forward to the next one!
from: jimmyon: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

I really enjoyed the touching story! keep up the great work!!!
from: jodion: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

I love your stories and always look forward them! Thanks for writing and teaching!
from: Natalieon: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

Thank you for this striking story.
from: bbon: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

shawn, i've always enjoyed hearing your stories during class and thought that they always enriched that day's lesson enormously. this story in particularly hits home with me -- several years ago my aunt suffered a stroke and she couldn't remember who i was. i hope to read more of these in the future.
from: kennyon: 01-24 00:00:00-2007

Shawn -- I look forward to reading more of your stories. I can't agree enough that we should all live for today and appreciate what we have.
from: joeon: 01-23 00:00:00-2007

Thank you for that story. I believe that will make us all think a little about how precious life really is.
from: Suzyon: 01-23 00:00:00-2007

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